James Lambert, manager of The Dolphin in Sydenham in south-east London, on how the Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme has benefited his outlet
The Dolphin’s clientele consists mostly of local regulars, the majority of whom enjoy a friendly relationship with our small team. We’re part of an independent group of three outlets, and so we were pleased to be approached to join the Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme back in April. The dedication reflected by the brand in investing such time and effort outside of the larger multiples is something which has not gone unnoticed by my team, and it’s had a definite impact on their view of rival brands.
Much of our training is carried out on the job, and so the opportunity to attend a more structured training session with a Stella Artois brand ambassador was welcomed by both management and bar staff. Our business tends to be food-led, with many of our customers choosing to dine prior to using our bar facilities. The team have relished the opportunity this provides in championing Stella Artois as a great food accompaniment, and the increase in team spirit and morale has convinced me of the benefits and importance of organising more formal training sessions.
Since the training I’ve noticed the more experienced members of staff have really stepped up in supporting their peers to implement their new skills. In fact, overseeing the day-to-day success of the programme on the floor is helping to build their management skills, minimising the direct input required from a senior level and raising many a smile behind the bar in the process.
We’ve been part of brand-led incentive schemes in the past, which have usually focused on individual team members collecting redeemable points. I have to say I’ve never found these to be particularly useful. These schemes require much hoop-jumping, and the rewards on offer have never quite justified the level of investment required from staff to be successful.
In contrast, it’s fair to say the team were intrigued when I first shared details of the Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme, and specifically the level of financial incentive offered. So far they’ve earned over £1,000 via pre-loaded Visa Debit reward cards, with this innovative method of payment allowing them to put their well-deserved incentives towards items and experiences of personal value.
Our success in the programme is measured by mystery shoppers, which is a concept those working in the bar industry tend to be relatively familiar with. Depending on their frequency and timings these visits can be really helpful, and alongside customer feedback they provide a good basis for management to determine what’s going well and perhaps not so well. When working closely alongside a tight-knit team, these external insights provide a fresh perspective.
Participation in the programme has contributed to a real sense of camaraderie amongst the team, and they regularly check on the Stella Artois site dedicated to the programme to see how The Dolphin is performing compared to other pubs and bars in the area. This enthusiasm creates a real sense of pride and excitement around the bar – something that has also been translated to our customers, who took a vested interest in the chalice (pictured) when it was first introduced to the pub. As a result, we’ve seen an uplift in sales and our customers have become more engaged with our new method of serving Stella Artois.
Since much of our business is generated by regular customers, we feel it important to consult and involve them in goings-on at The Dolphin. A few years ago we underwent a substantial refurbishment, and insights from our regulars very much contributed in shaping this. Customers can provide an invaluable forum for bouncing and sharing ideas, and this is something I feel is often under-utilised by establishments, to their detriment.
Without access to the more formal feedback functions of larger establishments, troubleshooting often falls solely on bar managers, which can create difficulties in effectively reviewing and measuring performance behind the bar. Combining the feedback generated by the Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme mystery shopper visits with customer insight is core to our success and development at The Dolphin, and this can only be beneficial for our employees, customers and our partners.
The Stella Artois Connoisseurs Programme is a series of activities and incentives that have been created to showcase the pouring ritual, and communicate the growth potential of serving Stella Artois in the correct way.