Looking for a way to make your bar more profitable? You may be surprised to find out that often times the first step towards increased profits is knowing and understanding your customers’ wants. In a recent industry survey, consumers responded with their biggest complaints about bars. Below are the top ten complaints, plus a few tips on the best ways to handle consumer criticism.
The music is too loud.
Bars are notorious for being loud and boisterous, so it may come as a surprise to many that sound and volume control was one of the top complaints consumers have about bars. All bar owners strive to create a fun, lively and inviting environment, and great music is certainly a key component when it comes to creating ambiance. So just like you take care when choosing the type of music to play, also make sure that you do not offend your guests by having the volume up too high.
The bar space is too crowded.
All bar owners agree that a packed bar is great for business, but unfortunately your consumers do not feel the same. It is understandable that your guests may start to get annoyed if they are constantly getting bumped into by other patrons or staff. Do what you can to maximize the space in your bar to make it as comfortable as possible for your guests. On the days of the week or times of day that you know for certain you will be extra busy, try experimenting with different table and seating arrangements or opening satellite bar stations to better accommodate guests during those peak times.
The service at the bar is too slow.
At one time or another, everyone has gone into a bar with the notion that they will get faster service by sitting directly at the bar. So when this is not the case, your guest will undoubtedly become frustrated. As a general rule, your guests should not have to wait more than a couple minutes to get served at the bar. Make sure that you keep enough bartenders on staff to accommodate the demands of your guests. Ensuring that your bar layout keeps the bartenders facing the customers will also help speed service and make patrons feel more welcomed and better served.
The drinks are not made consistently.
Much like baking, mixing a drink requires precision and a constant formula. No bar owner wants to hear about customers returning drinks because they are not made correctly. This leads to unnecessary waste and is just down-right bad for business. To avoid inconsistent drink quality, make sure your staff is properly trained to pour the correct amount of alcohol and drink ingredients each and every time. Make sure your bar is properly stocked with plenty of measured pourers, jiggers and shot glasses so they always have the tools needed to dispense the right amount of the ingredients.
The glassware is dirty.
Spotted, dirty glassware was also one of the biggest complaints of bar consumers. No one wants to drink out of a glass that is spotted with residue from dishwashing detergent or someone else’s lipstick. Make sure you are cleaning your glassware with a detergent that is specifically designed for washing glasses. Also, make sure that you always have enough clean glassware on supply to accommodate the demands of your bar.
Several bar guests stated that they really do not like to be asked for their ID, especially when it is obvious that they are over the age of 21. However, this is one of those complaints that bar owners really cannot get around. There are just too many risks involved with serving a minor, especially for the sake of appeasing a guest. As an owner you should always encourage your bartenders and servers to ask customers for their ID, and if a guest complains make sure you stand behind your staff member’s decision to card their customer.
The staff is rude or inattentive.
Every guest that comes into your bar should feel as if they are the most important customer. Make sure you take measures to train your bartenders and servers on the basics of providing quality customer service. Also train your staff on how to best interact with guests during peak times. While it is important that your staff gets-to-know your guests, the busiest time of the day is not the proper time to stop and chat.
The staff is unknowledgeable.
No one appreciates a bartender or server that does not know the products they are selling. Just as it is extremely important to train your staff in quality customer service, it is equally important to educate them about the products you serve at your bar. Every time you introduce a new product, you need to make sure your staff is aware of the change and perhaps give an opportunity to taste the new product. In the bar and foodservice industry, first hand knowledge by your staff is often viewed as the best type of knowledge.
The atmosphere was lacking.
You may have felt this way before: “The drinks were great and the staff was wonderful, but the bar itself was just kind of bleh…” Hopefully this is not what your customers are thinking or feeling after a night out at your bar. Make sure your guests stay longer by offering fun events such as live entertainment, holiday celebrations, special menu tastings and/or interactive games. Table arrangements, comfortable stools and lounge areas, and outdoor seating will also encourage patrons to linger for one more drink.
The menu was lacking creativity.
Every once in a while we all go out to a bar feeling adventurous, and wanting to try something new or different. You can increase the creativity of your menu by offering fun, signature drinks, craft cocktails, and suggested beer/wine and food pairings. You can also try offering a few seasonal drinks, and incorporate fresh and local ingredients into the recipes.
Regardless of how you choose to conduct business in your bar, you will always receive criticism from some individuals. Unresolved customer complaints can have a devastating impact on bars, making it essential to address customer concerns as quickly and professionally as possible. While there is no way to predict what a customer will complain about, it will usually fall under one of the categories of food/drink, service, cleanliness or atmosphere. By knowing this, you may find it useful to prepare sample statements in advance that can be used by your staff when these situations arise.
As an owner or manager, it always adds a nice touch if you are able to address customer’s negative concerns yourself. If you are able, always take the time to check in with unsatisfied customers personally, to ensure that the situation was handled to their level of satisfaction. Email and web-based surveys can also be a valuable way to get customer feedback on a continual basis. Keep track of your customers who were unhappy with their experience and then follow up with them asking how well they think you resolved the situation.