Wednesday, 11 May 2016

New Attitude?


I spent most of yesterday editing (that means writing a lot of it) my local CAMRA Branch Magazine, so didn't get a chance to go out shopping. I decided though that I couldn't be bothered cooking, so a rare takeaway was called for. I'd been given a tip about a good local curry house I hadn't been to and knew that opposite it was a pub where I was advised on Sunday by one of its regulars, a new landlady had just taken over a few days ago.  Seems like a good opportunity to try a different curry shop out and say hello to the new people in the pub at the same time. As a long standing Branch Chairman, one of the things I do like to do when I can, is to keep in touch with the trade. It helps a lot. Both me and them too hopefully.

Curry duly ordered, I had 20 minutes while it was being cooked, I nipped over the road. The pub was empty apart from three locals in a far corner and me at the bar. There was one person behind the bar that I recognised from her bearing as much as anything else, as a barmaid of long standing - and three others - mother, daughter and son I'd guess from the resemblance -at the far side of the bar. They obviously weren't local but seemed to have a vague air of being in charge. They didn't look up as I came in.  My pint of bitter duly purchased I glanced around.  The locals were talking quietly as locals do, pausing only to borrow a pen from behind the bar.  The new team (for it was they) carried on doing what they were doing. I looked over hopefully, but nobody looked back. The beer was good. I ordered a half to top it up and the young lad served it tentatively, the barmaid having gone out for a smoke. He didn't know how to work the till. The new team confirmed.

A few minutes later as I was about to leave,  conversation (not including me I must clarify) started about how they could attract customers at the quiet time between five and eight.  It was about half seven by then. It fizzled out as I left, my shouted goodbye being thankfully returned. At least they spoke then.  I could have given them one tip. Talk to the bloody customers.  To not to talk to a sole customer standing at the bar on his own for 20 minutes when you took over just a few days ago, is more than a faux pas.  No matter who it was, you could have learned a lot.

When I started work in a pub many, many years ago the first thing the Boss said, was always say "Hello" and "Goodbye"  or equivalent - well he said a lot more than that - but these were a must.  He reasoned that the hello made people feel welcome and the goodbye made people feel appreciated. It made them look on the pub kindly and made them think "I'll go back". It is enduring logic and complete business sense. Now I don't want to be too hard on anyone new to the pub game, but you know, it is hard enough without making basic mistakes. Now you'll likely say " Why didn't you introduce yourself?" Well I could have of course, but it wasn't my place. If I'd been spoken to I would have and really it might have been a useful thing. I know the area the pub is in well and the pub too. A chance was missed.

So a plea to all licensees and bar staff. Just say "Hello" to customers. It can and does make all the difference.


I do mean "Hello" or similar. Saying "You all right there?" even with a raised inflection at the end, doesn't cut it.

The curry - cooked Bangladesh style - not English - chicken samber was pretty good. I'll be back, but will I have a pint in the pub? Of course. Second chances and all that.

11 comments:

retiredmartin.com said...

Spot on. Simple is best. I also like to be acknowledged at the bar, with a nod or "be with you in a minute", if the barperson is going to leave me waiting while they go and attend to something more important (normally a restaurant booking).

Saying goodbye when I bring the glass back to the bar and say thanks is appreciated too.

In generally think service in pubs is pretty good though.

Robin said...

Blimey, they didn't realise you were a VIP. That will sting them when you write up in the local CAMRA magazine!

On the other hand they were at least trying to observe what was going wrong. Perhaps they should have done this before they took on the pub and announced a new management style...

For what its worth, you may find they need your input is worth something to them. I know as someone who wants to support the pub trade you would gladly offer Pro Bono (Publico)

Curmudgeon said...

Staff having extended conversations with each other in sight and earshot of customers is always a bad sign.

A while back, I remember going in a pub company outlet that had just been taken over by new people after a period of closure. They were having an animated discussion about some fancy dress party they were planning, and it took an age before I was grudgingly acknowledged and served. Needless to say, within six months it was closed again.

Noticing you are there, but failing to acknowledge your presence, is one of the worst customer service sins in pubs.

Tandleman said...

Robin: I was a VIP. I was a customer! And it will only appear here, not elsewhere. Customers are the most important thing to any pub. If they don't know that....

Cooking Lager said...

I've got a trumpet and hereby apply for the job of proclaiming the entrance of the TAND whenever he goes out on the pop. Like a squire to a knight.

RedNev said...

I'd take Cooking Lager up on that offer if I were you.

Bad service in pubs is relatively uncommon now so that when it does happen, you really notice it. I can't remember when I last had an argument about a short measure or beer being off, it's so long ago. Bad service is probably forgotten straight away by the member of staff concerned, but customers have longer memories. I didn't go to one pub in Liverpool for 30 years after an argument that included the immortal phrase: "No one else has complained."

Paul Bailey said...

It still amazes me how some people go into the pub trade with absolutely no idea of the basics. They are entering a career in the “hospitality industry” and the clue is in the name. Being polite to customers, acknowledging their presence and engaging them in conversation, where appropriate isn’t rocket science, and will yield far more results than fancy dress parties and other “themed” evenings.

Stono said...

is this a north/south thing though ? its just whilst bar staff chatting to themselves at the back of the bar or to their barfly "friends" and ignoring customers, who then make me feel as if Im in the wrong for interrupting them...really grinds my gears...Im not one for really wanting to engage much in conversation at the bar with anybody, just serve me the beer Ive asked for is good enough, and on the whole thats what I get down south, whereas up north I note theres often more interaction expected and required, so it feels more out of sorts when you dont get it.

but I dont know,if you asked me what I thought was missing most often from alot of staff in pubs thesedays, its the bar staff interacting with and building that kind of ongoing interaction with customers, but maybe Im just awkward :)

ElectricPics said...

In my experience bar staff are far too often taking the attitude that they're more important to the business than customers, who apparently should be grateful they're getting served at all. This attitude is reinforced where the manager/owner would rather be friends with the staff instead of being 'the boss'.

Simon Everitt said...

Great blog entry - the more pubs I visit, the more I am realising staff attitude and behaviour can make an otherwise bad pub, good. Or vice versa.

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