I have located the ideas for a change in the business model of Soi Twilight gogo bars which Shameless Mack posted on the gaythailand board more than six years ago (interesting how some of his predictions have come true)! He was then posting under the name Macaroni. Soon after, he ceased posting both in the chat rooms and on his blogsite. The latter was a mine of extremely useful information especially re massage. He had worked out a system for tabulating exact body types of the masseurs, their massage techniques and what they would and would not do. No one seems to know why he suddenly disappeared. He is sorely missed.
Thanks also to Christianpfc who located and sent me some if not all of this material a few years back. Shameless Mack's Prototype for a New Soi Twilight Bar
I do think that the days of the "spectacle"-type shows are nearing an end, i.e. the idea of a big central stage, with customers sitting quietly a distance away. It's too detached. The Wow factor made up for it, but it's wearing off fast. That said, two years after they end, others will reminisce achingly about the glory days of the shows and diss whatever will have replaced them.
I ask myself, if I were to launch a new bar, how would I do it, bearing in mind the economic trends?Etrend 1
: Boys expect to earn more as cost of living rises.Etrend 2
: Good-looking, good attitude boys may be scarcer, so trying to stock a bar with 100 boys (like Dream Boy today) would be unrealistic. Perhaps 30 - 40 boys would be max.Etrend 3
: The "arms-race" of doing ever more elaborate shows that need to be re-engineered frequently to keep them fresh costs an arm and a leg.Etrend 4
: Audience numbers will be flat until the great wave from China materialises. . . Etrend 5
: Even then, the Chinese may never be all that keen to off (reasons explained in the other thread Holiday Sunday Numbers Seem Down), but will likely be prepared to pay a small premium for small shows and nude dancing, something they don't get in their home country.
How will I address these issues? Perhaps I would hypothetically build a bar with a layout like this:
The operational model will be rather different from current, in response to each of the 5 economic trends mentioned above.
But first, I'll walk you (as customer) through the bar:
1. No women, no Thais under 20 years old, allowed.
2. No smoking inside the bar.
3. You enter and receive a number tag from the cashier (like in a sauna). All purchases made inside the bar will be charged to that number; you settle the account on departure. Perhaps a cover charge (200 baht?) can be paid on entry if the competitive environment allows it. That prepaid cover charge can be consummable, i.e. it is set off as a credit against purchases of drinks.
4. In the main salon, you will see several boys dancing in their briefs on the stage behind the bar. You are free to just sit at the bar, but you are obliged to order your first drink.
5. You may call a boy over, buy him a drink (or not) and sit with him in the sofas, and if the brief conversation works out, you off him.
6. Every hour on the hour, the captain announces "Showtime now. Anybody interested?"
7. Let's say 13 customers are interested. There are two more who are here to off a boy and aren't interested in the show; they continue to sit in the main salon, where boys continue to do their rotations on the stage -- in other words the show should not inconvenience these customers.
8. The captain opens two private rooms and splits the 13 customers into two groups, putting six in one room, seven in the other. The charge for the show is 200 or 250 baht per customer, which includes a second drink.
9. The show thus takes place in a more intimate setting -- a room no larger than a small bedroom -- where the boys dance a mere arm's length from the seated customers.
10. The boys either dance nude or dance in a manner that strips to nude. The etiquette is NO TOUCHING unless the boys invite you to lay your hands on them briefly. Naturally, the boys are encouraged as part of their routine to invite the customers by turn to do so from time to time, in order to up the thrill quotient.
12. The show is mostly done on a small, low podium/stage that is 2 metres by 2 metres (the size of a king-sized bed, enough space to allow for acts of sodomy if that's what the show requires).
13. In each room, the show involves about 6 boys (or maybe 8 boys if the cost structure allows it). In the first half, each boy does a 5-minute dance solo, either (i) coyote-style, (ii) Manila macho-dancer bar style, or (iii) Chiangmai style. In the second half, the 6 (or boys are paired or trio'ed for their routines.
14. From the customer's perspective, he is in a really intimate setting with boys hardly more than a metre away, making frequent eye contact and with seductive smiles. He is also invited by the dancing boys to touch and caress them now and then. The show has a degree of personal attention that a bigger showspace cannot provide. Although the customer had been asked to stump up an extra 200 or 250 baht for the show (on top of the first drink), he is getting value for it.
15. The economics is that the six or seven customers in a private room will have put up 1500 or 1750 baht for the show. Involving 6 (or boys, the labour cost for each room's show will be 600 (or 800) baht with each boy getting 100 baht for an hour's work (serious dancing, not shuffling)
16. The duration of the show is about 45 - 50 minutes, comprising 9 - 11 acts. At the end, the rooms have to be vacated for cleaning in preparation for the next round of shows. If a customer wants to see a subsequent show, it's another 200 or 250 baht, though for most people, 45 - 50 minutes will have been enough!The economics of such a bar has the following characteristics:
The typical customer will be buying two drinks: the first drink on entry and the second drink either because he wants to sit with a boy prior to an off, or because he wants to see a show. Two drinks per customer is a significant improvement on the present one-drink average in most bars. The important thing though is that the customer must feel he gets value from paying for a second drink, and that is where an intimate, hands-on show comes in.Staffing characteristics:
The bar doesn't need a lot of boys. Assuming on average at each hour, only two rooms are opened for shows, the bar needs only 12 boys (6 boys per room), plus another 10 - 12 doing the rotation in the main salon. If there's a surge of customers and all four private rooms need to be used, the same 12 dancing boys can cover all four rooms by having each dancing team of six boys to stagger their routines between two adjacent rooms. Double the work, yes, but double the earnings.Competitive advantage:
Because there's a show every hour on the hour, customers can come any time that is convenient for them. The bar is able to attract customers at those hours where other bars aren't doing shows. Bars with "blockbuster" type shows can't afford to put up more than one-and-a-half of them per night, so they can't have a show going on through the entire evening. This little bar can.
The business model responds to the economic trends thus:Response to Etrend 1
: Currently, gogo boys are mostly wasting time, doing little and earning nothing unless/until they get an off which is "jackpot money". In the new business model, the boys are working for pay for many of the seven or eight hours they are in the bar. For each set of dancing in a private room (each boy does an average of two 5-minute items per 45-minute set) a boy earns 100 baht. Assuming a typical boy gets to do three sets a night, he earns 300 baht. Multipled by 25 days a month, he has base earnings of 7500 baht before tips.Response to Etrend 2
: As boys become scarcer, the bar runs on fewer boys, but these boys work harder to deliver satisfying shows. Running on fewer boys also means the bar owner can get a little picky about which boys to hire, thereby keeping the "good looks" factor, boosting the rate of offs.Response to Etrend 3
: No more elaborate staging for shows and the costs associated with that.Response to Etrend 4
: In an era of flat tourist numbers, such a bar will rarely look empty. That's because it is divided into small spaces, and you only open such spaces as are needed (also save on airconditioning). A small salon or private dance room with 6 customers in it looks a lot better than a bar that can seat 100, but has only six people; the atmosphere is more encouraging.Response to Etrend 5
: The bar and its boys draw revenue not by relying on high rate of offs -- in a new era of Chinese tourists this may not be realistic -- but by getting customers to pay for a second drink in order to get a satisfying show. Of course, any offs that the bar/boys get will be good too.Operational imperatives for success:
A bar that requires boys to actually work through a seven-hour shift (rather than sit about or shuffle about as at present) requires boys with a good work ethic. This especially as every boy must be able to perform on stage, equipped with a handful of routines, executed reasonably well (i.e. with artistry, with good eye contact and seductive appeal to customers). This means training, training, training.
I also think it is imperative to address the problem of service quality after being off'd, but that's a separate issue I have written about before.