Some of the best service I have had in a Myrtle Beach restaurant, recently, was at happy hour over cheap beer and complimentary tortilla chips. The place was packed, had karaoke blaring in my ears and my bill was less than $30. It had all the excuses for mediocre service in place. However, the server was on point from start to finish. Everyone at our table, commented as they filled in the tip line at the end of the meal. As if to say “hey, we should take care of her because she went above and beyond what was expected.”
Later that week, I went into a bar in Carolina Forest to grab a bite to eat and a beer. The bar was neither full nor empty and there were three employees in visible sight of all of the guests. One was staring at her phone, the other was eating a plate of, what appeared to be, nachos and the last was just there for support, I suppose. Regardless, none of them made a move to greet me.
It took three employees in a bar with less than 15 customers just shy of five minutes to acknowledge that I was even there. When they did, I got the “what’ll ya have?” line that almost asks for an apology for interrupting their text chat.
After telling a few people of my experience at the second place, they chimed in with stories of their own about different places on the beach that really let them down. This was not just something that happened to me or even something that only happens at this particular bar. Great service in Myrtle Beach bars and restaurants is becoming a rare.
Hospitality is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” This boils down to service in bars, restaurants and hotels.
I have preached, and will continue to preach, that there are no excuses for poor service. Nothing in a restaurant is the customer’s fault. Sure, tough customers come in every industry. Service is how you handle yourself when you are faced with a struggle. Clearly, the happy hour nachos server was a pro. The three people who had no interest in making any money are amateurs.
What do we, as customers, do to set a higher level of expectation for service?
The first thing I did, in the case of the second place, was that I have not and will not go back to this bar for anything. If I was stranded on the side of the road and this was the only place within miles, I would walk past this bar and find another one. They lost a customer that day.
We have a luxury in Myrtle Beach. We have an abundance of choices when it comes to where we eat and drink. We do not have to choose to give our hard-earned money to a place that gives bad service. At the pub level, if you screw up nachos and a Miller Lite you have bigger issues than service. It is not the stellar food and drink we are here for at this level. It is a television and some service.
On a side note, this bar served a few frozen beers that they had to return for some other guests that day. This place actually did screw up a Miller Lite.
Next, I spread the word. I told people of both experiences. I believe that it is as important to share great experiences as bad. Since the happy hour nacho meal, I have had, at least, five friends confirm that the place is great. They probably told a few of their friends and so forth. See how that works?
The restaurant industry is a democracy. It is, in fact, governed by the people. Bar and restaurant owners will cringe at this, and I hope they do, but if you are not meeting your customers’ expectations, then you have an expiration date. The people control your business. The people determine your income. The people control your longevity. The best food and atmosphere in town will not succeed if you have empty seats due to poor service.
Finally, a gratuity is not required. It is a customary act. By definition, again from Merriam-Webster, a gratuity is “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service.” I am not one to take away a gratuity altogether, but I appreciate great service and will pay for it. I loathe bad service and will not pay for it. Figure out how to compensate service in a fair manner and stick to it. You are not required to tip 20 percent for poor treatment. In fact, you are not required to tip at all.
I will concede that, often, service and menu price are connected. That does not mean that I agree with it. Whether you work in a hot dog stand or a fine dining steak house, service is why we are there and both places can do it very well. From owners and managers to bartenders and servers, if you want to make more money, give better service. Even if your service is good, find a way to make it better. That is just good business.
Contact Kevin Hoover at email@example.com.