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Hello, Goodbye: the art of the warm welcome

A smile and a few words of welcome go a long way when you’re a stranger in a strange pub.

On a mission to tick a pub for #EveryPubInBristol the other day we were made to feel at home in a pub that otherwise didn’t much appeal to us.

It wasn’t over the top. It was just that when we reached the bar we got: “Hello! With you in just a second.”

Then when they did get to us, in just a second, the first thing they asked us was how our days had been.

Not a grumble about how their day had been, or a curt WhatCanIGetcha, but a simple question that suggested they recognised as fellow human beings.

Finally, as they handed over our drinks, they said: “We’ve got a singer on at eight, fifties, sixties, classic rock…”

But what they meant, we suppose, was: “We hope you’ll stay for the evening. We’re happy you’re here.”

We instantly felt accepted, like locals, despite the fact it was our first visit.

We didn’t stay, though, because (a) we had another nearby pub to visit nearby; (b) as a pair of mutterers we didn’t want to try to talk over live music; and (c) there was nothing much for us to get excited about drinking.

Still, so touched were we by the welcome that we were seriously tempted to stay for another, and it felt almost rude to leave, despite all the good reasons to do so listed above.

A good welcome is a hook. It makes you feel seen and forms a connection. And signals to the regulars that they’d better behave, too: these people are our guests.

The goodbye wasn’t bad, either. As we dropped our glasses on the bar and snuck away through the crowd, there was a wave and, over the hubbub: “Bye! Enjoy your evening! See you again!”

And you know what? Maybe they will.

As Tandleman wrote back in 2016:

When I started work in a pub many, many years ago the first thing the Boss said, was always say “Hello” and “Goodbye” or equivalent… He reasoned that the hello made people feel welcome and the goodbye made people feel appreciated. It is enduring logic and complete business sense.

6 replies on “Hello, Goodbye: the art of the warm welcome”

So true. We’ve drifted from our once favourite town centre pub, which has great beer but an impersonal welcome to the nearby cocktail bar, largely because the staff are so nice. They recognise us, welcome us back, say bye. It really does make a world of difference.

I have to raise a slight dissenting note here. Of course basic politeness is desirable, and costs nothing, but questioning first-time customers seems intrusive and prurient, like supermarket checkout staff speculating on the contents of your trolley.

“Where have you come from? What are you doing here? How have you got here?” None of your business.

The ability to be anonymous and not be interrogated is one of the great virtues of pubs.

I agree with the the last comment, but at the same time we must recognize that a tacitly taciturn culture, as Britain’s used to be, and (in my experience) English Canada’s was, too, has been transformed by hospitality trends now roving the world, originating in the United States.

It is just the way it is – “it is what it is” – not good or bad, but a datum, like having to pay with a machine instead of paper money these days.

I’d be surprised if the American “hello folks”, or “hi folks”, isn’t standard bar lexicon around the Anglosphere now.

I never heard this word “folks” in Canada until the last 30 years, a by-product of American influence.

But where people still hold to older ways, I’m good with that too, short of out-and-out rudeness.

It’s all good you see. And I’m there for the beer.

I agree with the other Mudgie here and would no more want to be asked how my day had been.before I got my pint than asked “enjoyed your meal ?” by someone neither interested in my answer nor able or intent in properly responding to a negative reply before I left.
The best welcome and service I’ve ever had was from the two brothers at the Laurieston nine years ago, an acknowledgement as I walked in, mention of another cask on as I ordered my pint and an apology fot a drunken old man having engaged me in conversation as I left, none of those three three things necessary but all appreciated and remembered.

As we say in the post, there’s not much else to recommend the pub, and we didn’t want this to be a pub review, so didn’t feel like naming it.

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