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The Network Bar Is LinkedIn On Speed For CRE Professionals, Plus A Shot Of Brandy On The Side

There is no denying it — millennials have changed the art of networking in the digital age. 

While their parents and grandparents drank brandy at the local steakhouse to close deals and make connections, the digital age birthed the art of the connection via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook

The Network Bar Membership Director Lindsay Barnes

Dallas restaurateur Phil Romano — founder of Fuddruckers and Romano's Macaroni Grill  — is combining online networking with in-person socializing in a member's only restaurant, The Network Bar. The site allows paying members to network, eat and connect on-site with like-minded professional via a digital app. 

The Network Bar was born in 2017 in the Trinity Grove section of Dallas. 

All paying members receive access to The Network Bar and become part of the members app, which allows members to connect with each other by searching for potential contacts by industry, name, company or alma mater. 

Membership Director Lindsay Barnes spoke with Bisnow about The Network Bar’s national growth strategy and how commercial real estate professionals can make connections as members. 

Bisnow: Tell us a little about the company. What makes the concept so unique?

Lindsay Barnes: The concept started when we opened in October of 2017. One of our owners is Phil Romano, so he is a big restaurateur and entrepreneur in the Dallas area. And, he really started this concept geared towards millennials; that was his original vision. He wanted to create a space where millennials could come socialize and interact face-to-face and really kind of re-find that lost art of meeting with people in person versus over LinkedIn or social media or over the phone for that matter.

Once we opened up we [realized] it was more of a place where not just millennials meet, it’s really a place where anyone can meet to grow their business and make connections and meet people. We shifted gears and stopped just targeting millennials and have really opened it up for everyone to come.

It's a lot of business people who are starting their own companies. It’s corporations who want sponsorship opportunities and want their employees to use the space for business meetings and events. It’s different people in sales roles trying to gain more connections. One of the biggest ways that members of The Network Bar can connect is through our mobile app. It’s very familiar to LinkedIn, where it shows everyone's profiles. You can click on people's pictures and it will tell what industry they are in, what company they worked for, where they went to school, and you can connect with them that way. You can even message them directly on the app.

Bisnow: When you go to the standing location, what is it like inside?

Barnes: When you first walk in, it's a very comfortable lounge area. It's got all of these big leather sofas and leather chairs, coffee tables and a big bar along the wall. If you go to our dining room, we have a full-service dining room and kitchen back there, so members will come in for business lunches and corporate dinners. 

And we do have two conference rooms that are tucked in the back a little bit further; those are great for more private meetings. We have one other room called our fireside chat room, which does have a fireplace … We do a lot of our speaker events back there and other private events.

Bisnow: It sounds like you have hit on something different. How is this concept similar to coworking — or is it something different? 

Barnes: I think it’s more of social networking in person. We do have the lounge and bar aspect and the dining room, so it definitely gives off a social vibe. 

People come here for lunch and dinner throughout the day and grab drinks after work. But it's not really a place where you want to sit down with your computer and work all day long. I mean we do have some members who do that on occasion, but it’s more of a place to take clients and have meetings and have conversations outside your office in a more comfortable setting.

Bisnow: How many locations do you have right now?

Barnes: We just have one location for the moment. We are looking to expand. We don’t have any locations set in stone yet, but our hope is to expand across the country eventually.

Bisnow: If you grow in the Metroplex, where will you go next?

Barnes:  So we have talked about that a lot and going up north is what makes the most sense just with all the growth up there. We are looking up the tollway somewhere between Plano and Frisco.

Bisnow: How much is a membership per month or per year?

Barnes: Our current membership rate for individual memberships is for anyone who is 30 years old and above, and that is $2,500 per year. Our junior membership rate is anyone under 30 years old and that rate is $1,500 per year. 

Bisnow: Is anyone else working in this space? 

Barnes: As far as I've seen, the only other similar places to us would be some social member clubs, but none of them are really geared towards networking and that's the main focus. I think a lot of the other clubs out there are more social-focused, which we do host a lot of fun social events for our members, but at the end of the day we're hoping that they're going to make great business connections. So I think that's definitely the unique factor that we have that I haven't seen from any other places.

Bisnow: Obviously our audience is commercial real estate.  How would they use The Network Bar — those who are brokers, developers, architects and interior designers, for example? 

Barnes: We do actually have a lot of people in real estate in both commercial and residential in all of those verticals that you mentioned. We see a lot of them coming here, bringing clients, taking them to lunch and dinner, but also hosting events. We’ve done different real estate organization events; we’ve done different happy hour events. We've also done real estate panels before, so we have a lot of different things for our real estate members so that way they can utilize it to the best of their ability.