2nd March 2016

Glasses on a table in a restaurant cafe bistroSome years ago, while working in a business consultancy role, I was asked to spend time at a public house in the North of England.  The brewery which owned the premises was concerned that the public house was under-trading, and despite several meetings with the manager and the launch of many costly projects designed to boost trade, sales remained low. My brief was to familiarise myself with the day to day activities in order to identify practical ways in which trade could be increased.

My first visit to the pub was a cold evening at the beginning of November. The pub was on a main road, and had the benefit of a huge car park. As I drove into the car park, at around 6.30pm, it was unlit.  Although there were plenty of lamp posts, the lighting was not switched on. As I got out of my car, I dropped my car keys – to find them, I needed a torch. Making my way to the nearest door in darkness, I found it was locked. Peering through the window, I could see a few customers stood around the bar area which was illuminated, and I could see that the pub was trading.   The premises were fairly large, and I visited three sets of locked entrance doors, before I finally found a set that were open.

Once inside, I could see that the manager had only lit one of the small bar areas, in one of the rooms. He was serving his regular early evening customers. Despite the weather being cold, there was very little heat in the place.

Later, I asked the manager why the car park lights weren’t on, why only one set of doors was open, why most of the premises were in darkness, and why it was so cold. He said that because trade was not good, he had to cut costs. He spoke proudly of his plans to save energy and that he was saving on his staff wage bill by just opening one small bar, in the early evening.

The hospitality trade is about just that – hospitality. To attract custom in any kind of hospitality establishment, it is essential for prospective customers to feel that there is a warm welcome waiting for them. Sadly, in this case, the message being given out was just the opposite. Very little lighting, most doors locked, cold and uninviting facilities – although the manager was proud about being able to reduce costs, he was in fact chasing business away.

One of my first recommendations was to ensure the car park lights and sign lights were illuminated, that all sets of doors were open, that all internal lights were switched on, and that the temperature of the heating was at a comfortable level. Feedback had shown me that the reason that trade was poor in the early evenings was that many people thought the pub was closed! Implementing these simple actions had a dramatic effect on increasing early evening trade.

Whatever type of business you run, it is essential to ensure that potential customers feel that they are “wanted”. Moreover, are they able to access your products and services easily? Do they even know you are open? A warm welcome will set the foundation for good business. Without it, prospective customers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere, and without customers, we do not have a business.

Written by Nwes Business Trainer, Joseph Barrell.

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