Friday 13 February 2009

Service with a smile

There was a risk recently of me disagreeing with Tandleman in his post about German pubs. I was arguing that good service costs money, whilst Tandleman gave me the impression that he believed it did not. But then came the final comment on the matter from the great guru:
".....If your staff can't say "Hello", "Thanks", "Is everything all right?" and "Goodbye" they are a false economy in the first place, no matter how little you pay them.

If the Landlord or Landlady can't, then there is little hope......"
That, of course, is all very true. If the management team that is in charge of the day to day running of the pub cannot get this right, then there is indeed little hope. However, there is something niggling at the back of my mind over this one. I need to rationalise failings that do indeed occur in the industry.

There have been times since we've been here when we know our quality of service has fallen below the standard we aspire to. This mainly occurred during busy bank holiday and school holiday times. We started here by operating a cheap as chips service that appealed to the lowest common denominator. Occasionally we would have a very busy night, packed to the gunnels, the staff, Ann and myself became very stressed, the service fell apart at the seams, the complaints became worrying and everything was thoroughly unacceptable.

When schools aren't out things are generally very quiet. We like this time a lot. We can ensure that our customer care extends far beyond the simple courtesy suggested by Tandleman. We can spend time talking with customers about all manner of things including beer, food and of course our wonderful countryside we have around here. Suggesting walks and other activities, relating various amusing stories about our time here and generally entertaining the customers are things we enjoy doing when we find the time.

Ann and I enjoy the interaction with pleasant people, perhaps if we didn't we'd be in the wrong job. The problem is, when we we're running a service that was geared to the mass market, there was not sufficient revenue to cover the overheads. Also there were various quality issues that could be improved, such as the food.

About 2½ years ago we decided to raise our game. We decided to remove all mass produced and mass marketed products from our portfolio. Coca Cola went in favour of Fentimans, all fruit juices are now Looza (Pronounced Lohsa, I believe) which are good quality Belgian fruit juice, we have keg products that are different and interesting and of course we only stock Cumbrian microbrewed cask beers. The food has significantly improved to something akin to restaurant quality with ingredients sourced from local producers.

The result is that we are happier. The customers we like to have here are happier. Best of all the overall quality of the service we provide is so much better. We hope we have achieved all of this without turning into the style of operation that looks down on the customer who just wants a drink. We hope we haven't turned too snooty.

It does cut out the cheap and cheerful brigade. Many of whom are very nice and pleasant people. Some however, very clearly are not. It has significantly reduced the unacceptable and unmanageable massive variations in the levels of trade. It just proves that for us at least, our bread and butter trade is in fact a quality trade.

Because all of this justifies a slightly higher price we run the risk of actually breaking into profit sometime soon. More importantly, because we are happier we remain calmer for more of the time and therefore the risk of providing poor customer care is reduced.

So, although the things the great Mr Tandleman insists cost nothing are important and should come second nature, they are less likely to fail in a pub where the landlord is happy and can make a living.


Tandleman said...

"Great Guru?" "Great Mr Tandleman?" Blimey. I'm in the bad books it seems.

Unknown said...

Not at all, perhaps there is a little tongue in cheek here, but certainly not sarcasm....... Well, not much anyway.

I liked the original post and could not argue with your reply to my comments. But I did need to reply to the service versus cost issue. Perhaps I shouldn't have mixed jocular with a serious subject.

Anonymous said...

Manners cost nothing what ever 'level' of clientele a pub attracts, but I agree added value costs and needs to be factored into the equation. i.e.charge accordingly.

Curmudgeon said...

I take it you're not too worried about cheap Stella offers in Barrow ASDA then, Dave ;-)

Unknown said...

Indeed Curmudgeon, I have ceased to be worried about that for my own business.

Tandleman points out that in Germany there is a bigger difference between off and on sales prices and yet this does not seem to be a problem to the German pubs.

Stonch said...

I really enjoy honest and informative posts like this from you, David. Although your experiences are completely removed to mine - our pubs couldn't be more different! - I find that very helpful.

Unknown said...

Oh indeed our pubs are different. But you are in Clerkenwell and I'm in Eskdale. I have to drive 18 miles to get a Kebab or Indian for a start.

But at least I use the same shade of red to paint parts of our place as well, so some things are the same.

Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it.