What puts customers off by Ann Elliott

A few weeks ago I had breakfast with a great operator who runs the most superb group of pubs and bars- one I have always wanted to work with. He knows us well. I was talking about how we help operators ‘get bums on seats’ and how we work with our clients to drive covers. He stopped me in my tracks when he said ‘I don’t actually think that’s where you add the most value. What you’re really good at is telling operators how, and where, they stop covers. We don’t always see that – we are often just too engrossed in our own business to look around us and see our operation from our customer’s perspective. That’s what you should talk about. That’s what you should do’
So I took the opportunity last week to talk to some customers about the sorts of things that operators do that really really irritate them, stop them staying in a pub, recommending it or coming back.
Here is what they said they disliked about pubs and what they said stopped them buying more than one drink or meant they wouldn’t come back for another meal.
1. Bringing back of house, front of house. They really thought there was nothing much worse than hearing the team chatting about their own personal lives and ignoring customers standing at a bar who just wanted to be served. No one really wanted to hear the bar staff talking about who they got off’ with last night (to put it nicely). Disney talk about ‘off stage’ and ‘’on stage. In so many pubs, the staff seem to have lost the idea of any sort of distinction between the two
2. They really disliked going into a pub and having that feeling that they were walking into a group of people who belonged to a special club that they were just not part of- and weren’t about to be asked to join
3. They really didn’t like walking across the proverbial sticky floor (they still are out there), leaning across the bar and then finding out they couldn’t lift their arm as it was stuck to the surface (yes they exaggerated to prove a point)
4. They talked about asking for a beer (as in ‘ What’s your best?’ ) and the bar man / woman having absolutely no idea what ‘their best’ looked like – looking at them as if they had asked them about the theory of relativity. Or they asked for a gin and tonic and that’s all they got – no ice and no lemon – oh and no hospitality
5. They wanted something to eat but the menu was typed and photocopied which they thought meant that the menu had been the same since Xmas (and it was now September). They really didn’t like only having a limited menu choice on the specials .. and not because they were special
6. The couldn’t believe it when the person behind the bar sloped up to them and then just took their glass without asking them if they wanted another drink. Why take their glass?!!
7. They dared to risk ordering some food (‘can’t go wrong with fish and chips) which they had to pay for without being asked if they wanted to run a tab. Then waiting the half an hour before being served one meal with the rest of them arriving with the dessert
8. They didn’t dare talk about the toilets but they still sometimes smell
9. And lastly they hated it when no one smiled. Please, they begged, don’t work in a pub if you don’t want to smile
I imagine that will do for now but it gave me food for thought.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliott Marketing and PR
Kind permission of Propel Newsletter
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