Uncorkd Resources For Restaurant Management

It’s Time for You to Think about Your Moment of Truth

Customer service isn’t just about providing a great product at a great price (with a smile), it’s also about who you hire. In marketing, the initial contact between your bar customer and your bartender or server is called “the moment of truth,” and your guest’s memory of that moment serves as the best indicator of the likelihood that they’ll come back again. This post is a paean to the greatest bar service EVER, and I want you to think about how you can get your servers or bartenders to increase their customer service offerings to make your bar stand out.

What can a good moment of truth get you?

Ask me about the best customer service I’ve experienced in a bar, and I will think for… oh… maybe a tenth of a nanosecond. Then, I’ll start grinning. I’ll be thinking about Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, NM.

Second Street’s got a great atmosphere and a fun vibe. For food and drinks, it’s all-around delicious, and the crowd is super laid-back … but they’ve also steadily raised their prices throughout the years. Through their price hikes, they’ve managed to open another location and class-up their menu selections, so they’re experiencing continued success…and I think that the secret to their value lies in their moment of truth.

Okay, so what makes them so special?

It’s not really their food (but you should try the bread pudding). It’s not really their beer (although their cream stout is awesome). Second Street’s secret weapon is named Ernie Bob.

I love Ernie Bob. In fact, everybody loves Ernie Bob.

Seriously. Dude’s got bumper stickers displayed around town that honor him and his awesomeness. Second Street makes a T-shirt in his honor.

And yes, that’s his real name.

Anytime I used to walk into Second Street I requested his section. He knows me by name. When I used to work nights and needed to have a coffee instead of a beer when I met friends at the bar, he remembered and he’d bring an entire carafe to the table, just for me. And he didn’t bring cream or sugar, ‘cause he knew I preferred my coffee black. When I switched back to working days and could relax at the bar, he brought me a cream stout without asking. He just knew.

It goes beyond that, too.

When I first met Ernie Bob, everyone else at the bar called him by name. They joked with him, and asked questions about his music selections for the day (Ernie Bob loves good jazz).  Ernie Bob had invented a nickname for our friend who doesn’t tip on principle (“Nemesis”), and yes, we all secretly put down cash for his portion, so that Ernie Bob was well compensated. When I met him, Ernie Bob noticed that I was with a group of regulars, and he took the time to learn my name immediately, and he even made a few good-natured jokes at my expense, so that I felt like I fit in with the crowd.

When we left, I said, “Who is that Ernie Bob guy…and is that his real name?”

…And the rest was history.

For years and years (and years) after that, I visited Ernie Bob at Second Street. In fact, that’s how I’d refer to going to Second Street—I’d say “Let’s go see Ernie Bob.”

Sometimes he wouldn’t be working and we’d all enjoy our beers and food…but it wasn’t as fun and we didn’t stay as long or order as much.

How can you get Ernie Bob in your restaurant?

Well, you can’t, sadly. So I’ll keep going to Second Street.

What you can do is you can create your own Ernie Bob. If you try really, really hard.

Here’s how:

  • Let your servers and bartenders be themselves
  • Hire people with personality
  • Pay them well, support them when there’s a conflict—let them know you have their back

And, hey, this is important, too. Don’t worry that you might scare some customers off with your overly personable bartenders. It’s true that some people will really dislike your bartender’s (or server’s) offbeat sense of humor. That’s fine. Just remember that you can’t please everyone all the time, but what you can do is provide an outstanding moment of truth.

How will you do that tonight?

Photo licensed by Ralph Daily

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