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The role of the Modern Door Supervisor

June 29, 2016

By Tony O'Brien

Training and Business Development at International Centre for Security Excellence.

The role of the modern door supervisor is a diverse and varied job. Door supervisors work in all kinds of environments from 5 star hotels to nightclubs, local bars, casinos and fast food restaurants. The skillset required to work across these areas successfully is huge and involves a lot of training and practice. The skills involve include a multitude of interpersonal skills, technical skills and physical skills combined with high professional standards and ethics. In this  article we look at some of the areas a door supervisor may work as well the skills and qualities that aspiring doormen and women must have to be successful.

Places to Work

Nightclub: When people think of a door supervisor it is  the night club environment that is typically imagined. Nightclubs vary in size and quality and so will nightclub security teams. Nightclubs are always a good place to start off a a door supervisor. This may seem a strange thing to say as they are commonly thought to be difficult places to work but in my experience it is the best place to begin as a new door supervisor. You will work within a team with other more experienced people from whom you can learn. You can begin in a relatively low risk position and gradually be introduced to more difficult positions and eventually the front door which is where the most experienced staff will be. All of this can be done under the supervision guidance and relative safety of  a large team. It is also a very good introduction to working with crowds. 

Pubs: The local or city centre pub may seem like a nice easy place to work as a door supervisor but this is not often the case. Working the door of a pub often means working in smaller teams with limited support and often doing the job of 2 or 3 door supervisors in a nightclub. You will have to be working the door as well as monitoring the crowd inside and carrying out regular patrols. In recent years publican’s have come under some pressure from both the insurance and security industry to get rid of single person doors. Some of the old school door supervisors would say this is a sign of the industry going soft but in reality it is a common sense approach to safety. We will discuss this more later on in this series of articles. Suffice to say busy city pubs can be a difficult place to work as a door supervisor. 

Hotels: When people think of hotel security they sometimes think of the New York doorman gathering bags from the car. However hotel security is often one of the most complex of tasks for a door supervisor. Hotels require a much more corporate image for the door supervisor. Customer service comes really to the fore. While you may deal with less violent incidents in a hotel you will deal with difficult situations such as entering a guest room or dealing with domestic violence.

Restaurants: When I say restaurants I’m not talking about the romantic dinner for 2 type restataurants. I’m talking about the fast food industry where late night revellers often gather after the pubs and clubs for a late night feast. Having started my door supervisor career in late night fast food places I can testify to the difficulty of working in this environment. Often working in small numbers and dealing with large crowds and intoxicated customers it can be challenging. Most of the controls you have in nightclubs etc. are missing in the takeaway at 0200. No queue systems, ID checks, door policies or searching exist here. Working in fast food is a real challenge and can be very stressful places to work as a door supervisor.

The Bouncer

The age old and often used term of bouncer that has been used to describe our profession for years. The mention of the word conjures up images of the shaven headed, bomber jacket clad, thug who’s main solution to trouble was to severely injure anybody who happened to be in the vicinity of the trouble. I’ve worked in an era where this was still the prevailing trend in our profession and your capacity for violence was a key selection criteria. While this only the case with a minority of the industry even at this time, this minority and their actions tarred the entire industry with this stereotypical image.

The industry was filled with some really fantastic guys and women but the image of the bouncer stuck with us all. Working with the types of people I have described as the traditional “bouncer” wasn’t a nice position to be in. As a young door supervisor I remember becoming involved in numerous avoidable violent incidents because of the actions of my supposed team mates and receiving injuries caused by their actions. Customers and staff alike weren’t safe in the company of these supposed “bouncers”.

It is for these reasons that I dislike the term bouncer and resent either myself or my profession being referred to as such. The modern door security industry is still filled  with real professionals and thankfully those professionals are now coming to the fore and becoming the new image of the industry. While there are still some of the wrong type still existing they are a becoming few and far between and regulation is slowly removing them or forcing them to comply with the professional standards now required.

The term I will use for this article is door supervisor. This is partially because it is the legal description set down in legislation and partially because I think it quite accurately reflects the more professional industry. Door supervisor , doorman, door woman or door person are all commonly accepted terms but for generic purposes we will use the term door supervisor.

What makes a good door supervisor?

In a role as wide ranging as the door supervisor the qualities needed are hugely varied. Not every door supervisor is suitable for every role in the sector. I have known and worked with many great nightclub door supervisors who just wouldn’t suit hotel security and many hotel security door supervisors who wouldn’t suit nightclub work. That’s not a poor reflection on any of those people. They had a niche were they where very good and they stuck to it. It takes a really top door supervisor to transfer across all areas of the job and even into other areas of security such as retail or hospital. So what type of qualities do you need to succeed as a door supervisor?

People Skills

There is a whole lot rolled up into the phrase people skills from customer service, communication to conflict management. It requires the right temperament. Those who are aggressive or short tempered are no longer required in the industry. I’ve often said over the years that in order to be seen as a true profession the security industry needs to stop seeing itself as an enforcement industry and realise it is a service industry. The role of the door supervisor is to provide a service to the public on behalf of their venue.

It is true that in the door security industry the vast majority of people you interact with will have drank alcohol, some may have drank a lot of alcohol and some may even have taken drugs. This is the nature of the role. Your job is to make sure that they are as safe as possible while they are in this condition. I’ve often heard door supervisors complain about having to talk to drunks and how difficult it is to communicate with drunks. However we can’t expect to work for a business whose main form of profit comes from serving people a mind altering chemical and then complain about the behaviour of those people when the chemical takes effect. If it wasn’t for people drinking excess alcohol we wouldn’t have a job or an industry so I believe we have a duty to be at least professional and courteous to people as they come through our doors.

Well presented

If the day of the bomber jacket clad bouncer is gone it has been replaced by the day of the professional. The day of the bouncer was exemplified by the bomber jacket, jeans and boots so what should the day of the professional door supervisor be represented by ? This is not a section on the merits of uniforms and we will look at what to wear to work in a later article, but it is a place to start a discussion on general standards of appearance for a door supervisor. Standing on the front door you are the face of your employer. People will begin to form a judgement on  the entire venue based on your appearance at the door. The professional door supervisor must be just that. Your appearance should reflect your pride in your role and your profession and give a sense of safety and security to customers as they walk through the door.

Proactive

This is one of the buzz words in the door security industry right now. Proactivity is the skill of identifying and dealing with issues at an early stage. It’s dealing with an accident when it’s still a spillage or dealing with a fight when it’s still an argument. Proactivity solves problems before they are problems. Done correctly is goes under the radar. Nobody notices the door supervisor standing over the spillage or positioning themselves close to the rowdy customer. The real professionals do this regularly and nobody notices because nothing happens. But the bar and nightclub managers love this. They love a venue where nothing happens. They may not know how you do it but they like it.

Alert

Just as important as being proactive is being alert. Not just being alert but looking alert. This means head up, scanning, greeting customers and observing for risks. Without the alertness to spot an issue in the first instant it’s impossible to be proactive. An alert door supervisor is also a great deterrent to misbehaviour.

Discretion and tact

In the door security role we deal with people at their very best and their very worst. We meet people having the best night of their life and the worst and we deal with people who are in very vulnerable situations. Door supervisors must be aware and prepared to deal with complicated and delicate situations. The guy who’s angry because his girlfriend has broken up with him, the young lady leaving on her own in an intoxicated state, or the regular customer who has had far too much to drink. These are all situations that we will deal with which require tact and discretion. Even when dealing with angry or agressive customers it’s important to remember that the vast majority of society are decent people. They may be a normal decent person having a bad night or in a tough situation. Meet this person on another day and it might be a different experience so it’s important not to judge a person by your interaction with them at a pub or club door.

Physical Skills

Lets not be under any illusion here. If you choose to sign up for a career as a door supervisor you will at some stage have to become physically engaged with a patron or patrons at some stage. In this era of customer service based door security it is often overlooked that physical violence does still happen. All door supervisor should be trained and prepared for these types of incidents. To assume that it wont happen in your workplace or that you can leave it somebody else will get you and your workmates injured. Physical fitness and training in an effective set of physical intervention techniques is vital for the door supervisor role.

Behaviour on Duty

Without making this section into a code of conduct type rant it is important to speak about the expected standard of behaviour in the door security industry. Your behaviour when on duty reflects not only on yourself but also on your employer, your team mates and the entire industry. To the customer who walks through your door you are the door security industry. With that in mind I have listed a few pointers below:

  • Look the part. Dress well. As described above just show up to work looking like a professional
  • Treat your customers (good and bad) as you would like to be treated. It doesn’t need to be yes sir, no sir just professional. Treat people with the decency you would like your own family to be treated with
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before or during work. This may seem obvious but there was a time where a drink before or during work often had a blind eye turned to it. We know the effects both alcohol and drugs have on our patrons. Poor decision making and inhibited reactions are not the standard expected of a professional
  • Document and record all incidents accurately and truthfully. Be factual and diligent in gathering and recording data. You never know when you may rely on it
  • When you are required to use physical force do it reasonably. Use the force required to resolve the situation. No more and no less. Revenge or retaliation are not reasonable use of force and are not what’s expected of a professional
  • Always carry the right level of equipment to do your job
  • Never carry any weapons or illegal objects to work. They are illegal and unprofessional and only ever attract trouble
  • Maintain confidentiality. Don’t talk about the venues business, other staff or customers. Gossip is for old ladies and soap operas. If it’s none of your business don’t discuss it with others
  • Work within a team. Door security is a team sport. Working alone sometimes happens but even then we build a relationship with other local doors. You rely on your team to watch your back and support you so you should do the same

Summary

So in this article we took a brief and introductory look at the role of the door supervisor. We have only just scratched the surface of the role. We looked at the wide variety of places you may end up working as well as the type of qualities that are needed in the modern industry. For those of you seeking work in the industry these are the qualities you need to get across as part of your natural skillset.

Finally we looked at the duties of modern door supervisors. From this list we will base the next in this series of articles. We will look at the various duties in much more detail in individual articles and sections throughout the year to give you a better understanding of each.

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