This is the story behind one of London’s most technologically advanced nightclubs and how they transformed the London cloakroom scene.
A side-by-side comparison shows how HERE at Outernet dropped end-of-night wait times from 45 minutes (using a typical paper system) to 12 with Chexology.
Customers welcomed the cloakroom price change from £2 to £3 thanks to the added photo security and SMS convenience.
Nightclubs can improve their team's efficiency at the end of the night by consolidating their remaining coats to a moveable rack stationed by the cloakroom entrance.
London can out-party New York, "supposedly."
HERE at Outernet
One of the UK’s foremost technologically advanced nightclubs is hidden four stories under the streets of London. Uniting cutting-edge visuals with heart-pounding beats, ‘HERE at Outernet’ offers something you can’t find anywhere else.
Yes, HERE dazzles clubbers with a symphony of lights, colossal video screens, and a sound system that transforms music itself, but the real draw is their dedication to customer experience. Other nightclubs overlook one area of their customer experience: Their cloakroom. Their “paperless” cloakroom, to be exact…
In the last few years Chexology, a New York-based tech company, has carved a name for itself in the London scene, and they’re accomplishing this feat, one delighted cloakroom at a time.
Joe Richardson, Venue Manager at HERE, shares his initial skepticism about Chexology’s paperless cloakroom platform and how the text messaging system quickly won him and his customers over. Joe also shares the first night the paperless cloakroom system went live and how ‘HERE at Outernet’ reduced the average exiting cloakroom time from 45 minutes to just 12!
Interview with London nightclub, HERE at Outernet
Derek Pacqué, CEO/Founder - Chexology
Thank you so much, Joe, for jumping on the call with me.
Joe Richardson, Venue Manager - HERE at Outermet
Yeah, no problem at all! Anything for you, Derek.
How does the nightlife scene in London differ from here in New York?
I'm not sure how much you've been out in the UK, Derek, but it's a seven-day-a-week party vibe here, especially in Newcastle, where I'm from up north. We know how to drink here in the UK – let's just put it that way.
Really? I had no idea. Here in New York, it's about stabilizing and not burning yourself out midweek.
Ha! Yeah, that’s not how we do things here in the UK. I would say the venue that we're at now, HERE at Outernet, we're quite lucky in the sense that we get premium crowds that tend to behave themselves. But the majority of the UK struggles with the harder drinkers.
So, how did you enter the scene? How did you get involved in nightlife? I’d love to hear your story.
I was quite lucky because my parents owned a bar. It was my grandparents’, which was passed down. So I learned how to run a successful hospitality business really by the time I was eighteen. It's like once you start, you're just sucked in forever.
It goes without saying that HERE at Outernet is such a cool nightclub! With the level of lighting, the massive video screens, and the amazing sound system you have, it’s just a stunning venue to experience in person. How do bands or artists take advantage of the space?
Yeah, thank you. There’s a lack of medium-sized music venues in the UK, especially in central London. ‘HERE at Outernet’ bridges that gap between those smaller clubs (which have a capacity of around 200 to 500) and the large arenas that hold 20,000 plus. That's where we come in.
Not only can we book the rising and growing bands, but we're also a perfect space for bigger artists who want to do intimate gigs. We enjoy doing album launches where the artist gets to interact with the crowd or do Q&As.
One of our venue's main perks is that it is such a blank space, such a blank event space. We have many different stage configurations we can do – even within the same day. It can go from looking like a brunch hall where we've got tables everywhere, then [snaps his finger] it's a live music space, which is unheard of really with your average club in London.
Another thing that HERE is so good at is that we can put our stage anywhere. We can put it at the front of the room, back of the room, center of the room, upstairs, downstairs. The possibilities are endless, and that's what makes this space very exciting.
How did you get involved with HERE at Outernet?
I became friends with Tristan, the COO at Outernet.
He was like, “Okay, what we need to do is we need to prove that Chexology’s faster than paper tickets. So I want you to come out here on one of our busiest nights, Derek, where we expect the cloakroom to be completely full, and we're gonna test them side by side. We're gonna have one cloakroom using paper tickets and a matching cloakroom using your system. We’re going to see what happens.”
I advised completely against this! I was like, “We do not by any means want to start the system on one of the busiest nights because that doesn't give your team time to ramp up!”
He said, “I have a great team. This is Joe. Joe runs the show here. He’ll take care of everything.”
So I show the first night to set up Chexology, and you and I are thrown into the mix!
From what I remember, we not only checked in about 400 coats, but at some point, we sent people downstairs to our paperless cloakroom because we were getting through the arrival queue so much faster than the paper cloakroom.
By the time we checked in the majority of the coats for the night, we had about 50% more coats in the paperless cloakroom compared to your old paper cloakroom – which freaked me out because that meant at the end of the night, we're now going to have to check out 50% more coats through Chexology than the paper cloakroom upstairs. However, we ended up checking out all those coats in 10 minutes! I think it was 400 to 500 coats! And upstairs, there was still a line with the paper tickets!
So that’s what I remember, but I haven’t heard the story yet from your perspective, Joe.
I believe we started to link up around December time. That was when we started to use Chexology. So that peak – the absolute peak when the cloakroom’s going to be as busy as it ever is. And it’s not like we had a lot of problems with our cloakroom.
It's just the usual challenges you see elsewhere; it was things like people losing their paper tickets. We’d always advise people to take a photo of their ticket, and on top of that, it took us 45 minutes to get people out of the venue at the end of the night. I really want to stress that: 45 minutes was our average time on a paper system.
Then I was forwarded your deck, which had some interesting facts; this is how many will get through per minute; these are the perks, and these are the benefits.
I instantly replied to Tristan and said, “I’m really interested in trying this out.”
We’re a very high-tech venue. I’m not sure if the people listening will know much about Outernet, but it’s a very expensive district, with a lot of very high-tech lighting rigs, sound systems, we’ve got screens everywhere, walls of screens – so it’s very high-tech. So it made sense for us to carry down that digital path and try it.
You came in on the first day, Derek. You met my team, who I know you loved a lot. They’re very cool people. They also instantly loved the system. If they could’ve given you a round of applause after the training, then they would have.
Aw, thanks, Joe!
And just then, it was basically doors – we were thrown into the deep end. We have 1,800 people coming, so good luck!
Obviously, you stuck around. You took a step back. My floor supervisor, Emily [chef’s kiss], was brilliant. My team picked it up like that. The system worked. The guests loved it. We heard loads of great feedback. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re already a digital venue, but I thought people would have problems with putting in their personal mobile numbers or getting a photo taken of them – but nothing!
I think in the seven to eight months we’ve been running your system, I’ve had to remove four or five photos for people. People actually don’t mind having a photo taken when it's for the safety of their things.
So house lights come on, music finishes at the end of the night, and you and I get the big rush to the cloakroom. Twelve minutes later, it was clear! Like I said, we’d never had everyone in less than half an hour. A half an hour was probably our best time – like our fastest, fastest time. So yeah! No lost jackets, no lost coats, no complaints, no issues, just a smooth-flowing queue, and a happy staff! So can’t really complain! The trial went well, I think we could say. Yeah, so now we use it full-time and have never looked back.
That's insane! I never realized it was a 45-minute average time down to 12 minutes on the first night!
And that's what for me was so scary because any new thing takes time to ramp up. But your team picked it up so quickly. And again, you said it. I had to take a step back.
One thing as well that you are all just so open to is a lot of the new ideas Chexology has, the new queuing feature, the tap-and-go experience, and our ChexPass for digital wallets. You are just always open to trying new things. So just having that conversation and learning with you guys has been such a pleasure. I don't know if you know this, Joe, but that night was the highest grossing revenue at the cloakroom to date.
So we looked back, and Tristan said that night was the highest-grossing courtroom revenue to date! I'm sure your team has beaten it since then, going into January and February.
I've never had an experience like that competing between the paper tickets and our systems! That's something I'll always have a story of. So I do appreciate that opportunity.
The other thing I want to point out is sustainability. Everything we do as a business is sustainable. So Chexology’s paperless cloakroom system helped us with our carbon footprint, not using as much paper, which I thank you for.
I need to thank you! You guys are real pioneers. Everyone from the UK that I talk to, they’re like, “What is HERE at Outernet doing?” They really want to know.
You have been key in the expansion of Chexology in the UK. I didn't know if you knew that, but everyone is super curious. You have hosted a ton of prospective clients of ours who come to observe and then move forward. I really appreciate that.
What are some tips and tricks you can give to new operators or other cloakroom operators for how to best set up their space for success? I learned a lot from you personally.
I take what I've learned from bars. In order for a bar to be successful with the number of people you've got behind it, every single step costs you as a business money. Not only is it costing you labor, but it's time. It's the time that it's taken someone to move from A to B in order to achieve C.
We incorporate that philosophy into our cloakroom. We consolidate coats to the front of the cloakroom as we go to eliminate unnecessary steps. So if our cloakroom starts out the night full, which I believe is 800 per floor, we consolidate racks as people exit. By the end of the night, one attendant can turn around and grab the remaining 20 coats within arm's reach without having to take one step. That's how we've sped it up to the point of getting people out in less than 10 minutes now. And it's quite impressive, actually!
It is! I was watching your communication as the night went on, and I noticed your team members naturally picking up different roles. “I'm a runner. Now I'm an organizer. Next, I’ll take on the role of condensing all those racks closer to the front.”
At one point, you had a team member working on three of our kiosks at once; I'd never seen that before! Your team took care of each other. I thought that was awesome.
Thank you, Derek! That’s kind of you to say.
The last thing I wanted to talk about was the price of your cloakroom.
I was surprised to learn that in the UK, all the cloakrooms are two pounds. It was interesting to me because, in New York, the price has increased proportionally with wage increases, ticket pricing, or with drink pricing. At least, that’s how it’s been in New York since I've been in the industry now for about the last 12 years.
What I found interesting was in the UK, there was kind of this, “Oh no, it's always, it's two pounds at the cloakroom. That's the price. That's what the market is accepting. We can't change it. It's been this way forever.”
Yet your team was open to thinking differently. You were thinking about your team members. You didn't want to spread them thin. You wanted to make sure you had enough team members and were able to afford enough staff to provide a good experience. It also allowed you to improve the guest experience, which your customers do appreciate.
HERE at Outernet was the pioneer to think, “Is our cloakroom 2.50 pounds? Is it three pounds? What is that price that allows us to have the appropriate staff working to not burn them out, but at the same time, balancing that with the queue and the profitability of the cloakroom.”
I applaud your team for continually pioneering, pushing the boundary, and thinking differently. Now everyone's changing their cloakroom price because of you. Nightclubs can afford and pay their team members what they deserve to be paid. A lot of it is based on, you know, making sure you can cover it. And so anyways, wanted to shout out to HERE for really taking some risks and being the trendsetter for London.
Yeah, that's a great way to start.
HERE at Outernet has really changed the game in the nightlife scene in the UK. To me, adjusting your cloakroom price was one thing for me that I was like, “Wow, these people are doing it!”
Thanks for that, Derek.
Every cloakroom you go to in the UK has got a big sign saying, “We cannot be held responsible if something happens to your items while it's in the cloakroom. It's your own fault if something happens.”
It doesn't feel like there’s security there. If you were to go try and pay a premium price for something that you're not getting any reassurance that this cloakroom is safe, then you wouldn't want to pay anymore.
The reason I haven't struggled moving our prices up – and just for context, I did trickle it in. I tried £2.50 but didn't receive any kickback from guests at all. If anything, they were still really excited about the system, so I changed it to £3. Again, no kickback. It's like, “Yeah, it's three pounds, but I know that there's a photo of my item; there's a photo of my jacket. I have a text message to say that it's safe and it's there. If I forget it, I'll receive a text afterward to let me know that I've forgotten my stuff, so it's safe. That's worth the bit of a more premium cost, I think, for actually paying for a cloakroom.”
Joe, you need to be a pitchman for our system! Hahaha!
I can't thank you enough for taking the time to meet with other prospects that have come to HERE and you sharing your story. Thank you for continually pushing the boundary at ‘HERE at Outernet.’ You're one of the champions who really come to the table with ideas for how to improve the guest experience.
No problem! Thanks for having me, Derek. It’s been a pleasure.
Visit HERE at Outernet
If you ever find yourself in the center of London, pop in and say, “Hello!” to Joe and the entire crew at HERE at Outernet. The sound and technology behind the UK trendsetter is one you have to experience for yourself! “Customer experience” is more than a buzzword here; it's woven into the facet of every event, making HERE a nightlife destination for everyone.
To learn more about HERE or to partake in one of their amazing upcoming shows, visit their website: hereldn.com
Oh! And don’t forget to check out their paperless cloakroom experience. They have cloakrooms on the first and second floors.