Nightlife Training: Building Staff Culture

Image Source: Proprietors, LLC

When we take a look at the average nightclub or nightlife venue rating on Yelp or other review sites, very few venues break the 3-out-of-5-star mark. And when we take a look at the comments that are posted on many reviews, service is one of the biggest complaints. From rude door staff to disinterested bartenders to inattentive servers, reviewers have been quick to point out why they haven’t enjoyed their experience at a particular nightclub. So how do we fix this problem? One way is to cultivate and build staff culture.

Erick Castro of Possessed by Spirits and Alex Day of Proprietors, LLC, presented an education session during the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas focused on helping operators and managers build a staff culture that benefits everyone. Let’s be honest, one challenge facing bar owners and operators is creating a work environment that is both profitable and productive. But what is culture in a hospitality venue?

Erick and Alex believe the answer is a shared language and shared viewpoint, a way of working together to make money, provide an excellent guest experience, build esteem and morale, and give one another recognition. In other words, shared values are a major part of culture.

"We have differences that are reflective of a bunch of different people," said Alex.

We have to embrace one another’s differences but create a bond through shared goals and values. For a nightclub or nightlife venue, some examples of values are a desire to deliver genuine hospitality, continued growth, interdependence, integrity of product and service, and a solid work ethic. Other values are integrity, communication, respect, and a devotion to excellence. However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t attempt to live off of a set template; it’s perfectly acceptable to be different. Also, functional values need to be malleable because your venue is never going to be exactly what you think it will.

You’re probably asking yourself how one goes about creating culture. Well, each one of us is creating culture all the time. To put it plainly, in a hospitality venue environment, you create culture through how you treat people, and this includes treating them poorly. Therefore, you need to be conscious of how you treat your employees – particularly in front of guests – and how you treat guests. You also need to be aware of how your staff is treating one another and your guests. If your reviews are piling up with complaints about rude or inattentive service, something is off with your staff culture.

So, we’ve determined that culture is based upon people and interactions. A massive part of building a healthy culture within a nightclub, then, is hiring the right people. Great employees don't need to be managed very much. We all know it isn’t exactly easy to simply hire great employees but if you’re involved with the interview process you can get a decent gauge of a potential employee’s personality. Alex and Erick suggest developing a spectrum of personalities within a team to reinforce what you want out of your environment. Let great employees be themselves, stand out, and develop those rock stars. A healthy culture is dependent upon your leadership so be out in front. Is your club getting busy? If so, you shouldn't be in the back working in the office. Realize that a leader sets the standards.

Training is a part of staff culture. For example, micromanagement leads to bad hiring, poor training and ineffective infrastructure while leadership provides guidance, training and infrastructure, all of which affect culture. Erick and Alex believe in what they call the Empower & Release approach to management and leadership. This approach means capable people are hired, they’re trained well and given the infrastructure necessary to grow on their own, these capable employees are encouraged to develop, and they are given the power to solve some problems. Orientation, training, protocol, communication, and infrastructure are the keys to training a staff with a healthy culture.

Systems are another important part of staff culture. If you don’t already have them in place, create manager onboarding documents. These documents set the tone and give you the opportunity to tell managers what your venue stands for and what is expected of them. Protocol, an integral part of systems, makes employees accountable and tells them what is right and what is wrong. You communicate your standards, your staff is accountable, and you’re not building an unhealthy, chaotic staff culture.

In parting, we’ll leave you with some of Alex and Erick’s tips and tactics for building and improving culture. Let your new hires know that you'll be watching them for a few months, and correcting them. This isn’t micromanagement. You’re doing this not because you don't like them but rather the opposite: you're invested in them and want them to succeed. Watch your new employees closely, guide them, correct them, and develop them. It will pay off in the end through excellent service and a nightclub or nightlife venue guests enjoy and want to visit repeatedly. Also, add value to your staff through spirits and beer tastings, staff challenges, and continued training. Encourage and value ongoing education and hire correctly. Namely, hire people who are curious and interested in learning more – these will become your rock stars.

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