Food OR Beverage?

A peculiar phenomenon is infiltrating the hospitality world, and we should all take notice.  It seems that some restaurant bars are shifting their focus to food sales, with less of an emphasis on beverage revenues.  Crazy?  Not in my ‘hood, you say?  Our own experiences beg to differ.

Recently we stopped into a small restaurant & bar for a cocktail before seeing a movie.  From the podium where the very pleasant hostess greeted us, it was possible to see that all of the seats at the bar were occupied by guests enjoying both food and drink.  Our plan, one that many of us have experienced on countless occasions, was to step up to the bar, order a drink, and stand & chat over our cocktail--the hostess, however, had another idea.  She seemed genuinely confused that we would want to go to the bar when there were obviously no seats available.  We explained our strategy, and she seemed thoroughly confused--and a bit miffed--that someone would want to stand at the bar.  After a bit more back & forth, she essentially put her foot down and informed us that “restaurant policy” was that no one could stand at the bar.

Puzzled, we pushed on, and without too much trouble found another place willing to accept our money.  We chalked this up to a more experienced hostess, until we ran into a similar situation in a much higher-profile restaurant and bar.  In this case, seating areas at the bar were reserved exclusively for customers who wanted to dine at the bar.  When we proposed the notion of ordering drinks to consume while standing near the bar we were politely informed that this would not work, and ordering cocktails only was frowned upon.

Is the sky falling?  Have we all been wrong in our assessments over the decades that beverage is more profitable than food?  In a word, “no.”  Rather, we are guilty of occasionally losing sight of the underlying principle of our collective existence, which is ‘hospitality.’ When we own or operate a restaurant/bar and a guest comes in for a bite or a drink, it is our responsibility (as well as our business!) to provide service to them.  It is contrary to all that we know to turn them away when we have available space for them (whether seated or standing) because our internal policy (or a lack of proper training) dictates such a response.

This is perhaps a good time to heed this wake-up call; we are in the business of providing service to our customers.  While we most assuredly must have policies and procedures to follow in order to manage our businesses, we must not lose sight of the fact that the customer is always right, and that we exist to serve that customer—especially if that customer is trying hard to spend their money with us.

When the concepts of customer service and customer spend come together, the outcome is positive for all concerned.