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Rumba in Macclesfield has become, hands down, one of my favourite venues that I have found myself in on my travels around UK pubs and bars. I’m always taken aback by the passion that I see exhibited by the people who run Punch venues, and Chris was no exception.

Alongside his business partner, Steph, Chris runs four different bars; two ‘DV8’s’ and two ‘Rumbas’.

DV8 is an upmarket wine and cocktail bar, focusing on the premium end of the market and serving everything from champagne brunch and lunch, to afternoon tea. Rumba has a different demographic in mind, slightly more casual and a bit younger, but still edging into the high-end bar customer space, and this is where we met last week.

 

Chris, you have emphasized how important attracting the right people to each of your bars is; how do you ensure that the customers are right for the offer?

“When we first opened DV8, we put a strict dress code in (no sportswear, trainers etc.) place. What this meant was that we were turning always hundreds of customers each night – I thought there must be another offer that could work for these guys, so we opened Rumba. We are still pretty strict about who we let in, no large groups of guys etc., but it’s a bit more relaxed.

“I think that in our industry, we haven’t quite got the balance right; just because drinkers want to have a good, raucous time and NOT go into the big cities, doesn’t mean we should be making them have that experience in a dive. By opening a Caribbean Tiki bar, we have bought snippets of the city into the suburbs. We provide a safe environment for women in all our bars, thinking of their security and happiness as number one. We keep drinks prices high so that we don’t attract the £2 a pint crowd.”

Rumba is quite something inside. Tell me about the environment and kit out.

“Actually, it’s really hard to make something look like a shack – but it’s not expensive! We have a steel structure and some high-end ice machines which cost a fortune, but other than that, we have pushed our suppliers to help us.

“Punch have been really supportive too, and other than that, we’ve spent a shed-load of time on the internet; for example, the ceiling décor all came from a couple of books bought off eBay, then we had a night in the venue with all the staff getting drunk and sticking them on the ceiling. We know that our customers spend a lot of time on social media, so we have to give them Instagrammable décor, drinks and experiences.”

And just how important is SM to you?

“Our Rumba in Congleton has 6,000 followers and just recently we posted a FB post for DV8 and we know from their tracking tools that over 87,000 people saw it; we see no point in using the local paper when we can get a football stadium worth of people to see a post that we spent a few pounds on boosting.

“Our customers promote our business for us most of the time, so we make sure that everything looks great so that on social media DV8 and Rumba look like the places to be – which they are!”

There are a few things in Rumba that seem like a USP for you, certainly I’ve never seen them before- what are they and how do they work for you?

“Our wheel of fortune behind the bar makes around £500 a week at 87% net profit. Staff ask every single customer who pays with cash if they’d like to spin for a pound when handing back their change – many do and prizes vary from good (free drink) to not so good (shot of custard!).

 

 

“Our photo booth increases dwell time – especially for women; it only costs 50p, but we ensure there is permanent table service in that area and often groups stay for hours because of that. And there’s a two-way mirror in the gents, meaning they can see out to the bar whilst, um, relieving themselves!”

Rumba and DV8 are both obviously forward-thinking outlets, and the overall pub and bar industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 years; what is your view on the current offer and where are we headed?

“The industry has moved on dramatically in the last 10 years – it used to be very generic; you’d get a badly made gin and tonic or a poorly poured pint and basic food. Now, pubs tend to have a USP, as do bars and restaurants, there are many more single-offer outlets (American BBQ, Thai, Pizza, Burgers etc.) and I think this will continue.

“Standards have got better; social media has seen to that and technology has and will continue to affect every aspect pf running a pub/bar. For us, personally what’s next? Tequila, definitely tequila…watch this space!”

If you’re ever in the area of Macclesfield, I highly recommend a visit to Rumba; from the looks of things though, I’d advise not having an early start planned for the next day, I think you’ll have a little too much fun!

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