Quality Focus: Recruiting the smile

Related tags Customer service Customer Recruitment Brewers

Recruit the smile, and the training can follow later. That's the modern mantra used in barstaff recruitment. Genuinely outgoing personalities who...

Recruit the smile, and the training can follow later.

That's the modern mantra used in barstaff recruitment. Genuinely outgoing personalities who can engage the customers they are serving are hard to find but essential in winning the war to improve customer service in Britain's pubs.

And many brewers, pub companies and individual licensees put this theory into practice.

Service with a smile

St Austell Brewery has even formalised the process within its training and recruitment policies.

The brewer's Smiles All Round programme not only reflects a strategy of recruiting the right kind of personality, it turns in on its own staff to emphasise the importance of service with a smile.

"When we recruit barstaff we are looking for personality," says St Austell marketing and communications director Jeremy Mitchell. "You can't change that but you can improve skill levels through training."

Also known as the Smile programme, the initiative rewards members of staff for excellent customer service. "We are seeking to celebrate individual excellence," adds Mitchell.

Set for launch next month, the scheme will run workshops for each of the company's 26 managed pubs and their 750 staff. The workshops will concentrate on four areas - welcome, food, drinks and accommodation.

Staff can win rewards through positive customer feedback or a good mystery visit. Customer comment cards will be available for each transaction they make. Rewards will include cash bonuses for all staff at a pub which excels, plus individual rewards including overnight stays in a St Austell hotel or free meals.

Brand owners such as Diageo and Coca-Cola are backing the scheme and will hand out their own on-the-spot rewards.

"We will look at how staff engage with the customer. Do they have the product knowledge? Do they remember the last round a customer bought? Did they upsell?" says Mitchell.

Other brewers and licensees have started to follow a similar strategy.

At the Hyde's-owned Joshua Bradley in Gee Cross, near Manchester, managers Riccardo and Jill Maiolani have put together a team of young, enthusiastic staff.

"We prefer young people with genuine personality," says Riccardo. "Experience is not an issue. We know what we're doing when it comes to training and we can give people the skills they need, as long as they are the right sort of people."

Eighty per cent of the pub's front-of-house staff had no experience of pubs when they joined. Jill adds: "They had no experience, and therefore no bad habits!"

Ensuring staff are right for the pub

Simon Emeny, managing director at Fuller's Inns, says the 'recruit the smile' philosophy is fine in theory but needs to be adapted in practice. "It's right that personality and character are the traits that are most important. In our London pubs we mostly recruit young people who can radiate that genuine smile," Emeny says.

"But in our Hampshire estate we have to reflect a different customer base. Customers are older, more sophisticated and appreciate staff who might have a little more experience in some areas.

"What we are trying to do is give our customers what they have come to expect - a near perfect experience every time. Delivering that consistently means recruiting better staff, improving our training all the time and getting this philosophy over to our staff more."

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