The way you run a pub can have a huge effect on the level of job satisfaction experienced by staff, their loyalty to the business, and their sense of morale in the workplace.
I have seven years’ experience of working behind the bar in various Brighton pubs, and have developed a good idea of what contributes to a great workplace atmosphere.
This is my bartender’s perspective…
When I found a special place to work, I remained loyal
I worked part-time in one particular pub, which I am going to call ‘The Alias Inn,’ for the sake of anonymity, for well over five years. For most of that time I also had a full-time job, but I chose to stay at the pub, working weekend shifts, and the odd week night.
As most pubs tend to have a fairly rapid turnover of bar staff, five years working in one place is considered to be quite a long time.
In fact, I was referred to as one of the ‘old crew!’
So why did I choose to remain for as long as I did at this particular pub?
Although earning some extra money was helpful, this wasn’t the main reason I stayed. The truth is, I loved the job, my co-workers, and the atmosphere… this pub grew to be a rather special part of my life.
From my experience, here are some elements of pub management that contribute to a positive working environment for employees.
A supportive team from day one
Over the years we formed close friendships and worked well together on shifts. Sometimes people moved on and we gained new additions to the team, but our core unit remained strong.
Everybody worked hard, and in cooperation with one another in order to perform our roles effectively. I was always ready and willing to help and support my colleagues, just as I knew they were for me in turn.
We were relaxed in our roles, yet our confidence and motivation levels remained high.
When everyone mucks in, everyone’s happy
The pub was large, with several rooms and a sunny beer garden, and always busy. It was a really hands-on role, and there was no choice but to jump in head first and get down to business. This was very much the favoured approach of our boss - he wanted to see how you could handle working in the pub at its busiest.
If you met the challenge head on and weren’t afraid to get involved and get your hands dirty, you passed the test. Luckily, I did.
The boss had a no-nonsense attitude, and valued hard graft. At the same time though, he ran a relaxed establishment. As long as you were punctual, a hard worker, and an active part of the team then all was well.
A boss that is also willing to muck in and work alongside the rest of the staff is a real positive and gives a huge boost to team morale.
Customer rapport was fun and always encouraged
Many pubs gain a following of ‘regulars’ - it is important to start getting to know customers and engage in friendly chatter when they come in.
Our management team encouraged us to create a positive impression to our customers by being alert, friendly and approachable, and willing to provide the highest level of service at all times.
We learned that if it is clear that staff are happy working together and provide a welcoming service, then customers were going to want to visit again, and recommend the pub to their friends.
Following this advice, we quickly ended up with quite a large group of friendly regulars whom we were always pleased to see and serve at the pub and this really added to my sense of job satisfaction.
Proper training bred confidence
Our manager was keen to ensure that we were adequately trained in relevant company procedures and policies.
Being well informed on the wines and beers that we sold, and having a solid understanding of the legal aspects of the establishment (such as policies on ID procedures and licensing laws) meant that I could perform my role knowledgeably, and with confidence.
The opportunity for staff to give feedback on training sessions or raise any issues or concerns in the workplace was always welcomed.
Freedom from micro-management…
In my experience, a relaxed establishment makes for a positive working atmosphere. Training updates, job delegations and high levels of service are important, but monitoring staff too closely and enforcing too many inflexible rules can be incredibly detrimental to team morale.
The landlord needs to be able to manage a healthy balance between productivity and order in the workplace, whilst simultaneously maintaining an easygoing and enjoyable atmosphere for staff.
At The Alias Inn, I felt like our boss trusted in us, had confidence in us to do a good job, and he allowed us to get on with the job. There were no checklists to follow, or daily targets to be met. Instead we had freedom, staunch team support, and the motivation to work hard and perform to the best of our ability.
We just did our jobs…and we did them well!
So there you have it - a few of the most important contributors to a thriving and harmonious front-of-house team, from first hand bartender experience.
Ensuring that these aspects are constantly met will promote the success of your business - pub landlords take note!
Charlotte Newman is a freelance writer and former bartender.
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