My Pet Peeves List From Working In Bars

You’re reading this blog post because we share a common interest “We Love Bars”…We love reading about them, visiting them and most of all we love working in them! I’ve worked in and managed a large number of bars. I’ve managed a large number of people who manage bars. I’d like to say that I’ve “Seen It All” but I don’t…I see something everyday after all this time that still surprises me so I never act as if I know everything. Through all of this experience I’ve managed to create my pet peeves list from working in bars . These are the things that managers learn over time. They are the things that come up time and time again regardless of where you work.

This is my pet peeves list. Yours might be different. I try not to get frustrated in my work as it isn’t productive. The only productive thing to come out of a frustration is how we deal with it and rectify the annoyance. If something is a constant annoyance it’s usually the result of bad management and systems.

I’d bet that at least 50% of these you’ll agree with and will have seen in your career working in bars. If you haven’t seen them yet, you will, or maybe your tolerance is higher than mine. That’s fine, we all have our own standards. The most important thing for me is that when the standard is set that everyone who has a part to play in keeping those standards does so. When our standards slip our customers notice and when that happens business suffers.

This isn’t a list about dealing with drunk people or customers that we deem ‘annoying’…these are the small things that can go unnoticed but grouped together make for a bad experience.

So let’s get on with it. Here’s my pet peeves list from working in bars…remember all of these things, actively manage them and you’ll be on to a winner!

1. Spotting Faulty Lighting

What? That’s an odd one to start with you may be thinking. Hear me out though…like I said earlier, this is my list of annoyance.

I’m a stickler for consistency on lighting. I need to know that all of the light bulbs are working. I need to know that the lighting plan is up to date and that everyone who has access to the controller knows when to change to the next setting.

To be honest, this is something that people associate with me when I’m looking at bars I oversee or when looking at other people’s businesses but I stand by my standards and one of those high standards is an effective use of Ambience!

Bar Managers learn this over time and some of them have a real passion for it already. I always ask managers that work to me what the primary function of their business is and if they say ‘to be a great place for people to come and socialise’ I question why they don’t put enough effort and thought into creating the correct ambience to meet their customers needs.

Bar managers, keep this aspect of your bar in the forefront of your mind and you’ll be one step further along to managing a successful bar.

Like I say, it’s an odd one to start with but thought best to get that one out of the way first

2. Managers In The Office

Come on, don’t tell me you’re surprised to see this on the list!

Wherever I go and whoever I talk to in regards to managing a successful and efficient bar this is a topic that usually comes up the most! And do you know who is the main group of people that bring it up? The Bartenders!

How do we expect our bartenders and barbacks to respect and buy into a work ethic that isn’t displayed from the top down? I’ts one of the first rules of being an effective leader…”Lead By Example”. This doesn’t mean that you bar managers out there have to be working on the bar all the time but seriously, you will gain more respect and create a more effective workforce if you lead by example.

Remember this bit of advice all you bar managers out there…don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything is running smoothly whilst you’re in the office. Maybe it is! But you’ll gain a better insight into the running of the business by having a first hand view of the operations.

3. Promotional Material Being Out of Date

Here’s another one of my personal pet peeves that you probably weren’t expecting to see here!

It’s true, I really get frustrated about promotional material being out of date. And do you know what I get even more annoyed about? An empty poster frame!

An empty poster frame says “We don’t care enough or having anything worth displaying”…what kind of message is that to our customers?

An out of date poster or flier says the same thing but with the addition of “We don’t care enough to take away old material”.

It sends the wrong message to our customers and even if you think it’s a trivial matter I really would beg to differ. If we commit to a promotion or to a point of sale display then we are committing to the management of the promotional material and point of sale display. Sending a bad message to our customers is the opposite of what we are trying to do.

Having promotional material checks in place is really simple to add to your daily lists but is so often overlooked. Add this to your daily repertoire Bar Managers and add that extra element of consistency and care to your perception from your customers…don’t let it become part of your own pet peeves list.

4. Bartenders Not Acknowledging Customers

OK, a more common frustration in my pet peeves list that is common amongst Bar Managers.

Whilst this is just common sense for many of us I see Bar Managers ignoring this aspect of their customer service training more often than I care to share. In fact, I see Bar Managers failing to actively use this element of basic customer service themselves.

It goes together with what I said in Frustration Number 2, Managers In the Office…If the managers are out of the office in the thick of it with the rest of the troupes then they ought to be doing things the correct way.

Anyway, back to the bartenders…If you give bad customer services BEFORE the customer has even asked for your service then that is just crazy. Just acknowledging a customer’s existence goes a long way. People’s own frustrations from having to wait in line in a busy bar with melt away if they are acknowledged. Sure, there’s a difference between waiting 5 minutes and an hour but come on, people are more inclined to wait longer if they feel valued and appreciated. Just knowing that you’re next or second in line will be enough for your customers to have the rage inside them quenched.

Bar Managers…I can’t tell you how much to keep an eye on this. It’ll be the difference between that full bar of yours becoming an empty bar. If your customers don’t feel valued by your staff then they’ll most likely stop being your customers all together.

5. Sticky Tables

Ha ha…even writing that heading just made me laugh…how petty is this pet peeves
list becoming…

But it’s still on my pet peeves list. It’s still a huge frustration of mine. And do you know the worst time to discover a sticky table? Before opening.

If I see that a bar has sticky tables at the start of trading then the first thing that comes to my mind is “What were the staff doing at close last night?”. “If the tables are sticky then what else is dirty?” It all comes down to that word again Standards. What are the standards we want to portray to our customers? Is it a standard that says we care about our entire delivery? Is it one that says we want every part of our customer’s journey to be of as high a quality as we can?

Substitute sticky tables for another drop in standards and you’ll probably see that it’s the beginning of list of other lower than expected standards in your business.

Make sure your checklists are water tight Bar Managers. Who’s checking your checklists? A tick doesn’t necessarily mean it’s done!

6. Staff on Phones

We live in a world of instant information and communication…but that doesn’t mean that it always has to be so instant does it!

Thinking about it, this would usually be number one on my pet peeves list but I must be in a good mood today.

What does a staff member on their phone say to your customers? And I don’t mean ‘say to your customers’ in the sense of speaking directly to them. What I mean is, in the eyes of your customers what does a staff member on their phone equal? It equals a staff member who doesn’t care. It projects a sense of their own importance and not a focus on customer service and standards.

I remember the days before mobile/cell phones…and do you know what staff did throughout their shift? Work! Not checking their phone every 3 minutes to see if that text or tweet has come through. What can be so important that it needs checking every few minutes?

This is the society we live in and I for one don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the amount of information that is available to us 24 hours a day…I gorge on information! But what I do is gorge at the right times.

I see Bar Managers doing it too you know…they don’t get off that easy. But don’t be one of those Bar Managers. Lead by example and let’s get this off of my pet peeves list…please!

7. Messy Tables

A similar one to Sticky Tables off from earlier on my pet peeves list…but this is messy tables during a shift!

Sure, the tables are going to get messy, but don’t let a customer sit at a messy table…please…I really, really don’t like it.

When a customer leaves, clear the table. If a new customer enters and goes to sit at a messy table, clear it as soon as possible. If a customer is sitting at a table of mess for more than a minute then there’s bigger issues within the team.

I won’t bang on about this one too much…it’s all plain and simple

8. Staff Being Late

People are late. That’s fine…I’m sometimes late too. But do you know what I do when I’m late for something? I let the person or place I am travelling to know that I am going to be late and what time they should expect me.

And do you know how I inform them of my unfortunate tardiness? Do you think I text, tweet, facebook message or other modern communication channel? No. I use the phone! Wow, what a concept…calling someone on the phone.

Calling on the phone to express an apology of being late shows respect! It shows that you really feel bad that you are late and you wanted to tell that person why yourself, not through a digital message.

There are times when you can’t call. Maybe you’re on the tube/subway and you only have Wifi…if that’s the case, send the message but tell them that you’ll call as soon as you have signal.

This is how your staff should behave. They should show you the respect of acknowledging their mistake of being late. The rules should be that all communications regarding being late and sickness should be done by phone.

People did this before mobile/cell phones….so why not in this day of age?

9. Food Being Late

You may not serve food but still, read on for another of my common annoyances that appears on my pet peeves list.

Similar to bartenders not acknowledging customers not telling people that food is or will be delayed is such bad customer service!

People don’t mind if their food is going to take 20 minutes instead of the usual 15 minutes. They probably don’t mind if it will take 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes. People understand what being busy means so they’ll more likely than not appreciate that sometimes delays are inevitable.

What people don’t like is receiving their food late when they’re not told in advance!

If a bar or restaurant has a policy of ‘food in 15 minutes’ then that’s what the customers expect. If there’s an issue, tell your customers at the point of purchase. “Sorry, we’re really busy today and food is taking 20 minutes instead of 15, is that ok, do you still want to order?”. What a simple concept, being honest with your customers.

Your customers will appreciate the honesty and will not care about the extra 5 minute wait.

Even if they’ve ordered their food already and are sitting at their table, just a simple “sorry, we’ve got a slight delay, your food will be another 5 minutes” so long as you communicate this your customers will be happy. If they’re not, then offer them a refund. You want all of your customers to arrive and leave happy even if they didn’t get what they wanted.

10. Drinking in View of Customers

And finally, a nice simple frustration off of my pet peeves list…drinking in view of customers.

I should have tied this in with being on their phone in view of customers if I’m honest but I see it slightly different. Drinking in front of customers (and I mean soft drinks… no bar I work with would ever let their staff drink alcohol on shift) sends a bad message. Not only does it mean that they aren’t focused on the customers it also could look as if the staff are drinking alcohol on shift! Your customers don’t want to see staff drinking as much as you don’t so make sure there’s an allocated area for staff to have a drink out of view of the customers.

This may not be one off of your own list but I do find this frustrating

I could go on…but I won’t

Like I said, I’ve been in this business a long time and my list over the years has built up…but remember, these are frustrations that I see a lot…they’re not things that happen in any bar I work with because it’s how you manage the problem.

Don’t let frustrations build. Get your hands around them and stop them from building into a real problem. It’s the small things that add together and build up that can easily become the problems you can’t fix. Once something becomes the norm it is harder to rectify.

What’s on your list? We’d love to hear your about your own pet peeves lists.

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