First Impressions

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With the new bar being open, a lot of new and old faces are coming into the establishment and judging us. There is a certain level of responsibility that I feel to make sure everyone is treated well as a bartender. Some things we can control, and some things we can't control.

The bar is new and as I put it, "We are still getting our legs". There are quirks to our bar that is just unavoidable because, simply, everything is new. For example someone ordered a pitcher of red Sangria this weekend. First off, I never made a Sangria. So I had to scurry around and find the managers on how they wanted us to make this (thank god someone printed off a recipe). Then I had to find the ingredients. Sliced apples. Sliced oranges. Grapes. None were upstairs, so I had to run downstairs to find them. Then I had to slice them. I didn't know where the cutting boards where. I finally found them and then needed a knife. I went to the kitchen to get a knife and then sliced the apples and orange slices. Then we needed to use Mondavi merlot. I couldn't find any Mondavi, so I used Turner Road (which is our wine-by-the-glass Merlot and I know you Sangria experts out there are going to howl, "But a TRUE Sangria uses Rioja!!"). I followed the instructions and had no idea how it tasted, but all I know is that I made 10 more that night so people were drinking them. By the end of the night I could make a pitcher in about 30-45 seconds.

Now the point to all that is it took me like a solid 8-10 minutes to make my first Sangria. Maybe those people were sitting outside thinking, "Christ this Sangria is taking forever!" They leave the bar and that's it. Forever they remember how long it took to get a pitcher and they tell everyone how miserable the service is. It doesn't matter that by the end of the night I could make a Sangria in a moments notice. People rarely spread praise for good service and are more apt to tell negative things about your service.

Another example. On Saturday night it was fairly slow until about 11pm. Then we got really busy. The busiest that I have seen this bar and fairly typical what i'd see on some weekends when it was Dipper's. There were a lot of people who wanted a drink NOW. I certainly felt pressured to serve everyone and I go as fast as I can, but you can only serve people as fast as you can serve them. Of course Murphy's Law came into full effect. One of our cash registers stopped working. The POS system we have is new. Each bartender has their own drawer, which they are responsible for being accurate, and the system is much slower than a regular cash register. If someone orders 10 drinks from me, I need to enter all the drinks, get a subtotal, get the money and then get the change. Its very good for inventory control but it absolutely slows us down (i'm giving the management suggestions to speed it up and it has gotten much better, in my opinion). The person on the other side of the bar could care less about the POS system. They are simply trying to get a drink as fast as they can and if their first impresson of the bar is negative, they really aren't going to come back - there are plenty of other bars in town that will serve them faster.

So with the register not working, a customer ordered a Guinness and Yuengling from the other bartender. We lose the Yuengling keg about 3/4 of the way through a pour into the pint glass. We send the bar back down to swap kegs. As I was serving my customers I could just see the people waiting for the Yuengling & Gunness seething. I can see them spinning around and throwing their arms up and angry that the world has dammed them at this moment to get slow service. As I walk by one of them says, "Hey!" to me and I look, she says, "Can you just serve us the (partially full) Yuengling?". I'm like, "No problem. We are changing the kegs now and we will top it off for you later." The reaction I get from her was one of not really caring about the keg being changed or us topping her out - but that she just wants alcohol - fast.

I give her the drinks and she throws down her money with what I would call "pissy anger" and she goes to her friends in the corner. I grab the money, walk around the bar (while other customers are going bonkers to get my attention and i'm ignoring them). I walk up to her and hand her the money back. She is saying "No, no." and I stop her and said to her slowly and calmly, "I know you were waiting a long time for your drink. The keg kicked and a drawer just went bonkers on us and stopped working. We want to serve you as fast as we can. I'm less concerned about you paying for your drink and more concerned about you walking out of here and being upset with our service." By the end of me telling her this she went from being irritated to a nice smile on her face. I don't know if I really changed her opinion, but I certainly think I made her feel like we actually cared about her business.

I was working with a bartender on Sunday night. I never worked with her before. I asked her if she was here when it was Dipper's and she said, "No way. Everyone knew Dipper's sucked." I was taken a bit back. I worked at the bar for four years. So I said, "Really? How many times did you come here?". She said, "Once. I came in got a beer and left."

That was it. She had a beer and left and her first and only impression of the old bar was that she didn't like it (and that her friends didn't like it, either, which reinforced the negative stereotype). You can't please everyone. There are going to be people who walk in the new bar, take one look around and either hate it or love it. Lots of us worked very hard at Dipper's to make it a place where we got a regular crowd that we would see weekly. With the new bar we have to start all over again. Get a new regular crowd and impress new people. It certainly is a daunting task to start over again.

I even got an email from someone "reviewing" the bar. They asked some questions and I answered them via email. I don't know who is reviewing it, I forgot to ask. I used to do restaurant reviews a few years back and my methods evolved. The problem with a lot of my older reviews is that the are based on one meal. This can be a bit unfair. Like I was just describing before, bars and restaurants can have bad nights. Prices can change (for example we lowered the prices of the hamburgers). Some people can have an "off" night. When I am reviewing now, I try to eat at a restaurant a few times before writing up something on them. Like Maru. I go there about once a week now, because its so tasty, they know me and do things that make me, as a customer, feel special (like they will just make me an appetizer that I didn't order as there way of saying "Thanks for your business").

I think I try to do the same thing when i'm behind the bar, too. On Sunday a patron was at the bar, and they thought the wine tasted bad like it was open for a long time. I told them that it was a brand new bottle, and I even sampled the wine myself (from a fresh glass) and it tasted fine to me. Rather than arguing with her, I simply opened a new bottle and poured a fresh glass. She seemed content and we talked about wine afterwards and how what you eat before you have a glass of wine can affect its taste. Also we chatted about how up to 10% of wine bottles can be corked. My thought was that "Big deal if I am opening another bottle, i'd rather take the loss and keep this one person happy."

You never have a second chance to make a good first impression.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on May 30, 2006 12:52 AM.

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