Lessons from the Country’s Top Bar

I came across this article from Entrepreneur magazine and there were so many great points in it I just had to share.

The article features a couple who opened a small bar in Las Vegas in 2021 and in just three years have gotten it to the point where it was voted the #1 Mom and Pop Business in the US.

If this was almost anywhere else you’d maybe be a little less impressed but when you consider they did this in Vegas where the bars-to-people ratio has to be about the highest per capita and you also consider most people go to Vegas for the “big” stuff the feat is even more impressive.

But even if they weren’t the winners of this contest, there were just so many great ideas there. Obviously just having a place that serves drinks is not unique and they didn’t have the budget for anything fancy or flashy. So how did they create a place that stood out? By focusing on the customer experience one hundred percent.

According to the owner, “A lot of people say, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I just feel so comfortable in your space,'” Signor says.

The way they got to that experience was by having a lot of personal experience previously running bars and knowing what they themselves liked and didn’t like and decided to create their idea of the perfect bar.

“We’d been to so many establishments that have not made us feel welcome, or have made us and others feel like outcasts,” Signor says. “We wanted everyone to feel included.”

As a small business, one of the main things you can offer customers is a more personal, unique to them level of service that large businesses simply can’t replicate. If you aren’t doing that – if you are acting like a big business even though you are small – you are costing yourself sales you can’t afford to turn away the same way a large business can.

Think of your local power company. They will take your money every month but they don’t care much about you or your specific situation or providing you with particularly good customer service because whether you get good service or not you’re going to keep buying their electricity. They can afford to have customer service reps who aren’t that helpful, put you on long holds, and aren’t too interested in solving problems. But a small business with plenty of competition and other choices for where customers can go? You better believe poor service will cost you!

But it’s not just wanting to be the go-to choice that gets you there. And there is one thing (among many) I think this bar gets right that I think any small business can replicate – if they realize just how important it is to do.

As the owner you naturally want to make sure you are providing top-notch customer service. But no matter how good you are you can’t do it all by yourself. That means you’ve got to make sure when you hire you are looking for the right people – not just those who can pour drinks (or whatever your business needs)! Here is how they explained it:

“Our definition of a bartender isn’t someone just serving drinks,” says Signor. “It’s about building a relationship with these guests. When we’re hiring, we look for people who genuinely appreciate other people, treat them with respect and kindness, and create a really safe space that people want to come back to.” Their ideal hire is someone who has positive energy, is able to leave their personal life at the door, can laugh and joke with people, and is humble (which they define as “not intimidating and able to put people at ease”).

It’s painful to let people go when they don’t live up to those standards, Signor says. But it’s also essential. “When prioritizing what to do next, I always think of the guest sitting in that barstool,” she explains. “We tell the staff to pretend we’re the guests on the other side. What are they seeing? Really envision it from their perspective.”

They also understand however that you don’t get the best people unless you treat them right. You can’t be a jerk boss but expect kind and respectful employees who treat the customers with white glove service.  They explain:

While Signor and Smith want their employees to put themselves in their customers’ shoes (or, rather, stools), they also believe that employees have to be happy for customers to enjoy themselves. They offer health benefits — something they say is mostly unheard of in their industry, but something they wanted when they were employed by others. They are also transparent with their employees about finances and business decisions, sharing numbers and providing reasoning for changes. They take their workers’ thoughts into consideration, whether it be opinions on events or on shifts in workflow. And they don’t ask employees to do anything they wouldn’t want to do. (The pair continue to work bar shifts alongside their staff — including cleanup duty.)

“Don’t be afraid to get feedback,” says Signor. “Our staff is so important to us and really we wouldn’t be the bar that we are without them. So we lean on them, and they lean on us.”

Hiring the right people with the right attitudes and personality fit along with the right baseline skills is something any business can do – if they realize that makes a difference and are intentional about it. They can also manage those employees effectively, fairly, and with a true teamwork attitude where everyone benefits and everyone gets a say. By doing those things, which is no harder than doing it any other way, you can build a business with amazing service that truly differentiates it from the competition.

If that simple formula can make a small off the strip bar in Vegas turn into a destination of its own and earn a number one in the country ranking it surely will do wonders for your business as well! 

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