Why You Should Become the Barfly on the Wall

Of course you want your bar to become the next big thing in your town—but standing out from all the other bars can be quite a challenge. When your bar sales just aren’t reaching the levels you think they should, you can learn to improve by following the methods of a dedicated scientist: Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Fly. (The character’s name is Seth Brundle, but who remembers that?)

No, I’m not speaking crazy talk here, I just think that to transform your bar into the greatest bar in your town, you should become the barFLY on the wall. Here are five ways to do that.

Ask your swarm of employees

Your employees are a great source of information about your customers’ interests and desires—after all, if your employees don’t meet those desires, no tips will come their way. Not only do your employees know what drinks your customers like best, they usually know why they like those drinks, too. Plus, they know what your customers hate about the place. Ask your employees for information about what everyone is saying, and you’re likely to be surprised by what you learn.

Conduct a scientific experiment and take notes

Don’t just ask your employees about what they hear, take it a step further and have your employees take notes for you. They should write down all the random things they hear in passing as they wander around the bar, and then turn in their notes at the end of each night. People say things to their friends about your bar (both compliments and complaints) that they would be too shy to say to you. If your employees listen up, they’ll have a lot to report.

Fly on—I mean SPY on the competition

Does your data show that your customers keep comparing your bar to another bar? Go there and check it out. While you’re there, you’ll notice things that they do that are better or worse than what you do…but of course, as soon as you know about these things, your bar will do them all waaay better.

Also, ask your employees for help on this. One thing many bar owners do not realize is that their employees also view themselves as being “in the industry.” Because of this, your empoyees have also been critically comparing and contrasting your bar against the competition when they go out with their friends. If you ask them for ideas, they’re likely to come up with some good ones.

Ask a research panel

Gotten all the information you can out of secretly listening and watching? Try directly asking for advice on how to become better. To do this, you should ask your bar customers what they think about specifics: the music, the drinks, the ambiance, your staff, the music, your hours. Just be aware that no one wants to give negative feedback to a nice owner, so ask them very clear questions that require them to reply with fully explained answers. Examples of good questions are: “Why did you order this drink?” or “What brought you in today?” or “Why did you choose to sit at this table?”

Get all the buzz from exit surveys

If you’re really bad at remembering things you’ve heard, consider using exit surveys as a way to collect guest feedback in a written form. Exit surveys enable you to reference information repeatedly and to search for and analyze emerging and ongoing trends, all while comparing your findings to past data. Another great thing? Exit surveys can be collected even when you’re doing inventory or ordering, or are otherwise too busy to chat with your customers.

Many bars make the mistake of creating numbered exit surveys that rate their establishment without asking for additional information. Numbers, of course, are just numbers, and without qualifying backup data, those numbers mean nothing. Imagine: if your customers give you a resounding “2” on your service, you know you need to change. But what do you change? 

Get it?

A far better strategy is to ask specific questions about your bar’s service, selection, décor, and prices, and to get your guests to give full answers. For instance, you could include a few lines for your guests to write an answer under each question, and ask questions such as: “How can we improve our beer selection?” or “If you could add your own touches to the décor, what would you add?”

Of course, include an incentive for your guests, so that they have a good reason for answering your questions carefully. As incentives, you could add the guests to your customer loyalty program, promise them a coupon, or reserve them a spot in an upcoming drink mixing class.

When you employ various methods to research your customer’s perception of your bar, you’ll be able to improve your service and selection to win over even your most fickle customers. Remember, repeat business and outstanding referrals are your key to keeping ahead of your competition, so any helpful scientific research you can do  will help you realize your goals.

And hey, maybe your bar will become so popular that Jeff Goldblum himself will come to visit you and then you can hang up his picture on the wall to display your new “barfly” on the wall.

Got some more ideas? Have you found out some surprising things about how to serve your customers better? Please, tell me about it!

Photo licensed by Valdemar Fishmen

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