Tuesday, June 7

Exceeding Expectations

This one gets a little preachy, sorry...

From my experience of visiting a variety of bars I developed the concept of the standard cocktail spectrum. This is what is expected when one goes into a typical bar and sits down for a drink. This does not need to be your bar.

Do you want more customers?

Do you want to charge more for your cocktails?

Do you want to make BIGGER tips?!?

Here is how you do it... exceeding customer expectations, every time, all the time.

The industry is all about customer service and the BAR has been raised. Customer service is being done everywhere, its the new buzzword in retail business. When you go to Wal-Mart they great you at the door, when you go to blockbuster they say hello to every guest, this is fake and everyone knows it. But, because of this flood of customer service actual customers have become savvy to the tricks of the trade. Now you have to go above and beyond to impress a customer.

It's all about exceeding expectations. The expectations expressed in my Standard Cocktail Spectrum article are typical. If you want to stand out and be more than the bartender next to you... you have to exceed those expectations.

To do that, know the whole list of standard cocktails. Serve them all the time no matter how busy you are. Treat every customer as though they are the president or owner of your bar.

Exceptional service entails treating a customer's problems as if they were your own, even if it costs you money. Occasionally you might even have the opportunity to fix a problem caused by a visit to the competitor's bar. Take it as an opportunity to switch their allegiance.

Ask a customer if they have a drink they have always wanted to try but was afraid to ask.

Make the cocktail in front of the guest... explain to them what you are doing.

Learn the cocktails history and tell it to the patron as they sip their wonderfully prepared drink.
These are just a few small things you can do to impress a patron. Sometimes these things won't work. A customer may be coming in to escape or to socialize with a group of friends. Find other ways to impress these people.

Have business cards made with contact information, the hours of your shift, and recommended cocktails. The patron will take the card, remember the great service they received, go to someone else's bar, be disappointed, and come right back to you to get more of your great service.

I know, some of you by now are saying, "I'm way to busy to do that kind-of stuff." Well, patrons do realize when you are busy. There are much lower expectations when you are visibly busy. This means two things. One, to lower expectations act busy. Two, doing the smallest of something extra for a patron during this time will be appreciated. For example, something as simple as getting your barback to help the guest back to their table with their drinks will go a long ways.

To be a great bartender you have to be able to read and persuade your patrons. The best way to persuade that customer to always come to your bar, during your shift, is to gain power over them. Behavioral studies of power have shown that there are 6 different types:

  • Referent power - power based on how much someone is liked.
  • Expert power - power based on the fact that a person is perceived to be very knowledgeable in the topic.
  • Legitimate power - power based on the person's position in an organization.
  • Reward power - power based on the fact that the person will reward you for doing something.
  • Coercive power - power based on the capacity to administer punishment.
The best forms of power are referent and expert power. Gain power by becoming the patron’s friend and showing your expertise in the mixology field. These two are well within your means to become very good at. Excel beyond your fellow bartender, rise to the head of the class, using these two forms of power.

Legitimate and coercive power really doesn't apply (I don't think you will be making your patron sit in a corner because they went to someone else's bar). But, reward power can be utilized by giving the occasional complimentary drinks.

There is a fine line between persuading and manipulating. Be careful not to cross that line.

So there is your peep talk. Gee, it sounds like I am a soapbox so I will step down now. But, I will leave you with one final thing...

Customers know the difference between mediocre service, good service and exceptional service. Do you want to be that mediocre server or do you want to excel at what you do?


Anonymous said...

True professionals know that we refer to them as "guests", not customers. Guests, we invite into our homes, we invite to return, and we treat with respect. Customers are the ones we have over one time but would never again invite back.

Unknown said...

There is Legitimate Power involved being a bartender when compared to being a server. There is a different mentality of service just based on movement: at a table the server approaches the customer and does the customer's bidding where at the bar the customer approaches the bar. As the one approaching, in a sense begging for the command of attention from the bartender, you are put into a position to appease the bartender for they have the power to deny drinks, give free drinks, cut you off, throw you out, or make you the most splendid thing you have ever tasted. I think these are examples of Reward and Coercive Power.

dominik mj • the opinionated alchemist said...

These are really nice suggestions.

But about one thing, I am not so sure - should we really run after more guests, more tips, etc.?

Don't get me wrong here - but I am very much following an artisan approach to bars. Offering everything and get all wishes fulfilled might be the trend - but you can do better quality, if you limit yourself, your staff and even the guests.

It sounds very dumb and strange - but check out my page - as well as the documentary "Jiro dreams of Sushi" - it is a beautiful piece and a total antipode to the contemporary "we do everything possible, to meet the demands of all guests".

The bad thing is: A great bar is usually built on the dreams, expertise and beliefs of a bartender. If the bar runs smooth, a lot of people forget the original idea and become greedy - want to do more and more business. This business just can't be handled with the same attention to detail, with the same quality as a rather slow bar. Hence the clientele is also changing - which brings the operator even more into a self-accelerating spiral.

I want to believe, that there is a bar, which can be run like an outstanding restaurant - selective, distinctive, intrinsic!