First impressions count - they make the difference to whether a customer stays for a "quick one" or ends up eating, or in a worst case scenario whether they walk out altogether.
You may have all the charm yourself, but being a good licensee is not enough as John Walker, deputy director of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), pointed out: "When a customer comes in your pub, the first person he is likely to meet will almost certainly be a member of the team rather than the licensee himself."
Staff are acting as ambassadors for your pub every time they deal with a customer. Ensuring that they give customers the right impression is all a matter of communication, according to John Walker. Not only do you need to make sure staff know what you expect of them, but it is just as important to listen to what they have to tell you.
"Bar people know their customers very well, they get to understand their likes and dislikes," he said. "They develop an enormous amount of knowledge and experience, and what you want to do is create an environment where all those good ideas can come to the surface."
Each member of staff is important both as an individual and as part of the team, and it is vital to get all the component parts of the team working together, with everyone contributing to the success of the pub.
On day one of running your pub, you are likely to be in one of two situations. If you are taking over a pub as a going concern, then you are also taking over the staff.
The legal position with regard to taking over responsibility for staff from a previous employer will be covered in a forthcoming issue of Your Business. However, from a team building point of view, staff who know the business are an asset which you should make the most of.
John Walker's advice is to first get the team together to discuss the pub. If you pay them to attend a staff meeting outside their normal working hours, it sends a message straight away that their contribution is valued. "Bring them all together, pay them to be there, and talk about what they know about the business, what they like and don't like. Create an environment where staff feel able to contribute to the success of the business."
It is also important to take the time to get to know each member if staff on a one-to-one basis. Find out their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. There may well be areas of the business where staff would like to develop their skills and experience. Where these match your own plans for the pub, you may be able to offer support in the form of training
It is also quite possible that you will find yourself taking over a pub which is starting from scratch, either because it is a new opening or a reopening after a major refurbishment. "The key here is to ensure that the profile of your staff matches the profile of the pub," says Walker. A pub/restaurant with a busy food business will need different staff to a community local, and a pub aiming at a younger market will need staff who match the expectation of the customer profile.
One very effective way of motivating staff is to link their success to the success of the business as a whole. While it is helpful to set long term goals and objective for staff development, John Walker also recommends creating some short term goals which are very easy for staff to understand.
This might be as simple as linking a bonus to sales of a particular product, or offering staff an incentive if sales of incremental products such as crisps or coffee increase. "It's a very clear way of communicating to staff how they contribute to the success of the business."
Sharing information about the business can also be helpful in motivating staff. "Of course, you may have to be careful about how much information you can make public, but if they can see that the business is successful, it can help to spur them on."
Team building in practice
Barbara Barnes is officially one of the best trainers in the business, having been awarded the BII's Licensee Trainer of the Year 2000 title. While Barbara is manager of the Springbrook, a Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries pub, her experience on taking over the pub in July 1999 will be familiar to many incoming tenants and free traders.
Having visited the pub as a customer in advance, she said: "The service was, in my opinion, a bit ropey. I could see that there needed to be stronger direction and control as well as better knowledge of basic skills, such as welcoming customers and being confident with drink and food orders."
Barbara recognised that there was a need to motivate staff, and drew up a questionnaire which put 10 motivation factors in order (see box). "I found that staff wanted career progression and that there was a willingness to learn skills that they could clearly see would help them do the job better and more pleasurably, and would help them increase their earnings and their employment prospects."
With a training regime in place for staff at all levels the Springbrook began using local advertising and promotions to attract custom, and word about the standards and welcome at the pub quickly spread.
Takings have increased from £6,000 a week to an average of between £15,000 and £16,000, which has seen wage costs fall from 26 per cent to 17 per cent of turnover. Barbara shared weekly sales figures, targets and costs with staff, which increased their understanding of the business.
She said: "We have the same building, the same menu, the same drinks and pretty much the same core staff. Focused management and focused training is the magic ingredient."
Barbara Barnes asked her staff to put these factors in order
- full appreciation of work done
good working conditions
loyalty of manager
feeling of being in on things
help with personal problems
Leadership and motivation
The BII offers an Advanced Qualification in Leadership and Motivations as part of its programme of training leading for licensees aimed at providing qualifications recognised across the industry. Aimed at tenants and lessees as well as managers, the course looks at the role of management objectives, reward schemes, team effectiveness and managing poor and good performance.
The two day course is divided into eight different areas, each designed to help licensees develop their skills in managing and motivating staff. These include:
the link between customer service and profit
the roles of management in setting objectives for the business
ways of motivating staff
developing and evaluating reward schemes
managing poor performance
managing and recognising good performance
maximising team effectiveness. Contact the British Institute of Innkeeping on 01276 684449, website www.bii.org