Getting the Most From Your Patrons
- Value-add! It might cost you a buck to make a bourbon and coke and it might cost you two bucks to make a burger. Why not offer your drinkers a cut-price deal on that burger during a certain time of the night: buy two drinks, get a free burger to go with it. You're not making any money on that burger, but you are ensuring that the customer will stay in your bar while they eat it - and probably a little longer. Heck, they might even order a side of deep-fried mushrooms to go along with it.
- Make it easier to stay than go. If your staff is asking people, "Should I get you the bill?" instead of, "How about a round of coffees?" you're only giving your customers an excuse to hit the road.
- Keep the TV interesting. A big error many establishments make is that they leave a TV on but don't pay any attention to what's on it. Keep an eye on your screens and keep an even bigger eye on the TV Guide, to make sure that, if at all possible, you're giving your patrons a reason to stay: "Ooh, ER is on! Maybe I'll have another...
- Read the crowd. On any given night, your entire customer base can change radically. If you look around and find that there are a lot of young people in the place, adapt to suit that audience. Run a one-off special on tequila shots or shooters or turn on the dance-floor lights. Likewise, if a sports crowd comes in unexpectedly, get them into the swing of things by adapting to suit their needs.
- Give valued employees the power to make executive decisions. There's nothing worse, as a customer, than being told, "I don't know, the manager isn't here until later tonight..." Make sure you always have people on staff who can handle a situation and even veer away from the way things normally run, if common sense dictates it. Trust your people to make the right move.
- Cut down on your "no" answers. You might stock Diet Coke, but what about Diet 7-Up? What about veggie burgers? What about fresh-squeezed orange juice? There might not be a whole lot of demand for these products, but if you don't have them when they're asked for, you're giving your customers an excuse not to return, even if they don't make a big deal about it at the time. Don't sink money into something that won't sell, but don't go the other way and reduce what you can sell.
- Merchandise sells! A funky logo doesn't just make your venue more appealing; it sells, too. Research shows that the McDonald's logo is more recognizable to children than the cross symbol of Christianity; so it stands to reason that you could profit nicely from a logo that is "cool" enough for people to wear. T-shirts, golf shirts, baseball caps, key chains, lighters and souvenir glasses - take a tip from the Hard Rock Cafe: if sold well, merchandise can be a bigger earner than alcohol.
This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Bar & Beverage Operation, authored by Chris Parry, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to: