This is a really quick post but I’m hoping it will be interactive, therefore comments on the blog itself are crucial so PLEASE, PLEASE comment.
It concerns the local, your local, my local wherever you may be and more specifically the role of the landlord or licensee. For overseas readers I’m referring to in England the Pub/s where we regularly go to drink beer, but that could be a beer bar, brewery, or just simply the place where you go to most to get your fix of beery goodness.
The question stems from experiences I’ve had over the last weekend on my return from two weeks holiday. People and places shall remain nameless as it’s not important.
Bar 1: This is one of the pubs I would truly call “the local”, I visit maybe three to four times per week. On my return in this establishment after two weeks, said licensee barely gave me a passing glance, no words were spoken to me that that night, nor on any subsequent night since, not a sausage, zero, zilch.. Complete indifference, (the same cannot be said of the other serving staff I hasten to add, all of whom did the opposite, but not from example).
Bar 2: This pub I visit infrequently largely because of distance and transport, perhaps once or twice a month at most. Here the story was different, we were greeted with cheery smiles and a genuine “hey, hello, good to see you, thanks for calling in” sort of attitude from the licensee and all the staff (basically made extremely welcome). This from folks I’ve probably met say six or seven times.
So who’s got it right?
Is the licensee/bar managers role purely one of keeping the place in order, ordering and selling beer in good condition, or is there more to it than that, is the customer king and is a cheery welcome a mandatory requirement too?
What do you think, what’s it like in your local??
I live in the Virgin Islands, but down here at least, making your local, regular customers feel welcome is hugely important and not to be overlooked. We’re a tourist destination, with definite “in season” and “off season” times of year, and while it’s clearly always important to cater to the visitors who keep us all in business, your locals are the people who get you through long, hot summers when no one else is around – you need them! Plus, ideally your locals are your friends (or at least acquaintances), and why wouldn’t you want to greet them after they’ve been away for a bit? Perhaps that’s just me. Either way, I see it as a responsibility of bar/restaurant managers to set the example of hospitality for the rest of the staff. (As I side note, I’d be SUPER disappointed and vaguely insulted if the managers of my local treated me that way after I’d been absent for a couple weeks)
That’s pretty much how I see it too, the regulars are your business, they keep you ticking over through leaner times and deserve treating well. It’s plain rude and ignorant to at least not say hello in my book.
P.S remind me to seek out your local if I ever get to the Virgin Isles
I think it depends very much on the establishment too. The pub I frequent the most (post work) is a busy Mayfair job. The staff in there just want to serve you and have you out the way as quickly as possible. Even a ‘Hi, how are you?’ is mostly deemed as time-wasting until later in the evening, by which time I’m gone.
On the other hand, there are other places in London I visit much less frequently (say 1-2 per month) where I’ll always get a hello and exchange pleasantries. If said pub in Mayfair went bust tomorrow, I’d just go in the one down the road and not blink an eye but I’d really miss the other places if they went away, because I’m loyal to them go out of my way to visit and they treat me like they want my business.
I’ll name the two good places because you’ll know them – Craft Beer Co and BrewDog Camden.
I can see it being very different in crazy busy London bars, even similar at peak times in the most rural, but a nod and a smile of acknowledgement is but a seconds work and is enough.
Like you’ve said though, you know yourself where you feel most comfortable and want to return, plus you’d feel more likely to recommend as you have done below.
It seems counter intuitive but you really do sometimes get treated better by the pub you visit less often. Of course, this may simply be then trying to encourage you to spend more time there or it may simply be a better pub.
I know what you mean Tyson, maybe same old faces syndrome plays a part and I’m sure new places do go the extra mile. I suppose what I’m saying is, I’m not expected to be greeted like a long lost brother on entry, but I do expect to feel that me spending my dosh there is valued, a smile costs nowt
The role of the landlord/publican/licensee surely includes one of joviality, friendliness and making the pub a place you’d want to come back to. The days of grizzly faces amongst the staff should be surely long gone. If it was my local, I’d tell him/her exactly where they’re going wrong and take my custome elsewhere. The landlord/lady IS the face of the pub. The prevailing climate should be one they promote. There’s no excuse for rudeness. Anywhere. Sorry I tried to have a
Point but kinda rambled but this attitude to customers gets on my wick.
Cheers, Chris 🙂
Ramble or not Chris I agree with the lot.
A friendly welcome should be key to a bars success and I definitely think that the newer “craft” style bars are leading the way.
Loyalty breeds loyalty, contempt is only going one way, it will only take one decent bar in competition to open nearby and you are TOAST!
As Tyson says, it’s seems counter intuitive but you can see why the place you go less are happier to see you – I’d love to spend three nights a week at North Bar but when I pop in having not seen them in a month or two Matt & co bounce over, shake hands, smile and tell me what’s new.
The local you visit three times a week will of course get used to you, but there’s a big difference between the apathetic ‘welcome’ you received and the comforting non-fuss of knowing you’re a local!
Personality & engagement definitely play a part which is why I think places like North Bar are leading the way but like you’ve said, local should mean comfortable, not part of the furniture.
There are two pubs we really like Penzance, but we’re finding ourselves drawn to the one a bit further away more often. We get a cheery greeting, even if its busy, and the landlady sometimes even stops for a chat if it’s quiet. The other place is nearer, sometimes has more interesting beer, and has a great atmosphere, but even after something like thirty visits, we still get a more-or-less surly welcome. Think the publicans are a bit depressed, but then that’s a vicious circle…
That’s the first example that sort of breaks the mould, where you are travelling for less interesting beer, but a friendly welcome. Fair play though and one up for the chatty landlady
Great post, Phil.
I did start writing a comment but it got ridiculously long so I thought; why not just write my own response?
No problem Nate, glad I touched a nerve that tickled your writing skills, good post too
As much as I like the thought of having somewhere I truly think of as my local I think I’m just a bit too much of a nomadic drinker. Working in Birmingham and London means less chance that one pub or bar dominates, and while feeling I’ve finally set down proper roots at home unfortunately work and family make pub visits near to home less frequent than I’d like. A lack of inspiring beers locally just reinforces that.
That said there are places where the landlord will acknowledge me when I do show my face, and that is always pleasing. However, the role of the landlord/lady and their staff is to make any visitor, regular or first time, to feel welcome. That’s just good business sense, surely? A happy customer is more likely to spend more, and more likely to return.
Of course I’ve also experienced the worse end of the spectrum. Rude or grumpy staff are not rare but disinterested is probably more common. I’ve been ignored for five minutes by the only person behind the bar who suddenly finished what they were doing and asked if I was being served (by whom I have no idea!) And I’ve been stood at the bar while the barmaid has served the regulars who came in behind me.
Suffice to say that I don’t rush back to such venues!
Good points there Sir, they need to realise that the impression they give, impacts in their revenue, surely even a pub manager wants good figures and happy repeat custom?
My ‘local’ is a mock tudor, tied pub cum pizzeria. The bar festooned with awful lagers and an obligatory hand pull served Boondoogle. I reckon it’s the same cask from when we started to go in about four years ago. We had a spate of regular visits but I couldn’t put up with the lack of choice and shocking live entertainment they ceaselessly pull out of the bag.
I’m more than content with not so regular visits to bars a few bus rides away which are stacked with great beer and where I feel like part of the community. Something I would dearly love on my doorstep.
I fear Sir that you have hit the nail firmly on the head, the places with good staff build relationships, a community of folks with similar interests and still excited by beer and pub/bar life, this is probably why most of the better comments and examples refer to a certain style of establishment.
The bad boy in question on my post, always harks on about the same old people being in the pub and not turning up if events are on, maybe that’s because you are aiming events at a lost cause market instead of experimenting and trying to attract NEW, interested customers?
I fear travel is the only option until like you, someone bites the bullet..
Great topic. Speaking from experience behind the bar, I try to be nice and friendly regardless of what I face across the pumps (least favourite: customer who carries on texting while supposedly engaging in making a decision about the many cask and draught selections we have on, and thus, ostensibly engaging with me…). If it’s someone I know, I definitely enjoy a chat, even an extended chat — time permitting. Some regulars, however, don’t seem to understand that remaining in front of the bar might obstruct others from getting a good look at the pumps and ordering. Or, they might make it awkward for my colleagues or myself to bring in some glasses and access the bar again… we definitely love and appreciate regulars, and treat them with respect, but some awareness as to how busy the pub is and whether or not we have time for an extended chat would be really great. When things are slow, I’m ever so happy to have a natter with a regular or a first time visitor — but if it’s rammed, it’s important we make sure that customers get their drinks in as timely a fashion as possible.
That said, when I’m on the “right” side of the bar (i.e., out for a drink), I am especially sensitive to staff who aren’t friendly or seem particularly disinterested. I noticed that in “craft” establishments in London (I live up north). I don’t expect anyone falling over to welcome me for the first time, but a simple hello and a smile does make a difference— and when I’m in a place like that, I always hope for a bit of beer geekery, too, just because that’s what I enjoy.
Where I work, regulars are definitely important, especially in the age of Twitter. People are more inclined to complain than to say they had a fab time online — they might tell their mates that they should go here, or there, but if the experience was crap — well, just look at TripAdvisor and some of the negative reviews…
Cheers for the comments, it’s really good to get a perspective from someone who sees both sides. I worked in a bar years back and like to think I was friendly and approachable, even to folks I knew didn’t return the compliment shall we say.
As you’ve also said, social media plays a massive part these days, a couple of visits from someone savvy could ruin a hard built reputation.
100% essential that you’re greeted appropriately! Not because it’s good business, but because this is how to treat other humans! And more importantly other people whom you actually recognise and have had multiple interactions with in the past!
Also, think about the thousands who drink in pubs which sell nothing but bog standard offerings, why do regulars return? Is it because the carling in pub ‘a’ is any better than the carling in pub ‘b’? Or simply because said regulars feel an affinity with the place, a feeling fostered by those behind the bar and, as you mentioned in the blog, by those familiar faces on the punter’s side. It is these faces and friendliness which can make any form of establishment a friendly local…as I may have mentioned here http://cellarbeer.blogspot.co.uk/ and its these places which deserve to prosper!!
I totally agree with you, I’ve drank in some proper dives, shabby, slightly run down etc, but if the beer is good and the welcome friendly I’d happily recommend. Shiny, plastic pubs do nothing for me generally, but again if the welcome is warm and beer good quality I’ll be back.
It’s all about a combination, you need to feel comfortable and wanted or you yourself will have no affinity and will no doubt go elsewhere.
Cheers for the comment
I make it a point to remember people that come into FoH and attempt to even remember what they were drinking the last time they come in. They do get a little abuse but its all in good fun from my side of the bar and they seem to enjoy the friendly conversation. You should love and respect the people that choose to spend their money in the bar on a frequent basis and thats the end of my rant.
Love your regulars they love you thats why they are regulars.
Tyler it’s a great strategy for any successful bar, banter is not essential but builds up a relationship whereby both parties can speak freely, which generally speaking works in the barman/owners favour.
I REALLY need to visit FoH soon…