SXSW is still growing, even after 30 years. So how do its small businesses handle hordes of hundreds of thousands of people? Planning and organization.
Dom Paonessa, the manager of the Old School Bar and Grill, says the venue does 200-300% more business on any given SXSW day compared to a standard high-traffic Saturday. A team of veteran servers, busboys and bartenders helps, says Paonessa, but so does setting expectations. He works on the employee schedule for weeks in advance and tells employees to sideline other obligations while SXSW is in full swing. “For those two weeks, everything revolves around their work here,” he says.
Shifting with the crowds’ needs and wants can be key. Paonessa has noticed certain preferences among the attendees and plans accordingly. “During Music, we sell a lot of PBR and during Interactive, we’re making martinis,” he explains.
Following municipal guidelines can ensure events run smoothly and lock in repeat business. Brandon Badillo, the director of the Brazos Hall which Yahoo booked both this year and last, is careful to stay at capacity, keep lines from blocking the street and follow any local laws and regulations. “Try to not make things harder than they need to be.”
SXSW or not, Paonessa says that speedy service is key. “People don’t want to sit down and enjoy a long meal [during SXSW],” he explains. SXSW customers want to sit down, eat quickly and then hurry on to their next event or show.
How do you prepare for big events? Tell us in the comments.