Sports bar uses lockdown for a change in direction
Lockdown life has been an uninvited opportunity for licensees all across the country to step back and take stock of their operations.
Our March 2018 BT Sport Manager of the Month winner Godfrey Cook used it as a chance to rebrand.
He was presented with the award by former Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis for his work at the small but perfectly formed Game On Sports Lounge in Totton, near Southampton.
The venue, which is attached to a community centre, was a popular place for people to gather after playing sport and to watch all the live action.
However, when national lockdown measures resulted in enforced closure, Godfrey decided to give Game On a new look and feel.
He explains: “After the first lockdown we opened for a month and it was good to start with but I just felt like it wasn’t quite working like it could as a brand.
“I wanted to give it a fresh look and soften our business a little. Predominantly as a sports lounge people visualise it as being a bit of a man cave, even though we do a vast array of gins and cocktails and coffees and cakes.
So the name Game On went and in came so40 Café Bar , the postcode of the community the bar serves.
Sport has remained essential to the offer but the limelight is now shared more equitably with other aspects of the business.
“Sport is there and it still attracts people but it is slightly more in the background, it had to be with the volume levels to start with. It’s still important to what we do because in an evening it brings in 80 per cent of our customers.
“We’ve simplified what we do but we haven’t scrimped on quality. On Champions League nights we do two pizzas for £10 and it keeps people sitting and sharing and staying a little bit longer.
As well as the branding, décor and details have also been changed as has the food and drink offer.
The venue, which only has a capacity of 40 indoors before social distancing is taken into account is planning to re-open again on May 17.
Although there will be the temptation to trade outdoors on May 15 should Southampton make it to the final of the FA Cup.
Godfrey continues: “For my own peace of mind, I thought let people get the big hurrah out of their system (in April) and then we will come back.
“But if push came to shove and Saints were in the Cup Final I would open up outside with a big screen because I wouldn’t want to miss out on that. That said, it’s a double-edged sword because I wouldn’t mind not working and watching it!”
Getting back behind the bar will be a novelty for Godfrey who has had varied roles during lockdown.
Game On, as it was then called, ran a food and essential items delivery service in the area in the summer while Godfrey also went to work at Tesco.
“It was great to do that,” he says. “because I could still see everyone in the community and they would always ask me when we would be reopening.”
He also took the chance to brush up on his digital skills by taking part in free courses run by BT Sport Business.
“The Google My Business one was brilliant,” he continues, “I already felt confident with social media but Google is just there isn’t it? This showed how you can make more of it.”
For now his focus is back on getting ready for reopening and the challenges ahead.
“It’s going to be testing to start with and we have to play it so carefully and safe. I’m sure we can get footfall quickly though as it is a busy and popular part of the community.
“We are small and we are different but we are really looking forward to it.”
- During lockdown we have been catching up with past BT Sport Manager of the Month winners to see how they have been coping. Find out more here.