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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Satisfaction at Sam Smith’s

Funny Pub sign

Photo by meophamman

After being confronted with rude staff at The Fitzroy Tavern last night, I went online to find where I could lodge a complaint (I doubt I would actually have done so). Amazingly, it seems that the Samuel Smith Brewery does not maintain a website. Judging by the comments at the above Beer in the Evening link, I am not the only one to have had an unpleasant evening at the pub. This brings to mind two things:

  1. Even when the “independence” of the individual pubs is taken into account, I find it stunning that such a major company does not maintain a website. Without a “shop window” providing information on drinks and venues, not to mention the rich heritage of the brewery, the company leaves themselves open to misrepresentation by third parties.
  2. What measures of staff evaluation take place? Staff are a vital component to a pleasant experience. If employees were segmented into three categories – those that love their job, those that like their job but have no great loyalty to the firm or industry, and those that are in it purely to pay the bills – I don’t think it would be unfair to say that pubs contain more employees within the third segment than an organisation such as Greenpeace. Because of this, there needs to be greater emphasis on ensuring the staff don’t dislike their job. Training should be full, hours should be reasonable and conditions should be exemplary. Unmotivated, unsatisfied – or just plain rude – staff will pass on their negativity to patrons.

I could not find any evidence of customer satisfaction surveys nor mystery shopping online. I would be interested to know whether such methods are used to assess performance.

Does it matter? The brewery remains very successful, and there are many pluses in the organisation’s favour – extremely cheap prices, a good selection of drinks, a relatively environmentally friendly policy, strong locations and (generally) a good atmosphere.

And will this experience put me off going? Probably not. The pros outweigh the cons for me. But my advocacy of Sam Smith’s has been tempered. It is a shame that they only appear to “make do”, rather than provide the best experience possible. Friendlier employees and a website facilitating direct communication are two small steps that can go a long way to achieving this.



8 Responses

  1. sam smiths have been going down hill for years, since they started chasing the wetherspoons punter. first the tellies went (saving money on licenses), then the music went (saving money on PRS), then the ayingerbrau went (saving money on paying germans). they pride themselves on spending 0 money on advertising, so i’m not surprised in the least that they still don’t have a website. the head boys in tadcaster are very very frugal to say the least, some would say pennypinching. to the best of my knowledge it’s still privately owned, so they have no one (ie shareholders) to answer to…

    mind you, i’d be amazed if you can find a pubco that offers full training, reasonable hours and exemplary conditions. if the australians and south africans don’t like it, there’s plenty of eager east europeans willing to do the work…

  2. Fair enough re the pub staff, but I am still shocked that there is no avenue for complaining about individual staff. As you allude to, there should in theory be a steady stream of more pleasant people willing and able to do a better job.

    Frugality has been successful for them so far – I personally don’t mind the lack of music/tv as it quiet/sociable ends up being a niche in itself. If they keep getting bigger, they will have to open up eventually. If they choose to stay private and mid-size, I can see people eventually moving away – whether it is rude staff or another reason. I can’t see a business model based purely on price being successful forever.

    It makes you wonder what they will get rid of next.

  3. Of course I know nothing about Sam Smith’s in particular, but the mystery shopping business was invented by the hospitality industry, and I can assure you that here in the U.S., most major chains and many independents use it successfully to assess their customer interactions and develop training and incentive tools to improve them. If you are interested in learning about the state of this particular art, a good website to visit is http://www.mercantilesystems.com, a firm that assesses customer and employee interactions in a wide range of industries, but with particular experience (50+ years) in hospitality. This firm also analyzes the data they collect and recommends specific actions that will improve a company’s overall operations. They have some great case studies and other content on their site.

    One question for the prior writer, however. It sounds like, from the progression he/she recited, the person continues to patronize this place and has done so over a long period of time. If you really find their service and operations distasteful, why not vote with your feet?

  4. As a drinking companion of the prior writer I can confirm that our feet have indeed voted – Sam Smiths pubs “share-of-nights” in our social circle has dropped from c.50% to c.5%!

  5. Have a look at the “Unofficial website” http://samsmiths.info/

    Pretty damning and a business in turmoil………

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