Local bars use trivia events to draw in regulars

JARED PRESTWIDGE

Each year new bars, pubs, and taverns pop up around Brisbane, hoping to carve their own slice out of the local bar scene.

Kyle van Beurden at Oxford 152

Kyle van Beurden’s Wednesday night trivia at Oxford 152 has helped to grow a new kind of “regular” at the Brisbane bar. Photo: Louis Mitchell-Turner

This growth in numbers naturally brings a growth in competition, leading many establishments to look for ways to make their venue stand out from the crowd.

One company that makes it their business to solve this problem and get “bums on seats” at venues around Brisbane is multimedia pub show producer, Quiz Meisters.

Founded in Melbourne in 2004, Quiz Meisters now also runs trivia shows in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.

Quiz Meisters’ slogan is ‘Trivia. But Good’ and a visit to one of their shows lets their eccentric character shine through; there is an unapologetically Australian identity to their shtick that ties nicely with their focus on audience interaction.

The company’s Queensland operations manager, Kyle van Beurden, said he has seen a considerable rise in the popularity of trivia nights since he started as a host with Quiz Meisters in 2013.

“When I first joined [Quiz Meisters], there was a growth pattern for us and for a lot of other companies, there were more companies coming into the market in Brisbane,” Mr van Beurden said.

“Not only is trivia becoming more popular… new venues are coming along that are challenging the way that Brisbane’s pub culture has been.”

Mr van Beurden, who was studying for a Masters in history at the University of Queensland at the time, said he played trivia regularly for 18 months before hearing Quiz Meisters were looking to expand and needed more hosts.

“I was this sort of malnourished uni student… and when this opportunity came knocking I went along but I was initially knocked back,” he said.

“Two weeks later I got a call on a Thursday afternoon saying: ‘Do you want to host at Bellbowrie?’”

Mr van Beurden went.

“There were only two people there,” he said.

But despite his initial trepidation, he took over as the venue’s main trivia host until he was given a spot at a venue closer to home in Bulimba.

Oxford 152 in Bulimba hosts regular trivia nights

Quiz Meisters is set to start operations at four new venues in Brisbane by the end of August 2018, bringing their total to 18. Photo: Jared Prestwidge

After two years working regularly as a host, Mr van Beurden was offered the recently vacated Queensland operations manager role.

“It was not something I’d expected to be doing, but it was something different and I thought: ‘Let’s give it a crack’,” he said.

“With this job you learn to interact with staff, you learn to train staff, you learn to operate with managers.”

Mr van Beurdan said trivia has risen in popularity in Brisbane thanks to the constantly growing pub market.

“There are a lot of pubs, so there is a lot of competition.”

But he says trivia nights could bring new clientele to venues.

“Any sort of venue will have their bar flies or regulars, and trivia often brings in a different kind of crowd.”

“What that can do if done effectively, is expose that crowd to the venue… so they become regulars.”

The Manhattan Line, a New York City themed bar on Bulimba’s bustling Oxford Street, quickly saw the benefit trivia could have on a new establishment.

The bar opened in August 2017, and they employed local trivia company, Trivia Bros., that October to help boost business on the typically quiet Monday nights.

The Manhattan Line’s operations manager, Trish Steinorht, said trivia nights have been especially influential in building regulars.

“We have eight tables that have come from the time we started and they’ve come every fortnight, without fail,” Ms Steinorht said.

“We were looking for something that didn’t just appeal to the average drinkers, more something where you could come as a family or a group of friends.

“It’s a nice social evening, they usually get dinner, a glass of wine, answer all the questions and they’re home by 9:30.”

If all goes to plan, Quiz Meisters is set to open at four new venues in Brisbane by the end of August, giving them a total of 18 venues in Brisbane, plus one at the Gold Coast and one in Toowoomba.

While conducting an open audition for hosts to potentially fill those new spots, Mr van Beurden said the keys to success as a trivia host are relatively straightforward.

“You’re looking for that ‘every-person’ that everyone seems to be drawn to… that person will usually be successful,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the hardest skill to learn is the ability to interact with others effectively.”

“I don’t have a performing background, and I really enjoy it.”

Quiz host applicant Matthew Taylor said like Kyle van Beurden, he had been a regular trivia player for years before deciding to apply.

“Essentially I met a couple friends at uni that went to trivia every Tuesday night at the Archive in West End and I’ve been going two years now.

“Friends say I’ve always been performing, just not in a professional capacity.”

While Mr van Beurden said he plans to go on to earn his PhD, he has no plans to hang up his trivia hat just yet.

In addition to his operations role, he also hosts trivia events every Wednesday at the Oxford 152 in Bulimba.

“The players in many cases have become my friends, so it’s like getting paid to catch up with them,” he said.

“There’re a lot of jobs where you get to interact with a lot of people, but you’re not actually doing it in a way that’s enjoyable.

“And occasionally people buy you a beer as well, which is exciting.”

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