Casino Hotel Restaurant / Bar

A large casino hotel was experiencing declining customer satisfaction scores and an increasing number of customer complaints regarding service at the bar located adjacent to a casual dining restaurant. The management approached us to help determine the causes of the decline and then propose solutions that would increase their customer satisfaction scores and reduce customer complaints. First, our team reviewed the customer service scores and the comments provided by interviewed customers. This identified a number of customer service issues, such as long waits for service and bartenders who provided functional rather than warm service. We interviewed the restaurant senior managers to gain their perspective on the challenges they faced and the possible causes of the declines in customer scores. Management attributed the declines to difficulties in hiring good talent and heavy customer traffic during certain periods that overwhelmed the ability of the staff to provide good customer service.

Formal training consisted of a two-hour orientation for new hires that concentrated largely on general employment policies and expectations, but no training in customer service. New bartenders were then required to “shadow” the more experienced bartenders for two shifts before being allowed to work as regular bartenders. Before each shift, the oncoming bartenders spent about 5 minutes in a huddle (called the “pre-shift meeting”) to review the expected guest levels in the hotel and casino, as well as the arrival of VIPs or any large groups staying for conventions or business meetings.

We recommended conducting “mystery shopping,” where our consultants would go into the restaurant bar as ‘real’ customers allowing them to experience and observe the service provided by the staff as well as observing the bar’s operations. Our three mystery shoppers conducted 12 mystery shops, which allowed us to vary day of the week and time of day of the mystery shops.

Our mystery shop observations and analysis identified four major areas driving customer dissatisfaction.

1. Lack of greeting/warm welcome upon entry to the bar. Guests were frequently not greeted by either the host/hostess upon the entry to the bar, who were often talking amongst themselves or reading the monitor at the host stand. On two occasions, the bartenders continued to talk to each other for a few minutes before approaching entering customers. The bartenders often “greeted” guests by asking “what can I get you?” or “what are you having?” rather than using a more appropriate greeting such as, “Welcome to X bar. How may I help you?”

2. Lack of lateral service during busy periods. The bartenders were assigned to service specific areas of the large rectangular bar. They also kept their individual tips, rather than pooling tips. At times, one or two areas of the bar would be extremely busy, while other areas were not busy. The territorialism and the policy of individual tips had led to a culture mitigated against teamwork amongst the bartenders. As a result, customers seated in an extremely busy area would wait for service while bartenders in other areas were idle.

3. The bar and restaurant managers were rarely visible. Further investigation showed they spent more time in their offices completing administrative tasks rather than being “out on the floor” providing guidance and assistance in serving customers.

4. The bartenders and staff often talked about unsatisfactory work conditions in front of customers.

Based on these findings, we made a number of recommendations to address these customer service opportunities, as well as made additional suggestions to improve the customer experience.

1. We designed a one-hour “customer service” training segment to be added to the two-hour orientation for new bartenders. We also recommended the addition of a 2-minute discussion to the end of the pre-shift meeting. The discussion, for which we designed a discussion guide, centers on observed superior customer service and opportunities to improve service, as well as recognizes individual associates for superior customer service.

2. Managers were required to spend half or more of their time “on the floor” monitoring and managing service, as well as helping provide service during particularly busy times.

3. Bartenders and other bar staff were warned not to discuss work conditions in front of customers. This element was also built into the training program for new bartenders.

4. Bartenders were required to give customers warmer greetings than previously. Suggested were phrases such as “Welcome to the (X) bar” or “Good afternoon/evening, how may I help you?” They were also trained in suggestive upselling, by using phrases such as “Have you tried…?” or offering customers a bar menu of appetizers and small entrees or the full food menu.

5. A policy of pooling tips among the bartenders was instituted at the bar. This decreased territoriality among the bartenders and encouraged providing lateral service to customers.

Our team spent three days helping train the bartenders and other bar staff in the new customer service practices and standards.

After instituting the recommendations, the bar’s customer satisfaction scores rose substantially, while the number of poor customer service comments on the survey declined markedly. As a result, the bar saw an increase in customer counts and revenue after implementing the recommendations.

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