top of page

Why Understanding Social Anxiety and Shyness Can Increase Bar Sales

Anyone who has taken a look at our company summary might be wondering why a tech company focused on mental health that isn’t even based in Ybor City would be taking an interest in the Ybor Chamber of Commerce. The answer is we heard there might be a couple of bars here. What do bars have to do with mental health? That’s what I’m here to explain. This presentation involves all kinds of social businesses, bars, cafes, tea lounges, and similar venues. For simplicity, I’m going to refer to this broad category of social businesses as bars since they make up the largest portion of the category.

If you own a bar, you might think that your biggest competitors are other bars. While the Jersey Shore team trivia competition down the road might get your attention, it’s probably the least of your problems. Research shows the competitor you really have to worry about is not other bars. It’s the grocery store. Even before Covid, the bar industry nationwide was losing ground to people who decided they’d rather just stay home. The wide availability of craft beers, cocktail mixes, alcohol delivery services, affordable big-screen TVs, and sound systems have convinced many consumers that the cheaper and more convenient experience of staying home can be just as much fun as going to the bar. Covid-19 forcing people to make those adjustments will likely only worsen things long after a vaccine breaks the pandemic.

For bars to survive, they need to emphasize experiences that consumers cannot get at home. Live Music, the opportunity to meet new people, and low-cost therapy from annoyed bartenders are more important now than ever. Lights, music, and the big game are no longer a draw so much as they say to customers, “You don’t have to stay home to watch the Bucs lose. You can do that here too.”

Meeting new people is what ties all this together. Most people would love to expand their network. The young are eager to make new friends and especially to find someone to date. In the middle years, the emphasis becomes a little more geared toward professional networking and those in their golden years are interested in keeping up their social networks as they start losing friends to the ravages of time. The problem is that for most Americans, meeting new people is actually a pretty unpleasant experience.

Depending on your source, between 10 and 20 million Americans have what a professional psychiatrist would recognize as social anxiety. But the word, social anxiety has taken on a pop culture meaning separate from the clinical one and has become synonymous with being socially awkward or shy. This expanded definition covers over 50% of American adults and growing. That means that more than half of your potential customers are really uncomfortable with one of the biggest draws you provide. By understanding it, you can take steps to make the process easier for your customers, making them happier, bringing in more of them, and recapturing some of that market share lost to Publix.

It turns out the pop culture misuse of the word isn’t far off. Shyness and social anxiety are in fact the same thing. The difference is a matter of degree. Basically, when shyness becomes debilitating or causes panic attacks, it is considered social anxiety. You can also think of people who are shy as having some of the symptoms, where a person with clinical social anxiety has many more symptoms or has them to a higher degree. Shyness is so common that we may even think of it as normal and downplay its significance, but when you consider how severely it may affect a person’s ability to thrive, saying “Oh, he’s just shy” may be akin to saying “Oh, she’s just diabetic.”

So, what is it exactly? If you’re living with social anxiety, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms.

  • You feel extremely uncomfortable in social situations and you often avoid them.

  • You are frequently worried that other people are judging you negatively

  • You are hyper self-conscious and always watching what you say or do so you don’t say the “wrong thing.”

  • You find rejection or disapproval intolerable and do whatever you can to avoid it.

  • You often feel that others are watching you and you constantly avoid doing anything embarrassing.

  • You can feel worried or anxious for days or even weeks before a socially challenging situation.

  • You regularly criticize and judge yourself for feeling anxious.

  • Your anxiety, worry, and avoidance significantly interfere with your life.

  • You may feel hopeless about your situation, angry at yourself, or others.

It is important to understand that shyness is not related to being an introvert or extravert. These are measures of how much social interaction you need to feel mentally healthy. It is not an indication of how comfortable you are in new social experiences. You can be an extrovert who would spend every day with family and friends that you are already comfortable with if you could, but still, feel terror at meeting new people. I identify as one of these people and it contributed to the birth of Maka Social. Conversely, there are people who don’t have any discomfort at all with talking to friends, family, or even strangers but lack the motive and desire to do so. One of my mentors, Maria Lauricella, CEO of Humanity Wine Company is such a