As a food and drink writer I visit plenty of bars, but I am just as happy in a cosy pub because to me the pleasure of food and drink is all about variety.
One aspect which can make or break any experience is, of course, the service and despite the fundamental role it plays in retaining customers, service is often unsatisfactory.
Hospitality is such a competitive market and when you walk into a restaurant or pub you are choosing that establishment over numerous others offering the same thing, so surely friendliness should be guaranteed but this is often not the case.
On a gloomy Monday evening recently my partner and I went for drinks at an upmarket gastropub close to where we live, the kind of place with soft lighting, plush furnishings and a log fire but as it turned out the stylish setting was juxtaposed with a surly attitude from the staff.
It never fails to irritate me when somebody working in a restaurant or pub acts as though doing the job they are being paid to do is a chore. In this case, the woman behind the bar did not smile or greet us when we arrived and we were left feeling awkward until I broke the silence with a friendly 'hello' and asked whether they served Prosecco by the bottle, to which she nodded without enlightening us as to the selection or prices.
This highlights two central elements of what constitutes good service, politeness is important and communication also plays a vital role as keeping customers informed is one key to making them happy, yet this is often overlooked.
We were served in silence without being given any information and although we had planned to order food, we swiftly abandoned the idea after our frosty reception, which is a prime example of how this kind of attitude costs pubs money.
Happy customers will obviously stay longer and spend more; as it was we spent £26 on the bottle of Prosecco and a soft drink and despite the crackling fire the evening left us cold.
I have frequently encountered this issue in restaurants and pubs and it always ruins the experience no matter how good the food or drinks may be. I find it baffling when people who have chosen to work in hospitality behave in an inhospitable manner; it makes a mockery of everything the industry stands for and it displays an astonishing lack of professionalism.
Perhaps the problem is due to insufficient training and licensees should go out of their way to ensure that the importance of customer satisfaction is emphasised to staff constantly.
The industry relies on making customers feel valued and there is no greater asset than friendly and efficient staff, I go to the pub to enjoy an atmosphere which makes me want to linger, but a lack of acceptable service makes me want to run in the opposite direction.
Considering the vast choice of pubs and restaurants available there is simply no reason to revisit somewhere which fails to meet acceptable standards, the old cliché of 'service with a smile' may sound dated but in fact, it outlines the basic principle that a little courtesy goes a long way.
Last week I went to a pub which is part of a well-known chain, wanting nothing more than a decent meal and a glass of wine after a long day. It was a family-friendly pub devoid of gastropub interior design, but our server welcomed us with a beaming smile and the experience was excellent throughout; how amusing that a chain pub on a roundabout delivered while the country gastropub was left woefully lacking.
The whole point of pubs is that they make you feel at home, the clue is in the name public house after all, but poor service is anything but welcoming and it has the power to ruin an otherwise great evening.
There is no doubt that managers should keep an eye on what is going on in their establishments and maintain a dialogue with customers to gauge their satisfaction; front of house can make or break a business and there are so many pubs and restaurants which could reach the dizzy heights of excellence were it not for this recurrent problem.