Tailoring the Bar Experience

Michael Tipps at the 2017 NCB Show
​​Michael Tipps consulting live at a Nightclub & Bar Show seminar. Image: Getty

Editor's Note: The following is the sixth in a series of blogs provided by the experts who have worked incredibly hard to make Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" reality program, starring Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer, such a success. The Bar Rescue Insider blog series will deliver tried-and-true tips and tricks to help bar owners, operators and managers solve common problems and increase their bottom line. Tune in to Nightclub.com every Wednesday for the next edition of Bar Rescue Insider!

In the bar industry, bartenders and service staff are taught to educate the guests and get them to try new things, leading them to the experiences management wants them to have. In my experience, this is not always the best path to follow. Any bar’s staff would be better off learning how to read the guests. In fact, one of the toughest challenges bartenders and servers face is reading the establishment’s clientele and tailoring their expectations to their experiences.

Simple fact: Not every patron wants suggestions, and not every guest wants to have a conversation as well as the chance to get to know you. Some people want to be served, not waited on. Some customers simply want you to take their orders and deliver their drinks. While this may not be the type of experience management thinks guests should have, the people on the other side of the bar are your guests. Understanding what they need and want is crucial to building repeat business, so, give them the amazing experiences they want.

Reading a guest is the most important thing a staff member can do. I like to challenge myself with a little game I call “What’s Their Story”. How many people are in the party? What kind of relationship is at play? Are they friends? Old friends? Business associates? Is this a first date? Second date? What can I learn from their body language? What can the guests’ demeanor tell me?

For example, a group of friends celebrating someone’s promotion should not be handled in the same manner as two people who are talking business. A bartender or server should suggest different types of drinks to the various parties, perhaps even different dishes. Additionally, knowing when to approach a guest or when to back off can be a deal breaker. A bartender or server actually can ruin a customer’s evening simply by being unaware of his or her party’s dynamic.

Just because a staff member doesn’t create a great conversation with a guest or get a patron to have the bar’s specific, pre-determined “experience” doesn’t mean the customer didn’t have an awesome time. What’s most important is that a bartender or server gives the clientele the kind of adventure they long for.

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