Building Customer Relationships is Vital to Success

Ethan Bondelid

Being in the hospitality industry means getting people to like you and your venue is vital to success. By building relationships with customers, bars and restaurants will not only build up street cred around town, but they are guaranteed to sell more products while correspondingly upping staff tips.

Ethan Bondelid, the owner of Berry & Rye in Omaha and 2014 Nightclub & Bar Show speaker under the Bar Management track, spoke with us about the extent in which building relationships affects his bar in both sales and reputation.

“Customer relations is one of the most important factors in keeping your doors open,” said Bondelid. “The customer experience is what this is all about. People can go to any bar, often for the same products. They come to yours for the experience, for the familiarity and the friendship. The sooner customers feel they get that from an establishment the sooner they are converted into a regular. You can spend your time training and perfecting your cocktail program, but if your customer service touch is off, people will care less about what is in their glass.”

It is essential for business to attempt and form relationships with customers, however does that mean staff members should attempt to form genuine relationships with every customer? Bondelid explains that this is an unrealistic expectation. Some people are coming into a bar for one drink, to get in and get out. Bondelid tells us that knowing when to be friendly, attentive but also giving customer’s space is a delicate balance only seasoned and practiced service industry professionals have achieved. 

“When a customer is looking to get to know you, your place and your offerings, they let you know in several ways and if you’re mindful of this, you can create long term loyal customers.”

Every business needs to maintain a constant flow of new customers. Bondelid further elaborates, stating that unless your location dumps new tourists at your door every day, you need to get the word out. The traditional method for this is advertising. However, Bondelid tells Nightclub & Bar that traditional advertising can come across as disingenuous. When you create a great product that comes with a great customer experience, your loyal customers will feel compelled to spread your gospel. “Customer loyalty comes from their gut feeling about your brand and that metric goes far beyond your logo and décor,” he continued.

Bondelid believes this is created in touch points that occur with your staff at every visit; your time and money is far better invested here than in a print ad.

“People formulate an opinion of your business based on what they have heard as well as their own experience. Creating loyal customers through building relationships with your patrons ensures you’re not the only person walking around telling people how good you are. A friend referral is the greatest marketing you can achieve.”

Owners and operators need to treat their customer service interactions as important as anything else in their training. When someone joins the team, it’s imperative that they know how their success will be measured at the establishment. It’s not just about being on time, being fast or even about being a hard worker. Servers and bartenders are expected to look at every customer as a personal Yelp review. Find out what their desired flow of service is for their visit, be genuine and make friends.

“There are always going to be customers you can’t win over, and that’s okay but even if you’re in a bad mood, this is theater and service is a stage.”

Stay on top of industry trends and new product releases at the biggest on-premise operator event of the year, the Nightclub & Bar Show, celebrating 30 years March 30-April 1, 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Visit today!


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