Take these 5 steps to better service

Story by Dan Knight
Since selling Hinky Dinks Dan Knight now travels the world in search of the perfect piña colada. He sometimes writes, sharing his thoughts on a life in hospitality at mybarsecrets.com

In a world dominated by craft, the art of service is often left behind. Yet a focus on service can give you the edge over your competition and doesn’t cost a cent.

But where do you start? And is there a process that you can follow to ensure that your team offers consistently good service to everyone, rather than just the customers that “get what you’re about”?

I believe there is, and recently I’ve had the chance to test my theories out in a consulting capacity here in London. The solution is reasonably simple and the difference in customer experience is staggering.


Too often we talk about good service with no clear idea of what we actually mean. A statement like, “let’s give good service” is open to a lot of interpretation. Taking a few moments to think about what good service means to you and your venue is outcome focused and easy to communicate. Define your goals around:

  • What do you want to happen to your guests when they walk in the venue?
  • How do you want your guests to feel?
  • What things absolutely cannot happen?

    In the words of Scott Adams the cartoonist, “Losers have goals, winners have systems.” Which guy do you want to be?

    Knowing your goals is a great first step. But success requires that you create a system to make sure that those goals and objectives are achieved for every customer that walks in the door.

    Map out the actions that will guarantee this result and create a sequence of service to ensure those actions get done. Remember that you want this to happen every time so don’t make the tasks too onerous or complex. Then simply manage team performance around these actions.


    You are the leader. You need to embody the service that you want to see in your venue. I’ve heard many owners and managers complain that their team won’t step up to the plate when it comes to service. Then I watch them in the venue and their actions are completely at odds with their intent. Or they completely undermine the whole service process by being a dickhead, not only to their team but also their customers.

    Just because you’re the manager or the owner doesn’t mean that you are above serving, clearing, or polishing glasses. Your job is to support your team in the delivery of a great product and great service in anyway you can. If you want to lounge around the bar and hit on all the hot chicks, then do it in someone else’s bar and do it on your day off!


    Your team should be empowered to help customers and go above and beyond wherever possible. But customers’ requests are not always feasible or realistic. Don’t put your team in a position where they need to balance the imperative to help with the necessity to be some kind of police officer. Instead, get them to defer all tricky situations to management.

    No one likes to be the bad guy, so when you take this responsibility away from your team they will enjoy their job a lot more, and that positivity leads to better service. It also means that the primary server/customer relationship is always positive. The customer sees the roadblock as venue policy rather than bad service and that makes everything flow more smoothly.


    It’s tempting to look for team members that are already accomplished in the craft of the cocktail and sometimes it’s easy to overlook parts of their demeanour. But the most delicious cocktail in the world always tastes a little sour when it’s served with a side of superiority or rudeness. I’m not advocating that you employ anybody with a great attitude at the expense of technical skills, but a small skill gap can be bridged easily with a little training. Rewiring someone’s personality can be significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

    When it comes to improving your service, these five steps will move you and your venue in the right direction. If you’d like to learn more, come and visit me at mybarsecrets.com.

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