Edenderry, in County Offaly, still retains much of it's rural market town feel. Motorways and technology have done there best to make it conform to the fast paced, modern life, we call 'the norm'. Thankfully, it has resisted. In the heart of the town lies Patrick Larkin's Pub. Three generations have successfully tripped through three different eras. Today, Patrick Senior is handing the reins to Patrick Junior, just like his father before him. Not long ago, I received a letter from Patrick Senior. It stood out for two reasons. Firstly, it said 'thank you' for the work we had done together. In itself that was rare. But, secondly, there was a line that left a footprint. In the body of his beautifully inked letter he talked about his customers. His line is forever etched... "I have had the privilege to live with the people of Edenderry and I have been proud to serve them..." Business, not just Pubs, can learn a thing or two from Patrick Larkin. In a life that has lost 'people' values, good people stand out. So too does good service, in fact, good everything. Today, customers are more demanding, sophisticated and challenging. A focus on sincere service can keep you ahead of the pack, just like Patrick Larkin.
Do You Know Who I am?
We have all been to wonderful temples of design with no atmosphere. Conversely, we have had great nights out in the most unlikely places. Why? People, plain and simple. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can create atmosphere other than people. We do not need to go to pubs. We can drink at home. Why do we go? People, conversation, company and chat, that's why. What then is the first law of a great night's service? Simply to be recognised, acknowledged, and to feel welcome and to feel wanted.Great Pubs, great bar tenders and great locals, instinctively master this often missed fundamental. Get that right and you are more than half way there.
Nothing lights up a room more than a smile. Think of it's opposite. To be recognised is good. To be recognised and greeted with an accompanying smile is even better. So simple, so true, but often lost in search of speed, profit and efficiency. Many years ago I arrived with six day trippers onto Sherkin Island. Suddenly, the Pub population had swelled from 2 to 8. The bar tender smiled through the storm. As we left, I heard his heart rate settle and address the original 2..."That was stressful, but sure didn't we get through it!..." It was a good reminder of why a Pub should be a haven.
You are welcome.You were warmly acknowledged, you were even met with a broad big smile. I'm beginning to like this place. Legendary bar tenders do much more than serve drink. They are motivators, counsellors, advisors, and great listeners. They read needs and they judge moods. They deliver the atmosphere that their customer needs. They are discreet, fair, but fun too. A great bar tender is master of many moods, skills and scenarios. Their secret? They listen, but they listen with care. Some time back, I pointed out to a truly remarkable bar tender that I had never once heard him utter a bad word. He smiled and said softly..."Conor, there are many things I have regretted saying, but I have never regretted saying nothing"... That wisdom has stayed with me.
Knowledge builds trust. Trust builds confidence. Confidence builds advice. Advice, properly used, creates sales. Think of an excellent wine buff. Think of a great waiter. Think, more importantly, of the true professional who advised you that something was not for you, even though your fist was ready to part with wads of notes. Trust is earned, not bestowed. If you know your stuff, and give great customer service, then you will be a hard act to follow. Teach and learn. Drinks companies are great at teaching. Work with them, do not see them as the foe, they may just help you towards more sales, and more profit.
Selling is Service.
Great sales people sell you more effortlessly. Guess what? Customers like to be sold to. In fact, they love it. Ask your colleagues to tell you about being upsold to. Then, ask them how it made them feel. They will always tell you it made them feel good. However, if your policy is to exploit, you will fail, shudder, and slowly disintegrate.
Upselling is an art. Learn it, teach it and reward it. Recently, at a much favoured local Pub, a smiling girl from Poland gently said ... "Shall I open another bottle of wine?..." I smiled, so too did my guests.
The Extra Mile.
People have choices. In the past they were afraid to use them. Not anymore. To succeed, you have to go the extra mile, every day. No matter how good your 'performance' today, it will start again, with a new audience tomorrow. Great service is something you have to do each and every day. People will never remember efficient service. They will always remember exceptional service. The difference? Efficient service delivers what one expects. Going the extra mile is doing what is not expected. It's not about speed either..."The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running..."
The Quiet Man.
Have you ever seen 'the quiet man' sitting quietly, on his bar stool, observing? He is a man of few words, but a man who sees everything and takes it all in.You see, it's not your Pub, it's his. What you do, and how you do it, is all being instinctively processed, analysed and judged. It could be your lack of attention to customers, dust gathering, or even those rapidly deteriorating rapid response times. In fact, his 'gold circle' self image may just be under threat..."things are just not what they used to be..." The Quiet Man has been sitting on the same stool for 10 years. It's a soft, solid kind of stool, or at least it was, once upon a time. If you multiply 5 weekly visits by 4 pints a night, by 10 years, The Quiet Man has spent a lot of money with you. If you don't reinvent, invest and refurbish, it's his money, not yours, that he will adjudge to have been misappropriated. In time, he will leave you and invest elsewhere.
I work regularly with a great bunch of people in a hotel in Kildare. Jim, the original action man, recently joined after many years distinguished Army service. He has a thirst for knowledge and a great desire to improve on everything, all of the time. A casual chat taught me a great lesson. It's a lesson that will teach anyone how to get the most from their people. The Army call it 'EDIP' It means this. Explain and I will forget. Demonstrate and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand. Practice and I will get better and better. Your colleagues create atmosphere, they also create the mood. If your staff have no idea what they are doing, no rehearsals and no training, they simply cannot win the competitive battle. Nobody, in any sport or profession, gets to the top without training. How strange then that most Pubs rarely invest, involve or train their front line troops.
Time To Say Goodbye.
If a warm smiling welcome is our first experience when we visit a Pub, then the goodbye is the last. It is instinctive for some and ignored by many. If you get it right, it sets people off home with a warm, happy, memory. Ignore it and you will be perceived as exploitative, mercenary and disinterested.The next time you are a customer, watch the impact, or lack of it, when the customer wants to say goodbye, but the bar tender, who was so interested all evening, has no time. As the Mayo man once said..."When God made time, he made plenty of it..." Make sure you make time and use it properly!