It’s that time of year again. Rain and cold every day, often the scare of snow, sleet or icy roads. That time of year that people are less likely to drive out to a bar and drink. Especially with the fact that our bar is 85% outdoors leaving only enough room for around 40 people to sit inside the bar in the warmth.
Event though it comes every year, it somehow always seems to sneak up on you. We try our best to sock away money and surplus supplies throughout our busy season (which is most of the rest of the year) to counteract the hit we take in our business and income during this time. But even then, it is still surprising and depressing when you turn around and realize that the winter is already here. Now to struggle through the next few months until the first ray of sunshine coupled with warmer temperatures which will drive customers back to our bar in droves.
This year we are going to try some new ideas to increase our revenue stream at the bar, and in term our income in tips we bring home. Luckily almost everyone at the bar is more than happy to help out in any way, including proposing ideas, to help us in this course of action. We know we can’t rely on the fire pits, which are popular but only effective within a few feet, to keep our customers warm outside. One of our plans is to enclose the outside patio, around the outside bar, with plastic sheeting and having a couple of gas heaters out there which will at least raise the temperature around the outside bar 20 degrees making it semi-comfortable at making the outside bar useful. Also, making it bearable to work outside at that bar. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to reach your hand into bucket of ice and water to grab a customer a beer when it is already 35 degrees outside, but it’s no fun. We will also be booking smaller, cheaper bands as entertainment in the warmer sections to generate more customer draw. We have a few other ideas in the works that have not been fully fleshed out yet, but I think we’re on the way to having a better winter than we have had in all of the bar’s history.
These new ideas that we are trying will hopefully make this winter much easier on everyone financially, reducing stress amongst the employees and making it a more pleasant work environment during these typically slow months. Luckily I’ve been able to save money enough to not be to pressured over the winter, but I would like to make sure that I continue to have a steady income stream through the next few months. And to make sure that my coworkers that were not able to save as much do not find themselves in tough situations.
Recently we changed out our glassware at work from 14oz to 11oz cocktail glasses. There were a few reasons for this change. For one it saves us on liquor cost as the drinks are smaller. Though most bar’s cocktail glasses are between 10oz and 12oz so it’s not as if we are shorting people. We also are known for making strong drinks anyways. Another reason is that the larger glasses were very thin glass and easy to break. For these and other reason we went with the change in glassware and placed all of the old glasses into boxes and stored them in our dry storage room.
This change in glasses has caused an unexpected ruckus among our patrons. Nothing that isn’t easily resolved; but still it’s been a bit more disruptive than anticipated. We have a great number of regulars that come to this bar. And when I say regular, I am talking about people that come here 4 to 7 days a week. We know all of them by more than just their name, and they all know us as well. These regulars are good people who we treat well both in service and in friendly conversation. They in turn treat us very well both in the form of good tips, and willingness to help us in other aspects of life if ever needed.
When the regulars noticed the change in glassware they asked, nicely, if it would be possible to still get their drink in the old glassware. Of course we are willing to oblige them in whatever ways we can so we decided to keep a stock of the old glassware at each of the wells for when these regulars get their drinks. We have all served them for so long now that we know their drinks and have them made and ready for them before they even have to make it to the bar.
Not long after we began this new policy our other customers started noticing the double standard. Some people get their drinks without even uttering a word, it’s obviously stronger than usual, and it comes in a bigger glass. They began to make comments about this favoritism occasionally. Dependent on the situation I would give a response like “Oh, he’s the owner.” or “Yeah, that’s my wife.” or similar. Occasionally I’m just honest, “They come here almost every day, are friendly and polite, and tip incredibly well.” which sometimes has a positive result in the form of a better tip from the customer hoping that they’ll get a “big glass” next time. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about, it’s only a 3oz difference, most of which is just mixer. I think maybe I’ll just start saying they’re doubles and charge the other customers twice for a little extra booze.
There had been rumors circulating around the bar that the GM had taken another job offer and would be moving. This was a little disheartening since he does a great job running the bar. He is also someone I would consider a friend to me and the other employees. Having someone replace him, possibly someone who was not already familiar with the bar and the employees, seemed like it would adversely affect the bar. He is also a close childhood friend of the bar owner which made that dynamic work much better.
This weekend the official word was announced. Our GM would be changing jobs and moving on the first of the year. Thankfully, the owner is going to promote one of our bartender/managers to the GM position. I like this solution much better than hiring a GM from elsewhere as our bar and work dynamic is a little hard to get used to for some people. I think training someone how to operate as a GM who already knows the ins and outs of the bar, the personalities of the employees, and who is already well liked and respected at work is a much better way to hand the situation.
All this to say, my trepidation about the GM change has been alleviated by a great choice for his replacement. Congratulations Big K on your promotion, I am sure you’ll do a great job. I hope that training for your new job duties isn’t too taxing and I also hope that you are able to negotiate an acceptable salary for all parties.
Maybe I’m prophetic, or maybe my boss secretly reads my blog.
Let me explain.
After my post last week about certain coworkers who make theirs and their coworkers jobs more difficult a lot has changed around here. Let’s start with Friday night. The person in question in last week’s post took the night off to go to a personal engagement. With some shifting around of schedules and personnel we were able to easily fill the absence. To say that things went more smoothly than usual would be an understatement. We found ourselves incredibly busy that night, more busy than usual. Consistently we were 10 or more customers deep at the bar and our band kept drawing in an even larger crowd. Even at that volume and level of sales we were able to push through the night without a single disgruntled customer. Our tip percentage even increased by around 8%. With our sales for the night that added up to about $1,200 more in tips than normal for a comparable night. Virtually every employee was working at their maximum efficiency even towards the end when we were almost all over 9 hours of continuous, high-speed service.
When the night was over and we closed the doors after the last customer left we all sat around scratching our heads. How was this night so much easier to handle efficiently? Why were we not required to diffuse some type of situation with an angry customer? We all eventually came to the same conclusion, but we all had our doubts that that one factor could really effect so much. We were all just happy to have a very profitable night for ourselves and for the bar and left it at that.
The following day we all arrived to work as usual, and the person in question was also back to work that night. The night started off fairly slowly. Our band that night was the Tejas Brothers which have a pretty strong following so we expected it to get busy closer to their start time. As expected, 30 minutes before the band began their first set the bar began to fill up rapidly. To compound that we had an after-party show up unexpectedly from the skate park where they had just wrapped up an event that included quite a few celebrity skaters. Even though we were not as busy as the night before when everything when smoothly, as soon the crowd began to show up things started going sour. I was immediately having to deal with customer complaints regarding this coworker which began slowing down service and the line for the bar grew. Within a few hours 90% of the customers would not even approach my coworker’s section of the bar. The 3 remaining bartenders, myself included, began to take issue with doing 3 times more work simply because she couldn’t control her attitude towards customers which began causing tension behind the bar as well. We struggled through the rest of the night and finally were able to close the doors and lock up. Myself and my 2 overworked coworkers looked at each other and knew we were right in our assumption from the previous night. We contemplated speaking with the owner or general manager about the situation but decided to wait. We reluctantly split our tips evenly with her and called it a night.
I typically don’t work Mondays but was asked to fill in on a Monday lunch shift for a coworker who was going out of town to visit family. During my shift there was a flurry of phone calls and activity. The GM and the owner met for some time and then pulled me aside to speak with me. They explained that they had multiple complaints from customers on Saturday in regards to her and informed me that they were going to have to terminate her. Now, I would never wish unemployment on anyone but I still felt an unmistakable wave of relief come over me. I ended up having to stay to cover her shift that day which ended up being nearly 12 hours straight at work. I’ll happily endure a long shift like that to ensure a better work environment, as well as a more enjoyable experience for our clientele. The only downside is getting all of her shifts covered is seriously cutting into my homework and school commitments for this and next week. Oh well, I can sleep next month!
One thing that I am sure I need to research and study more is web typography (or simply typography in general). I know that is one of the areas I am weaker in as a designer. Well, to be more correct I am weak in design in general. That being said, good typography can more than make up for a more simplistic design and still look great.
I have always loved the information that I get from alistapart.com, and they also use great typography on their site. I started my search there and came across a good article called On Web Typography. The author discusses many of the perks, and downfalls, of implementing the @font-face CSS property. He then goes on to impart at least a few ground rules, or suggestions, on how to succeed with the increasing options being introduced to web typography. Unfortunately the discussion was already closed for this article as there was some great discussion already.
Next I read a post called More Meaningful Typography which deals less with choosing the right type face, and more with font sizing, line-height, and line length based on a modular scale (in this case the golden ratio, 1.618). This article was extremely helpful to me, and it even links to the writers web application which will give you the sizes in the scale once you pick a starting number. He also mentioned a CSS property that I have never even heard of.
This apparently enables a font’s native kerning instructions. Basically making the font render the way the type designer designed it. He mentions a possibility of performance drawbacks but says he has found them to be negligible. I was able to comment on this blog article.
Finally, I wanted to go back and read up on the history of how the @font-face and this new web typography started so I read an article called Web Fonts At The Crossing. This article gives a good backstory on the implementation of this tool from the original W3C specs on to Google’s font hosting tools. This article is great if you wanna first jump in to what web fonts means today. I was able to comment on this blog article.
Working in the service industry you are already assaulted by an onslaught of situations to deal with. From the standard situations like customer interaction and fulfilling their needs; to the non-standard situations like drunk or irate customers, etc. While having to put out fires across the bar on a regular basis all night long, it makes sense that there should be a minimum amount of friction hindering your success from behind the bar. But for some reason that never seems to be the case in the service industry.
While I consider every one I work with to be a friend and can get a long with each of them great outside of work, it seems that as soon as some personalities show up to work in a bar environment their entire persona changes. And sadly, I have never worked at a bar that there were not at least a few of these personalities. It seems as if as soon as they clock in they begin complaining about or demeaning everyone around them. Immediately this sets a bad tone in the workplace making it more difficult to have smooth and profitable interactions with customers and coworkers. I can only conclude that since this is not the way they interact outside of work that this must come from some hatred for their job. If you loathe your job that intensely, find a more emotionally fulfilling line of work. Bartending is a means to an end, and not a career. I bartend because it is an easy way to make money with flexible hours while in school. So it shouldn’t be that difficult to give up the job if it causes you that much grief.
I just expect when a group of people show up to do a job, even a very diverse group, to apply themselves to doing that job. Bartending may be a much different type of work environment then others, but the same principles still apply. You are paid by an employer that has certain goals you are tasked with helping him reach. Like any other company it should be a concerted effort by the organization to reach those goals. If your actions are working against those goals, purposely or accidentally; visibly or invisibly, then steps should be taken to correct or remove the problem. Can’t we all just get along [at work]?
Honesty, what a novel idea. Wouldn’t it be great if people really where who and what they said they were? I don’t mean to imply that everyone should immediately air out all of their dirty laundry when meeting a new person. That would be completely irresponsible self-disclosure. But certainly don’t try to be intentionally misleading about who you are or what you do when meeting someone for the first time.
The reasons why someone might rely on dishonesty when describing their persona could range from self-consciousness, to mistrust, to nefariousness. This post isn’t meant as an analysis of these people’s psychosis, I’ll leave that to the professionals. I will say though, if you are insecure about yourself then improve what needs to be improved before you engage in self-disclosure. If you feel that you could invent someone who is more interesting than yourself to gain there admiration, why note engage in interesting things and then disclose them. Eventually your ruse will be unraveled and you will be in worse shape than if you had simple been honest.
Why is this subject on my mind?
There has been this customer that has been coming into the bar every weekend for the past 2 months or so. I am going to call this man Bro, since that seems to be his only other method of communication other than deceit. “Bro, I need…”, “Hey, bro!”, “Bro, let me tell you something…” etc. Bro likes to come to the bar anytime we have a live band. He sits near the band in his French beret and fanny pack trying his best to exude importance. Whoever dressed him before they let him out of the house should have mentioned that neither berets, nor fanny packs, help towards that goal. He passively watches the band, drinking cheap well liquor, while he scopes the patio for his target. Typically anything blond, and for his sake hopefully drunk, stupid, or both. Seeing an opportunity, he strikes. “Hi, I’m bro. I’m a super famous music producer. I’m here to check out this band and maybe sign them. I like to come to this bar because it’s my hideaway from all my screaming fans and all the famous musicians that want things from me. How would you like to go bow hunting with me and Ted Nugent?” Just a steady stream of obvious untruths after disinformation after ludicrousness. Luckily for his “prey” his game is so transparent that no one believes him. And even though he has been trying to sell this story to every employee and every customer he comes in contact with, now when he shows up he gets ignored or worse. But imagine if some person had believed him. How long could he keep up that facade? I imagine not very long. So what are the results of the lies? No one believe what he says, and if one person finally does how long will it be before he’s found out for the liar he is?
I just hope he never has any reason to need someone who distrusts him to believe him. I guess I should have named Bro “the boy who cried wolf”.
There is definitely something to be said for how a person interacts with the world differently based on factors such as upbringing, social circles, life experiences, or cultural differences. But at a certain point It would seem that people would be able to streamline certain interactions after having repeated it so many times.
Take last Sunday for example. A man walks up to my bar and says “I need to get a hamburger”. He immediately proceeds to walk away without uttering another word further. I may be wrong here but there is no place in the world that a transaction that simplistic is possible. Even if you were to go to a restaurant where they only served one food item (maybe something like that exists) and no options to modify it there is still a major part of the transaction missing. The part where you pay for the item or service.
As all these thoughts are bouncing around in my mind I yell after him to return to the bar. Begrudgingly he returns, as if I’m inconveniencing him even though I’m the one on pause with the numerous other things that I need to be doing causing customers to wait and service at my bar has to screech to a halt. As he walks back up I begin trying to extract the list of information that I need to fulfill his request. “How do you want that burger cooked man?” “Oh, medium to medium well is fine.” At which point he proceeds to walk away again. “Hey, buddy, I have a few more of these types of questions for you.” Sighing, he drags his feet back to the bar while the 10 or so new customers standing at the bar stare at him wasting their time. I am barely able to keep his concentration on me long enough to get through all of the options for the meal he is trying to order.
Once this portion of the exchange is finally done I proceed to ask him about payment. “Um, can you put it on my tab?” “Sure I can…” “OK, thanks.” “Well it would really help if I knew the name on the tab, but I guess I could just guess.” “The name is Steve.” “Alright, good to meet you Steve but bar tabs go by last name typically.” “My last name is ________.” As I say thank you and turn to my register to add the burger to his tab he begins walking back to wherever he has been in such a hurry to go this entire transaction. Lo and behold, no tab exists for his first or last name. Cringing and doing my best to stay civil I am forced to call him back to the bar one more time. “Hey Steve, I don’t have a tab for you under your first or last name.” “Well yeah, I haven’t started it yet, I though you could do that for me.” “That’s perfectly alright, I can certainly do that for you but to start a tab I need a credit card from you to secure it. Or you are more than welcome to pay cash.” “Well I don’t like to start tabs with my credit card, I always forget to close my tab and leave my credit card.” “Well Steve, that is exactly why we require a credit card, so that I don’t have to buy your hamburger for you at the end of the night when you forget to pay your tab. If you’re worried about leaving your card here I can just run it for the burger and give it back to you.” “Well can you try to run it and see if it goes through?” “That’s sort of an odd question. You expect that you don’t have enough money to pay for the burger but you order it anyways?” “Yeah, I’m not sure if I do or not.” “Okay Steve, I am going to go ahead and take care of the rest of these customer who seem fairly certain about their financial situation. If I have time afterward I can see what I can do for you. Bye now.”
I don’t see how a transaction that dysfunctional can be explained by people’s differences. This man had obviously been to a bar before. He admitted to it when he mentioned that he leaves his tab open and his credit card behind fairly often. He didn’t talk like an imbecile so I don’t think it was a lack of reasonable intelligence. I never saw Steve again that day, otherwise I might have asked him why a typically smooth type of transaction like that could have broken down so badly. I feel that I was patient and mostly guided him through the process but maybe there is some better way to handle that transaction. I have to handle it hundreds of times per shift so maybe I need to keep looking at streamlining it more.
Maybe some kind of questionnaire or form system might work better. Talking is hard.
The article “The discipline of content strategy” made really good points about the need for at least one dedicated content strategist to facility producing quality content for our users. I can’t argue with the logic or the concept behind the logic, and I completely understand how it is necessary to create an ideal web product. Here is where I am finding my disconnect though. On the small scale, or individual web developer level, your clients are already used to a ballpark dollar amount, and a ballpark cost for the project.
So after you have added the additional time and money onto the estimate for the next project that you bid for them, and you do you best to sell them on the benefits of good content strategy, focusing on telling them it will improve their SEO, more hits, more return traffic, and eventually a better ROI, you are more often then not still left with a client that will not cough up that extra money. At that point your options are to still build a sub-par product, lower your profits by doing it anyways (if you have time in the production cycle) or let your client go find someone who will do the work at the price you’ve been charging them for the work you used to produce.
Clients don’t like large sudden changes, but over time it is possible to slowly add, or remove, steps and costs in the production process. If every time I produce something for them I add and explain one more small facet of content strategy or findability to them they are much more likely to be agreeable. “It’s only a little more time, and a little more money, and here are some of the benefits”. That works much more smoothly. So this leads me to the question, can someone put the different facets of content strategy in order of importance? Now I understand that these aspects of content strategy depend on the others to function at their full potential, but at least these projects would be making progress in the right direction. This would also allow you to go back to projects that used only some facets of content strategy and include more as the client becomes aware of and sees the uses in them.