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Five Tips on Top-Shelf Barmanship

April 14, 2010 By: Donna Hood Crecca


Why do people go to bars? Can’t they make their own drinks at home? What makes the difference between a great cocktail at home and a great cocktail at your venue is barmanship. The skill of the bartender, the environment in the bar and the hospitality provided all add up to that intangible element that guests can’t name and likely can’t create in their own homes. Culled from the standing-room-only “50 Money-Making Ideas in 50 Minutes” session presented at the recent Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show by author and beverage management consultant Robert Plotkin of BarMedia and Nightclub & Bar publisher and editorial director Donna Hood Crecca, here are this week’s five low or no-cost money-making ideas.

Barmanship — The Intangibles that Only an Operator Can Provide

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.


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