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Question About Your Local Hookah Lounge...

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[quote name='jorlyfish' timestamp='1294677959' post='493904']
Frankly, as much as the [i]concept[/i] of paying for water [b]irks[/b] me...[/quote]

That's [i]exactly[/i] what I'm trying to avoid.

I mean raising prices is bad enough even when it's justified by increased costs or taxes. People get used to paying a certain amount, and when that changes, they notice and they bitch - even if it's just a few cents. But now we're talking about taking something we've always given away for free and charging for it. Honestly, I don't even know what I'll say when I'm inevitably asked the question "WHY?"

By the way, I recognize that some of you may consider this to be a trivial point and maybe I'm being a little too paranoid here. But the way I see it, we're not perfect, and in spite of our best efforts, we still manage to upset and/or irritate customers from time to time. That said, it seems ridiculous to me to implement a policy that I KNOW will result in even more of these cases. IDK, if I end up losing this battle, I guess we'll see if there's anything to what I'm worried about.

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At the lounge I go to in Norfolk, VA, its about $10-$15 a bowl depending on the brand of tobacco, and if you get a mix of flavors, ect. Its also free to get any liquid in the base (though I normally just stick to water, sometimes with ice.)

The atmosphere is really relaxed, mostly couch and booth seating. Dim lights. And they always have some music playing, but not so loud that you cant hear yourself think, like other lounges I've been to.

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Keep in mind who will be affected by the actions you take. Say you limit the number of people per hookah, the only people that will really be negatively affected by this are the large groups sharing one hookah. And while you dont want to lose customers, by making this change either they leave opening up more seating for more "valued" customers. If the choose to stay and purchase more hookahs, its also a win. Water on the other hand affects everyone. While you impact the huge group sharing a hookah, you also impact the groups that buy several hookahs and even drinks.

Another concern is that when you start making business decisions like the water situation, two thoughts come to mind. Either you are trying to always find ways of making more money or you are having financial troubles and business is not doing well. As a customer, either way looks bad.

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ih303- Refusing water to a customer is illegal here in AZ. So naturally this is a new thing to me. To me, it seems tacky. I don't see this as a way customers can take advantage, I think its a human right to have water. Why not suggest the bottle of water to customers when they ask and if they don't want bottled water, suggest a free glass? Most people will prefer a bottle of filtered water over tap, especially if its only a dollar. Another thing you want to keep in mind, if you're charging for water and someone doesn't want to pay, so they smoke without drinking or eating anything, most likely (if they're smoking a lot) they're going to get a headache. Thats instant bad word of mouth and your customer will not like it.

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Offer free water, but 9 times out of 10, if you offer bottles for a dollar each, people will choose that over Tap.

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Every one I've been to around chicago has a minimum. The only one I found that doesn't do this is down in Bloomington, IL. In fact they usually have a $5ish all you can smoke deal on wed./thursdays as well. Only gripe is their shisha selection..Al Waha and Starbuzz are not my friends.

Also interesting note..no company can technically charge you for tap water in IL apparently..learned that a few weeks ago. They could be d-bags like McDonalds however and charge 5 cents for the cup though..bleh.

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the lounge i worked at had no cover charge. and had a limit of 3 people to a hookah. I don't like the idea of a cover charge but limiting the number of people to a hookah is allright. The priices were pretty good. $12 for 1 person for SB and $10 for AF, $7 for Nak(which he just stopped stocking after a while). But I figure, if the service is good, and the hookah is good, then there is no need for a cover charge, perhaps you need a limit on people per hookah...I would just not be willing to pay a cover and avoid the lounges that do that.

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[quote name='dizzbizz' timestamp='1294705705' post='493935']
Another thing you want to keep in mind, if you're charging for water and someone doesn't want to pay, so they smoke without drinking or eating anything, most likely (if they're smoking a lot) they're going to get a headache. Thats instant bad word of mouth and your customer will not like it.
[/quote]

I think this is a great point. The last thing you want is sick customers.

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[quote name='joytron' timestamp='1294702823' post='493933']
Water on the other hand affects everyone...
[/quote]

This has been my argument since the beginning.

[quote name='joytron' timestamp='1294702823' post='493933']
Another concern is that when you start making business decisions like the water situation, two thoughts come to mind. Either you are trying to always find ways of making more money or you are having financial troubles and business is not doing well. As a customer, either way looks bad.
[/quote]

This is also another one of my big concerns. Unfortunately, my partners don't think it's going to look bad. I guess there's one bar in town who switched from giving away tap water to selling bottled water that my partners are kind of modeling this whole thing off of. This, unfortunately, makes no sense because the other bar 1) Is 21+, 2) Has a full liquor license, and 3) Doesn't serve hookah. Still, they don't see it.

[quote name='dizzbizz' timestamp='1294705705' post='493935']Another thing you want to keep in mind, if you're charging for water and someone doesn't want to pay, so they smoke without drinking or eating anything, most likely (if they're smoking a lot) they're going to get a headache. Thats instant bad word of mouth and your customer will not like it.
[/quote]

I haven't been able to find any legislature saying that it's illegal to not offer free water in SD, but again, this has been another one of my arguments.

You see, this is a downside of having business partners. No matter how compelling my argument or evidence, as long as they see the potential for immediate profit, I lose. Hmm... now I'm wondering again if it [i]is[/i] illegal to not offer free water. Where would I find this out?

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charging for bottled water is fine...tap water should be free...

just my opinions....i have more but, i'm too lazy to type them :)

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Way I see it, the discussion is shifting here from whether one should charge for water (pretty much a unanimous no), or whether one should charge a cover charge (ditto) down to how you sell the view that we all seem to agree on to your business partners. The short answer is: by demonstrating to them how it makes more money.



I want, at this point, to tell you how I first got into smoking hookah; it is a case in point for lowering any barriers to entry. At the time, I was an ex-pat Brit, living in Granada, Spain, where there are plenty of Moroccan-run hookah bars / tea rooms. They describe themselves as "teterías" (tea rooms) and do serve an impressive range of flavoured teas, so it is not obvious to the untrained eye that the primary function of the business is hookah (clearly, with hindsight, that is where they make their money). Indeed, I'd been to one or two of them for mint tea, but declined to order a hookah based on the prices (typically 15 euros) and I had no idea whether I'd even enjoy it. I took the view that I'd be willing in principle, if I found someone else who was keen, but that I did not know quite what I was letting myself in for. So, I continued to abstain.

Then, in February, I took a holiday to Morocco, where my first stop was Chefchaouen, a small town with one "bar" in the village square that serves incredibly cheap mint tea, and not a lot else. This was an interesting experience, as I speak no Arabic and had to make do with a mixture of English, Spanish and French as appropriate. So, there I was, out of season, out of my depth, and approaching everything with quite some caution. First night I was there, they offered to prepare me a hookah, I again declined, fearful of getting taken for a ride. It is relevant to mention at this point that NHT is openly smoked in Chefchaouen, foreigners go there for that reason, and the locals are quite keen to educate anyone who will listen on what their culture is really about. Indeed, I had someone come up to me and tell me, quite openly and quite sincerely, how much he hated my Lonely Planet guidebook for the misconceptions it spreads about Morocco, and implored me to put aside the damn book and find out for myself. He wasn't trying to sell me anything, and he had a point.

That night, back in the local bar in Chefchaouen, the owner all but insisted on serving me a hookah. "No charge", he said, "I would like you to try it." Of course, I wavered a bit at this... we went through all possible reservations of what is it (shisha), what does it contain (tobacco and apples), is it dangerous (well, you smoke tobacco already, no?), will it make me cough (no, probably not) and back to "well, I really don't have a lot of money, I can just about afford to pay you for the tea" - the bottom line in almost all debates, as a tourist in Morocco. Not this one. The owner of the bar took genuine offence at my declining his hospitality and protested loudly before the bar and before God that he had said that I would pay him for my tea and for nothing else[b]. [/b]Having established that he was a man of his word, he then made clear that if I did not like it I did not have to smoke it,, but that he wanted to serve it up and would be grateful if I would try it. Put like that, how can one refuse?

Suffice to say that I did enjoy it, and the owner of the bar resolutely charged me for three glasses of mint tea. The upshot of that has been

a) that the less friendly and more expensive lounges in Granada got some undeserved custom
B) that some years later, when my then girlfriend and I visited a Lebanese cafe in London, I treated us both to a hookah as she'd never tried it before
c) in turn, the consequence of that was that she put some money towards buying a hookah, by way of a Christmas present
d) in turn, I now smoke with friends, some of whom are now interested in their own right, and have just bought a second pipe
e) it has become enough of an interest that I join this forum and am now having this discussion...

I'm not suggesting that you can run a viable business by offering Islamic hospitality to all comers, or that in the average Western city you should try. But, let's stop and think for a minute - there IS a barrier to entry, and as often as not, it is cost. A way to get in the door for $5 or $10 can only ever be a good thing, and selling ONE more hookah makes you as much money as selling an awful lot of water. I think your argument to your business partners should include *lowering* the starting price, BUT giving lots of choice and plenty of incentive to spend more.

Also, while I am not saying that an American or British business should necessarily conform to Arabic expectations, pretty much *all* of the Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants around London offer free tap water, because it is what is expected by their own communities. To a Londoner, this is a refreshing change, and one I would implement if I ran a business that sought to appeal to their communities as much as to my own. It should be neither a matter of legal requirement, nor of profit, it should be a matter of courtesy and human decency; if someone is paying me for spicy food, coffee, alcohol, shisha or anything with which they might reasonably consume a glass of tap water in their own homes, I should not begrudge serving them one or washing the glass up afterwards. So leaving aside what you're legally bound to do, can you really tell me it makes business sense to charge for bottles of water? Unless you're a gymnasium, that is?

Sorry for the long ramble, but I felt it was relevant. There is a human angle to any business; and we all share a common cause here. Tell your business partners to stick that in their bowl and smoke it...
































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[quote name='magick777' timestamp='1294777482' post='494063']
...selling ONE more hookah makes you as much money as selling an awful lot of water
[/quote]

Solid gold, man.

See what I mean about common sense? This particular angle had not even occurred to me but it's spot on. Time to write an email to the ol' partners. :)

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I apologize for hijacking this thread for the sake of my water crusade, but for anyone following closely along, we decided to make water free again. I can't be sure if any of my arguments made a difference, but I'm pleased with the results.

Thanks to all of you who threw in your $0.02. I'd like to think that if you were to come to my lounge someday, you'd like it.

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Holy cow! That's expensive.

The more popular hookah bar near my house charges a $1 cover per person, no cover if you buy a drink. Cheapest hookah is $12.

However, the place I prefer, just opened up, charges no cover and cheapest is $10. Best shisha I have ever smoked.

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