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I spent most of yesterday editing (that means writing a lot of it) my local CAMRA Branch Magazine, so didn't get a chance to go out shopping. I decided though that I couldn't be bothered cooking, so a rare takeaway was called for. I'd been given a tip about a good local curry house I hadn't been to and knew that opposite it was a pub where I was advised on Sunday by one of its regulars, a new landlady had just taken over a few days ago. Seems like a good opportunity to try a different curry shop out and say hello to the new people in the pub at the same time. As a long standing Branch Chairman, one of the things I do like to do when I can, is to keep in touch with the trade. It helps a lot. Both me and them too hopefully.

Curry duly ordered, I had 20 minutes while it was being cooked, I nipped over the road. The pub was empty apart from three locals in a far corner and me at the bar. There was one person behind the bar that I recognised from her bearing as much as anything else, as a barmaid of long standing - and three others - mother, daughter and son I'd guess from the resemblance -at the far side of the bar. They obviously weren't local but seemed to have a vague air of being in charge. They didn't look up as I came in. My pint of bitter duly purchased I glanced around. The locals were talking quietly as locals do, pausing only to borrow a pen from behind the bar. The new team (for it was they) carried on doing what they were doing. I looked over hopefully, but nobody looked back. The beer was good. I ordered a half to top it up and the young lad served it tentatively, the barmaid having gone out for a smoke. He didn't know how to work the till. The new team confirmed.

A few minutes later as I was about to leave, conversation (not including me I must clarify) started about how they could attract customers at the quiet time between five and eight. It was about half seven by then. It fizzled out as I left, my shouted goodbye being thankfully returned. At least they spoke then. I could have given them one tip. Talk to the bloody customers. To not to talk to a sole customer standing at the bar on his own for 20 minutes when you took over just a few days ago, is more than a faux pas. No matter who it was, you could have learned a lot.

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 - well he said a lot more than that - but these were a must. He reasoned that the hello made people feel welcome and the goodbye made people feel appreciated. It made them look on the pub kindly and made them think "I'll go back". It is enduring logic and complete business sense. Now I don't want to be too hard on anyone new to the pub game, but you know, it is hard enough without making basic mistakes. Now you'll likely say " Why didn't you introduce yourself?" Well I could have of course, but it wasn't my place. If I'd been spoken to I would have and really it might have been a useful thing. I know the area the pub is in well and the pub too. A chance was missed.

So a plea to all licensees and bar staff. Just say "Hello" to customers. It can and does make all the difference.

I do mean "Hello" or similar. Saying "You all right there?" even with a raised inflection at the end, doesn't cut it.

The curry - cooked Bangladesh style - not English - chicken samber was pretty good. I'll be back, but will I have a pint in the pub? Of course. Second chances and all that.