The Bulldog Tavern management team implemented new hiring and programming initiatives over the summer to improve the quality of the restaurant’s service and business operations.
The pub, which is owned by Bon Appetit, hired several new staff members, including two student bartenders, and hosted events to attract customers. In addition, the management launched new promotions and a greater variety of dining options.
The Bulldog Tavern Oversight Committee, a group of students, administrators and members of the pub management team, initially raised concerns about the restaurant’s service last year.
Joshua Shinbrot (COL ’16), a student member of the committee, said he noticed that service at Bulldog Tavern had remained mediocre since its opening in November.
“From the time the pub opened until the end of last year, the service was very poor,” Shinbrot wrote in an email to The Hoya. “If you sit at the bar, service is consistently good. However, if you’re sitting at a table, service is still not great. The food is … delivered to your table within a reasonable, but still above-average amount of time.”
Shinbrot also said that wait staff at Bulldog Tavern are not attentive enough to patrons.
“Servers could be better about refilling waters and drinks. Servers could also check on their tables more frequently. Oftentimes, Bulldog Tavern patrons will have to walk up to their server to request a check,” Shinbrot wrote.
Concerns about staffing were also made when a high-level manager of the pub was removed from his position over the summer. The management did not return Shinbrot’s inquiries regarding the details of the termination.
To overcome problems related to staffing and service, Bon Appetit hired two students to serve as bartenders.
One of the bartenders, Sam Kleinman (COL ’16), said that the restaurant team was accommodating when training new employees and that he enjoyed his experience as a bartender.
“I met several awesome supervisors and managers confronting challenges unique to running a restaurant on a college campus,” Kleinman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “[The team] has done a great job of matching inexperienced student servers and bartenders with experienced staff. For example, I have been trained over the past three months by two bartenders with over 16 years of experience between them.”
Kleinman noticed a higher number of visitors over the summer, following the additional hires.
“Anecdotally, I saw, on average, busier days at the end of the summer, rather than the beginning, and it certainly seemed that I had more tables and more guests as the summer went on,” Kleinman wrote.
“I definitely think that some of the improvements in service at the pub can be attributed to the hiring of the two new bartenders,” Shinbrot wrote. “They are both very attentive, but the other servers are of mixed quality.”
In addition to hiring more staff, the restaurant also hosted a series of events and promotions during the summer, including Sangria Night Thursdays, Friday Game Nights and other food and drinks specials.
According to Shinbrot, although the restaurant has increased its programming, plans to host a beer pong tournament at Bulldog Tavern were vetoed by a university administrator.
Shinbrot said that events such as the tournament would have attracted more student patrons to the restaurant.
“The university has stated that it wants to bring more student life onto campus. I don’t even like playing beer pong, but I just don’t see how the decision to prohibit the pub from hosting certain types of social events for [students over 21] helps bring more of student life onto campus,” Shinbrot wrote.
Many of the initiatives over the summer will be continued throughout the academic year, with further menu changes and promotions planned for the future.
In an email to The Hoya, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Business Services Joelle Wiese mentioned a variety of the restaurant’s changes.
“Over the summer, we developed new menu items, like the fantastic crab dip, created new drinks and brainstormed [promotions] for the upcoming academic year,” Wiese wrote. “You will see new beers on the menu, new appetizers, a larger pizza and wing offering, along with very creative specialty cocktails in the days ahead.”
A request for comment on the restaurant’s profits over the summer was not returned at press time.
In addition, the restaurant will lengthen its hours of operation for the academic year and host programming on almost every day of the week.
“The kitchen is now open later. We started a pick-up window over the summer, and students can get coffee and awesome breakfast sandwiches in the morning,” Wiese wrote.
Despite the restaurant’s new developments, Shinbrot said that there are still many improvements to be made in order to ensure a high-quality dining experience for patrons.
“Service has improved, but it’s still not that great and if the pub wants to be successful, [it] will need to continue to make big improvements in quality and speed of service,” Shinbrot wrote. “I’m hopeful that early in the fall semester, I’ll be able to say that Bulldog Tavern is definitely worth a second try, or a first for those who have never been.”
Connor Joseph (COL ’16), a former member of the GUSA Dining Committee, said that despite the restaurant’s improved service, the management needs to reevaluate its dining options.
“I think their niche should focus more on down-home, diner-style food. They try to be The Tombs too much,” Joseph wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Bulldog Tavern has miles to go before it sleeps.”