Great hospitality takes care of compliance! Not only that but concentrating on providing great hospitality provides better compliance outcomes than concentrating foremost on compliance, which can ultimately diminish hospitality provided.
Compliance here means; not breaching the liquor act or having negative incidents either onsite the licensed venue or off.
And hospitality here means;
- Providing patrons with a safe space to enjoy themselves socialising in
- Providing patrons with an enjoyable, pleasant environment;
- A good, positive, hospitality vibe in the venue
- No surrounding patrons being disturbing to the point of nuisance
- An experience befitting the expected calibre of the venue’s product / service
- Letting patrons drink what they want to, within the law, whilst assisting those who require it to not reach intoxication i.e. to not become a mess
- Offering patrons measures to take on so as to fend off hangovers and regretful behaviour
- Treating patrons in a hospitable way i.e. not like they’re a pain
RSA Marshals have the potential to greatly add to a venue’s hospitality and compliance but as they stand at the moment there are a number of problems with them that stand in the way of them achieving these to best effect.
Here I’ll list 5 of these problems and provide the solutions for each so that RSA Marshals can be better utilised by a venue.
1) Their name
The first problem with RSA Marshals is their name. Marshal is a negative label, it’s not hospitality inducing, it’s basically a police name. Some like to say they’re not RSA Marshals, they’re RSA Monitors, which is another bad name. Monitor has inhospitable “I’m watching you” connotations.
When we used to put in trained staff to run a venue’s RSA on the floor we used to call them RSA “Hosts”. The word “host” flips the script, immediately putting the person working in the RSA Host role into a hospitality frame of mind. They begin automatically to look out for patrons as they want them to have a good time, they’re not looking to bust them for intoxication, though of course they can still identify patrons for, or approaching, intoxication.
The name change also positively rubs off on their relationship with the patrons. They begin to get along with the patrons noticeably better as they align their goals with them for their time in the venue.
Changing their name to Hosts at least internally, i.e. you can still tell the authorities that they’re RSA Marshals, will have a positive impact immediately on the hospitality your patrons receive and on the level of rapport between staff and patrons.
You’ll also notice that incidents of intoxication will drop as the RSA Hosts will be more on their game, more interactive at “saving” patrons from reaching it, or guiding them away from it.
You’ll notice too that other negative incidents will decrease such as altercations. This is because your RSA Hosts will be pushing a positive vibe into the patrons thus influencing their mood for the better and they’ll also have their finger on the pulse more of what is happening in the venue due to their increased interaction, meaning they’ll identify and deal with potential problems before they become actual problems.
2) Their uniform
The second problem with RSA Marshals are their uniforms.
The authorities like them to stand out so they walk around with RSA written on their back, a lot of the time in fluoro writing, fluoro vests etc. They stand out. The police and the authorities seem to like this as they can see them when they go into a venue so know they’re there. Also it shows the venue is actually hiring someone specifically for the role. Some also believe the visual of them walking around is a deterrent to patrons to get drunk.
On the first night I began developing “Special Alcohol Management Service” (SAMS) at the Coogee Bay Hotel in December 2009, effectively working as a RSA Host, I was asked to wear a uniform which had me stick out like a christmas tree and so wasn’t good. It embarrassed the patrons when I spoke to them as everyone around us could see it was happening, and it also had them not relax when I was anywhere near their vicinity. They’d sit up straight as I walked past and watch me out of the corner of their eye until I was gone. It was a hospitality fail.
So after that first night I lost the uniform, dressed casually to fit in with the crowd but with a radio on my belt complete with an earpiece and identification badge, which I wore slung over the antenna of the radio. This showed the patron who I was actually talking to that I worked there but was subtle enough so that no one else around us would know that they were being spoken to by staff.
This one little thing, i.e. camouflage as opposed to a stand out uniform, immediately keeps a patron relaxed as well as, in general, the patrons overall i.e. it doesn’t unnecessarily agitate them.
Staff that we brought on to work as RSA Hosts wore the same. The girls who worked for us were allowed by the venues to be a bit more casual than the guys, they fit right in with the patrons.
I know there are some stipulations, like in Kings Cross, where a RSA Marshal is required to be clearly identifiable. We used to provide our RSA Hosts to a few venues that were in the Cross. One was a leading nightclub in the area. There we had them wear a blue t-shirt, which I’d grabbed for them from General Pants so it was fashionable, and across the back in iron-on small white lettering I’d spaced out the initials “R S A H” which stood for RSA Host.
The police in the area were fine with it as were OLGR officers, they were happy with this amount of identification. The RSA Hosts here didn’t stand out with it on, and the “H” threw patrons off the meaning of the acronym i.e. it wasn’t as obvious as RSA, so people didn’t see them as that.
We all know that RSA is necessary but let’s face it, it’s still regarded as being somewhat “uncool” / nanny state by patrons who just want to be able to do their own thing. Therefore, if you put people in stand-out “RSA” uniforms they’re going to be more likely to be embarrassed to speak to patrons and patrons will be more likely to be embarrassed to speak with them.
3) The people who venues get to do the role
The next thing that’s wrong with RSA Marshals is that it’s mistakenly not seen as the important role it can be so not much effort is put in to who fills it.
RSA Hosts should be as important to a venue as their bar staff in terms of being a personable representation of the establishment. Think of having someone host your patrons who is capable of fitting in with them and who gets along with them so well that they end up helping them have a great time.
At the moment, a RSA Marshal is just that. If you have a RSA Host they’re not only a RSA Marshal, they’re also helping patrons to have an enjoyable occasion, checking in on their hospitality experience and adding to it. It’s far more involved and a venue will get 3 times the value out of a RSA Host than they will a traditional RSA Marshal / Monitor if they are trained properly.
The RSA Hosts we used to hire got along very well with the patrons. Over the 3.5 years we provided them to venues we had exactly 100 RSA Hosts go through the books. Not all were keepers but most, 90 +, were very good and effective.
We hired young women who used to get along very well with the patrons who responded very positively to them, often asking me where they were when they weren’t rostered on. The male patrons would basically do whatever they asked of them and would look out for them.
We also hired many male RSA Hosts who likewise got along very well with the patrons. One of the male hosts we had that stands out in my mind was a young medical student who was also an athlete at state level. He used to get along extremely well with the patrons, basically take care of them. The girls all loved him, the guys all respected him. He even took control of some medical emergencies that came up in the venue over the time he was there.
So these are the types of people you can hire for this role. Even putting bar staff on rotation so that they work the RSA Host role one or two nights a month is a good idea as the skills they learn on the floor they’ll take behind the bar with them. They’ll also form stronger relationships with the patrons, especially regulars. It also allows for diversity in the workplace for them, which I believe helps with retention of staff overall.
If your bar staff are too valuable for this rotation then you can hire the RSA Hosts yourselves or even security companies can look into providing these positions. As long as the person is social, personable, friendly, hospitable and committed to the patrons’ real enjoyment then they should be good at the RSA Host role.
4) Allowing them to do Ask To Leaves (ATL)
When we first began our RSA Hosts used to do ATLs. The problem with this is that things can go wrong with ATLs i.e. the patron can, for example, abuse the staff member or threaten them or even attack them. When staff have bad experiences with patrons it distances them from them, it begins to generate an “us, them” mentality in the staff’s mind. It also can create awkward relationships between the patron ATL and their group should they return at a later date.
We want RSA Hosts to be on the side of patrons, we want them to be looking out for the patrons to have a great time and to always be in that headspace of looking to provide that for them.
I knew this was true from the beginning but the moment that had me change our RSA Hosts from never doing ATLs again was when one of our Hosts frustratingly complained to me that he “wasn’t Gandhi” after copping some abuse and generally having a tough night. He was saying that he was finding it near impossible to just turn around and be nice again after being told off.
So after that, we never did ATLs again. We did STLs (Suggest to Leaves) which we’d then refer to management or security if they didn’t take the hint to go which had it’s own benefits, but that’s another story.
5) Only using RSA Hosts if a liquor licence requires it
Something that I would advise venues to do, such is the positive effect that RSA Hosts have, is to put them in even if your license doesn’t require it.
If you’ve got more security on than your licence requires then make those additional ones Hosts rather than security. It doesn’t matter if security companies supply them, they’ve got the capability for that. Even security can work it. There are always security guards who are better at speaking than the others, and others who are more forceful / aggressive in nature. Get the more social ones to lead the interactions by making them a RSA Host. It’s best to look to lead with diplomacy.
Even if you don’t have excess security, a RSA Host will still be worthwhile. You’ll find they’ll pay their own way as they’ll stop ATLs, people from leaving early, increase hospitality experienced in the venue etc. etc.
So there are 5 ways to make RSA Marshals more effective.
As a business we used to provide RSA Hosts but now believe the best way for venues to put in best practice is to train up their own staff, all their staff i.e. management, bar staff, security etc., through our Special Alcohol Management Service course and then allocate their own RSA Hosts who fit their target market from there. This gets best venue outcomes.
Please contact us to speak further.