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Bar Management

Barmanship — The Intangibles that Only an Operator Can Provide

June 2, 2010 By: Donna Hood Crecca, Robert Plotkin


Smokers – Make Their Butts Comfy in an Outdoor Area
If they can’t smoke inside – and in more than half the country, they can’t – they’re going to go outside. Whenever possible, give smokers a place to be comfortable, perhaps a patio with tables, chairs, lighting, some greenery and even heaters if it’s cold. Make sure this area is separate from the rest of outdoor diners. Also, put out plenty of ashtrays, empty them frequently and sweep the area regularly. Don’t make them feel like second-class citizens, and they’ll become loyal patrons!

Enlightened Comp’ing – Getting More Bang For Your (Promo) Buck
Owners and managers may get an ego boost out of comping a round of drinks for a group of guests, but today’s savvy guests know it’s not coming out of that person’s pocket, so the impact is no longer as great. To top it off, the bartender will grit his or her teeth when faced with no tip. A more enlightened approach is to put $100 in the manager’s pocket at the beginning of the shift. When he or she slaps actual cash on the bar to pay for the groups’ libations, their faces will light up, and they’ll not only always remember that cocktail but, more importantly, that bar. The bartender keys it in as a promo sale and is allowed to take a 20 percent tip. At the end of the shift the cash is returned to the back office and accounted for in the same manner as petty cash. Everyone wins, especially the house, which has earned big points with the guests and the bartender.

Aromatherapy – Set Bowls of Mint and Basil on the Bar
If you’re muddling it, slicing it or clapping it over a drink, then consider displaying it. Bowls of mint, basil, citrus fruits or berries on the bar are visually interesting and often release some great aromas that send a powerful message: Fresh cocktails crafted here!

What Bartenders Say Matters – “No problem,” “Want another?” “Hey guys”
The words used by the bartender convey subtle messages to the patron about the level of hospitality at your venue. Addressing a group of men and women as “guys” doesn’t acknowledge everyone in the group. Saying “No problem” when asked for something by a guest indicates that it may have been a problem, but in this case it’s not, demonstrating that your hospitality may be conditional. How about taking a cue from the fine hotels and saying, “With pleasure” when responding? And saying, “Want another?” is far less professional than stating, “I’ll freshen your drink for you.” Use words and phrases that underscore the fact that you are glad they are in your place, and you’re happy to serve them. It will pay off in better guest satisfaction, which equals higher checks and tips.

Have a Seat – Guests Today Looking For Intimate Conversation Clusters
Today’s guests want to sit and socialize in intimate settings. Even in nightclubs, VIP booths and tables are all the rage because they create a private party within the party. To achieve that, think about flexible furnishings that can be moved around on a regular basis to create small groupings while also providing intimate conversation clusters.

Hire for Hospitality Gene – Everything Else Can Be Taught
The recession has resulted in a lot of people looking for work, many with a variety of skills. If you’re looking for staff, be picky. Hire for the smile! That’s the heart of hospitality. When you interview them, ask yourself, “Are they friendly, reasonably outgoing and engaging? Are they showing any personality?” If the answer is “no,” take a pass on that candidate. You can’t train friendliness or personality, but you need it in your bartenders and waitstaff for your bar to be successful.

Ensure Staff Knows What They’re Talking About
Once you’ve hired Mr. or Mrs. Personality, be sure to train them. Numerous training programs exist, so go to the pros! Most are inexpensive and cover the basics — like the fact that all bourbons are whiskey but all whiskeys are not bourbons. People serving drinks must know this stuff! Make sure they know what brands you carry and the differences between them and make sure  they are able to make suggestions to the undecided. Teach them your signature drinks so they can describe them and sell them to the guest. Finally, create an environment where staff never stops learning — bring in speakers, post interesting articles on the corkboard, have them taste new products. Get them excited about what they’re selling! Now, a lot of bar owners will gripe about the effort and cost required to train employees who might just up and leave in six weeks. Tho that we say, what if you don’t train them, and they stay?!

Read Nightclub & Bar Magazine Cover to Cover
Shameless plug, but NCB is all about the Best in Bar Management! Our writers are knowledgeable — they’ve actually tended bar and managed bars, clubs and restaurants. The magazine, web site and newsletters are chock full of ideas from experts and other operators, so read it to succeed!

Send Flowers to the Living — Catch Your Staff Doing Good
Recognize your bartenders and servers for the great things they do, big and small! Whether on the spot or after their shift, let them know they did something right with either a personal comment or point it out during a team meeting. Follow it up with a gift card to the local movie theater or tickets to a concert. A token that’s meaningful to them goes a long way in motivating them to keep doing good work.

Get them to Slow Down — Bartenders Lose Their Smiles When They’re Frantic
A bar where the person behind it doesn’t smile isn’t a good bar — that’s the bottom line. If a bartender isn’t having fun and enjoying himself, neither will the guest. When your bartender is slammed, coach him or her to pace themselves, breathe and then greet the new guest at the bar and smile. That will help them relax, and it lets the guest know this is a hopping and happy hot spot and everyone is glad they’re here.

Old School Practices Best Left in the Past – Doubles and Post-Shift Drinks
As society continues tightening restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, once accepted practices have become outdated and fraught with liability. On-premise operators need to reevaluate their pouring policies from a risk/reward perspective. A prime example is the service of “doubles.” Any way you look at it, doubles are more than twice as potent as regularly prepared drinks. Complicating matters, people consume doubles at the same rate that they do other cocktails, which increases the rate the alcohol is absorbed in bloodstream by a factor of two.

When a guest requests a double, a bartender need only respond that house policy prohibits serving doubles, and then ask if he or she would care for a regular strength drink.

Equally outdated is the practice of giving bartenders and servers a post-shift drink and allowing them to drink at the bar. While it may seem a hospitable gesture, there’s a natural temptation for bartenders to over-pour, undercharge and over-serve their co-workers. More importantly, prohibiting this practice reduces the possibility of employees becoming intoxicated at work or leaving under the influence.

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy – Leave the Jaguar at Home
To be perfectly frank, working for blowhards is a bummer. Their caustic temperaments inevitably create toxic work environments, which in bars or restaurants, dissipate staff morale, undercut performance and foster the conditions for theft. Were there a set of commandments governing the conduct of owners, the tablets would certainly include the following:

Get With the Program
When the doors are open, rank has no privileges. An owner needs to think of himself as part of the crew and work within the established chain of command. Few utterances can derail constructive communication more effectively than the phrase, “As the owner, I think I have the right to...” Aside from stating the obvious, it’s typically followed by an emotional outburst. Especially when doors are open, rank has no privileges.

Leave the Jaguar at Home
 It’s a cruel fact, but most bar owners and restaurateurs don’t live paycheck to paycheck like the rest of us. So how about leaving the Jaguar at home and driving the family sedan when stopping by? Likewise, don’t hold the staff holiday party on your yacht or palatial estate. Flaunting your good fortune can spark negative consequences.• Required Skill Set — When the doors are open, an owner can usually only perform one useful function, namely schmoozing the guests. Like a virus in an organism, when the owner strolls into the place, he or she is certain to attract attention from the staff, but shouldn’t that be lavished on the guests instead? So how about you meet and greet the guests and then leave the heavy lifting to the pros on-duty?

Heavy-Handed Comp’ing — Doling out free drinks is expensive. It deprives the bar of sales, depletes product, increases liability and, more often than not, results in the bartender getting stiffed on a tip. Owners looking to make a lasting impression should hand out cash instead.

Attend the NCB Show!
Yes, a shameless plug! Taking place March 7-9, 2011, the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show is the largest one of its kind in the U.S. and presents hundreds of products and services that bar and nightclub operators need to grow sales. The educational program is packed with ideas (like these 50) and insights from experienced experts — bring a notepad and pen and you’ll come back chock-full of ways to attract more guests, keep them in your place, make them happy, keep them spending and then get them to come back time and again. Check out the top clubs and bars while in town and network with other pros. And remember, though they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, you’ve got to bring ideas from the NCB Show back to your business!


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