When it comes to how you best increase the viability of pubs and to a lesser extent how you make your venue more attractive to the diminishing number of pub devotees, one aspect that is overlooked when suggesting themed evenings, upping the food offer, serving cream teas, breakfasts, or using it as a venue for the local slimming club or the like, is simply getting the staff to smile, or even, horror of horrors actually talk to customers.
I may have mentioned this before - of course I have - I'm always banging on about it - but as someone who was trained properly in how to act behind the bar it always amazes me that this simple and cheap aspect is largely overlooked. Last week three of us were served (separately and at different times) by the same "Shift Leader" in a local JDW without the server actually looking any of us in the eye. She did though manage to conduct, simultaneously and not without a deal of dexterity, an apparently more satisfactory and enjoyable conversation with her colleagues standing at the drinking side of the bar, who had just finished their own stint on the staff side of it. So, on the bright side, she did know how to do it, just it seems, not in the context of her job.
Simple things like "Hello" when you arrive and "Thanks" when you leave, an assuring "I'll be with you in a minute" if the bar is busy, are easy to do, but make a massive difference to how the customer perceives the place. It can literally can be money in the bank. If somehow staff can be taught to parrot annoyingly "Is there anything else?" as if dealing with a chronic amnesiac, then surely the odd greeting and goodbye can't be beyond them? As for the meaningless "You all right there?" well, I covered that one here years ago when it was in its infancy, but it goes on still, and still grates as much. Try unambiguous "Can I help you?" or "What can I get you?" Trust me it will annoy the customers a lot less, especially grumpy old bastards like me, though of course like all customer facing jobs, you need to adapt your approach according to the situation.
But it wasn't last weeks JDW encounter that prompts this. On last weekend's trip to Hull and Beverley, it was noticeable how the staff in that neck of the woods, despite hoards of people - including our busload arriving more or less at once at one or two places - all seemed to be pleasant, interested and helpful - often unpromptedly suggesting pubs, or joining in conversations to give directions, or asking where we came from. I don't recall one "You all right there?" Well done to all.
Unless of course it was the sunshine that made them smile? Can't see it being that though surely. They were stuck inside.
Got a couple more tales to tell from that weekend of unbroken sunshine and indeed fairly unbroken boozing.
I also went to Nellies in Beverley. A Sam's gem. You'll all know it of course?
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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