Service Excellence: Reading Customer Cues and Body Language

busy_bartenderA successful bartender or server is a keen and attentive observer. In addition to watching guests for signs of intoxication, one must also watch for cues and body language that indicate a guest would like to place a drink order or pay a bill. In a busy restaurant or crowded bar, it’s a challenge to provide excellent service to each and every one of your customers; the ability to watch for subtle hints and signals as you are rushing to clear tables or checking on other guests is crucial. So, do you know what to watch for?

Recently, researchers at Bielefield University in Germany compiled video recordings of customers ordering drinks in order to program a robot to interpret the body language of those people who are ready to place an order (UPI). Findings from this study help to establish clues as to what customers are doing to signal bartenders that they need service. Researchers found that only about 7% of customers looked at their wallets to signal that they would like to place an order. Looking for a more obvious clue? Surprisingly, less than 4% customers gestured at the bartender. So, what should bartenders look for from customers who may be ready to order? In this case, 90% of customers took the initiative by positioning themselves right up against the bar counter, facing the counter or the bartender. What we can take away from this is that one should also look for customers who are subtly trying to catch your eye or gain your attention.

While a robot bartender may sound like a fun gimmick for serving drinks, a responsible and diligent live bartender is necessary to read social situations and watch for signs of intoxication in customers. In addition to watching customers for cues that they would like to be served, watch them for cues that they should not be served. In order to learn the skills you need to serve effectively and responsibly, complete your Techniques of Alcohol Management® training and obtain a TAM® Card.

Also, it’s not only important to watch for cues from your guests, but remember to also remain aware of how your own body language may be perceived by others. Not only will a smile put your guests into a good frame of mind, projecting a positive attitude and body language will help YOU to relax and enjoy your job. And, as an added bonus, positive body language and professionalism set the tone for an enjoyable evening and can net you greater tips. For more tips on body language do’s and don’ts, check out our blog post “Set the Tone and Increase Your Earnings with Positive Body Language.”

Readers: What other advice would you give for reading cues and body language in customers?

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Back to Basics– Five Strategies for Becoming a Better Bartender

Bartending BasicsThere are a lot of things that go into a great bartender: a winning personality, an attention to detail, and a dedication to public safety, and the legal and moral issues of serving alcoholic beverages. Looking to improve on your own marketable bartending skills? Read on for some tips on putting your best foot forward.

  1. Get TAM® certified. Nothing is more important to your success as a hospitality professional than responsible service to ensure the safety of your patrons and to reduce the liability and risk for yourself and your business. Carry your TAM® card to show you received the best possible training, and sign up for one of our online or onsite classes today.
  2. Brush up on the latest cocktail and mocktail trends as well as any ‘back of the basics’ techniques you need practice with. A great bartender will draw in more customers, making more money for the bar, and themselves. You’ll need solid working knowledge of bartending skills, plus lots of practice, so it’s important to learn how to mix drinks correctly, and build up your bartending know-how of tips and techniques. Check out blog post “What’s On Your Summer Reading List? Best Books for Bartenders” for some reading suggestions that might help you to increase your knowledge and skill level.
  3. Keep your bar well stocked, your work area clean and neat, and have glassware, liquor and bar tools in the most functional place possible. By having a clean, efficient and streamlined work area, not only will it set the stage for your guests, it will make it easier for you to do your job well and turn out orders efficiently and effectively. At the start of your work day, make sure everything is in its place, and when you have down time between mixing drinks, make sure to keep things neat and tidy.
  4. Excellent customer service comes easier if you keep a cool head under pressure. Providing the best customer experience possible will be much easier if you are able to keep calm on those busy Saturday nights behind the bar. Don’t over-commit yourself, if you feel yourself getting stressed, take a few deep breaths. Examine what tasks you need to complete, prioritize them, and eliminate any tasks that aren’t necessary. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Your supervisor and coworkers are a part of your team and want to see you succeed, and your guests leave happy.
  5. Recognize your weaknesses and strive to improve. Nobody is perfect; maybe you’ve gotten constructive criticism from your manager in your last review, or maybe you’ve examined your own work performance and know areas you need to improve on. Whether it’s improving on multitasking, working under pressure, basic techniques, or something else, it can be done. Just remember that approaching your work with a glass half empty approach is never a good idea. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the good in a difficult situation, but do your best to think positively and work to make necessary changes.

You should now be well on your way to making positive improvements in your work performance. What other advice would you give to someone looking to improve on their bartending skills and techniques?

© 2012 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Warning: Older Adults under Financial Strain May Be at Risk for Drinking More

It is tough times for many Americans in today’s economy, and some people are feeling the financial strain heading in to the holiday season. And, a recent study from researchers at the State University of New York at Albany, as reported by ABC News, found that older adults, especially men and people with less education, are more likely to drink and smoke when experiencing financial difficulties. Are you prepared for the holiday blues?

As explained in the study results, older adults may be at-risk for becoming heavy drinkers due to a number of issues including stress over financial uncertainty. In fact, among study participants, men who experienced financial difficulties were about 30% more likely to begin heavily drinking when compared with men who did not have money problems.

Bartenders and service professionals may notice an uptick in the number of patrons visiting their establishments to relax and unwind around the holidays, and should remain vigilant about responsible service. If you work in or run an establishment that serves or sells alcoholic beverages, you should always take precautions to safeguard your patrons, company, yourself and your community. Let’s not forget, during the holidays, 2-3 times more people die in alcohol related crashes, and 40% of traffic fatalities involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol (NIAAA). All patrons, young and old, should be monitored for over-consumption. Make sure you are employing all of the safe service techniques that you learned during your TAM® training!

For more information on how to be prepared for selling and serving drinks during the holiday season, make sure to read our blog posts, “Big Holiday Parties Are Upon Us,” and “Beware of Binge Drinkers.” Remember, hospitality is all about creating a fun experience and maintaining a safe environment for your guests and patrons. We would love to hear from you! What recommendations do you have for keeping the holidays fun and safe for your guests this season?

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© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

 

DUI-Related Traffic Deaths Up This Year in Southern Nevada – Are You Doing All You Can to Help Prevent Drunk Driving?

If you’ve been following the local news lately, you’ll know about the recent spike in pedestrian deaths around Las Vegas. In the past few weeks, a 15-year-old was struck by an alleged drunk driver in Henderson, a child was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver while trick-or-treating in Las Vegas, and a pedestrian was killed the following night while crossing the street at Cheyenne Avenue, also hit by a driver who was later booked for DUI (News 3 Las Vegas). Police are taking this time to remind drivers and pedestrians alike to be cautious, follow safety precautions, and most importantly, say no to drunk driving. In fact, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, there have already been twelve alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Las Vegas this year, up from seven in 2010. As a service professional, are you doing all you can to help your patrons get home safe?

Bartenders, waiters and anyone else who serves alcoholic beverages have a legal and moral responsibility to serve alcohol responsibly, keep a close eye on their patrons, and promote an alternative means of getting home if anyone appears intoxicated. There are a few things you can do to help promote safe beverage policies:

  • Complete your mandatory alcohol education with TAM® of Nevada. TAM® will teach you and your coworkers to offer excellent and responsible beverage service while keeping patrons safe. TAM®-trained individuals receive the best education possible in safe serving and selling techniques.
  • Become familiar with sober driving services available in southern Nevada. Keep the number to cab companies at your bar so that you can make the call whenever necessary. Companies like Designated Drivers, Inc. provide a responsible alternative to driving while impaired. A driver will be dispatched to take your patron home in their own vehicle, no worries about retrieving their car after they sober up.
  • Keep a close eye on your customers. If a group of guests is at your establishment and an individual within the group is becoming intoxicated, check with a sober member of their group to make sure that they have a plan to get the intoxicated individual home safely. If there is no designated driver assigned, offer to call a cab. Alert your coworkers to make sure the individual is not served any more alcohol.
  • Familiarize yourself with company policies when it comes to intoxicated patrons and suspected drunk drivers. Alert your manager or supervisor if you need to cut someone off, if you need them to intervene in the situation, or if you have any concerns about a guest’s safety.

Drunk driving is a preventable problem, and service professionals in Nevada can help make a difference, and potentially help save lives. What other tips would you offer on how to help prevent drunk driving?

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© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada