Google Places has become a very powerful force for local businesses. Especially for competitive niche markets where there are more than 3 competitors in the market. After working with a couple of local buisnesses in Houston that compete in the same market I have a very good idea for what impacts your business showing up in the top 3 spots.
I have some good news and some bad news for local businesses. Google Places is heavily weighted on your customer volumes. Its not just people searching for you by name on google, its how many physical people are actually going to your business. You might be wondering how would google know that? Every person who has an android phone is being tracked by google. When they walk into a business google knows simply from the latitude longitude coordinates that you were there and for how long. For privacy reasons google could never publish specific user information, but they can use that data to develop some metrics for user behavior.
The reason I know this is because 2 of my clients have had very different results on google. They both used to rank 1 - 3 for their niche. However today 1 of them is still in the top 2 spots for most queries, and the other is lucky to show up at all. The club with top ranking is slow, but still has decent volume. The club that is ranking badly has seen a huge drop off in business. The first reaction a lot of business owners will assume is that the top club on google is getting more referrals increasing its business. But I don't see it that way. Google search referrals are very low for both clubs. What I feel is Customer Volumes at the Clubs are directory affecting rankings.
On Google Places under the venue profile you can see a section called Popular Times. Google knows exactly how busy you are during various hours each day of the week. Here are the charts for the two venues I work with.
This all goes back to focusing on your customers experience instead of worrying about keyword density, or SEO issues on your website.
If you own or manage a club, put all your focus on the customer experience. Every little detail matters. Customers are more likely to return to a club that has average drink prices with great customer service, than to a club with dollar drinks with poor customer service. This will earn new customers, positive reviews, and good word of mouth which will help your business to grow.