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Bar Management

Six Ways to Increase Profitability

June 6, 2011 By: Robert Plotkin


When it comes to business, even small ideas on how to make more money are invaluable commodities. It only takes one or two to make aBar Scene big impact. Fortunes have turned on less. To that end, here’s a six-pack of potentially profitable ideas for your consideration:

1) Reduce waste. Waste and spillage can erode profitability quickly. In an effort to raise staff awareness for the considerable costs involved with operating a bar or restaurant, some operators have taken to creating large posters that illustrate every piece of flatware, china and glassware with what they cost written underneath.

The bar staff should be given a similar reality check as bartenders often think liquors, beer and wine cost much less than they actually do. At the same time, they need to understand that when they give away a drink, it costs the business more than the sum of its constituent ingredients. Far more expensive is the value of losing the potential sale.

Proper bar procedures also can have a significant impact on lowering costs and improving guest satisfaction. Examples abound: Your bartender fails to check the freshness of the whipped cream, which results in a hot specialty drink being returned as unpalatable. A bartender pours a shot of Baileys Irish Cream into stale, bitter coffee only to have the drink returned. In both cases, product is lost and customers are left with a bad taste in their mouths.

As the adage goes, “Look after the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

2) Establish par levels for opened bottles of wine. Par levels should be established for each label of wine being featured by the glass. Only a set number of bottles should be opened prior to each shift to reduce their susceptibility to spoilage. Something as simple as not pulling a cork completely out of the bottle goes a long way to reducing waste. Pulling a cork only three-quarters of the way out of a wine bottle keeps its contents from oxidizing.

3) Leave old-school practices in the past. As society continues to tighten restrictions on alcohol consumption, once-accepted practices have become outdated and fraught with liability.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 pouring “doubles.” Any way you look at it, doubles are more than twice as potent as a regularly prepared drink. Complicating matters, people consume doubles at the same rate as other cocktails, increasing the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream by a factor of two.

Where is it written that beverage operators have to serve doubles? When a guest requests a double, a bartender need only respond that house policy prohibits serving doubles and then inquire 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, it reduces the possibility of employees becoming intoxicated at work or leaving under the influence.

4) Bring on the syrups. In a business where success is measured one sip at a time, serving lackluster cocktails is hardly an option. Bar chefs and mixologists increasingly are using syrups to bolster the flavor of cocktails. One viable tactic is infusing simple syrups with the flavor of cucumbers, peppers, spices, ginger or seasonal fruit. Another creative outlet is relying on a premium brand, such as Monin, to deliver a true-to-fruit payload regardless of the season or market availability. Creative potential alone qualifies them as indispensable.

5) Double strain and serve fresh cocktails without floaties. For some time, venerable drinks, such as the Mojito and Old Fashioned, demarked the extent of a muddler’s professional range. The prevailing rationale was that swirling pulp and muddled debris had no place in cocktails. However, modern top-notch bartenders rendered the status quo passé by outfitting their bars with handled tea strainers. At once, the creative floodgates were thrown open. Mixologists and bar chefs soon began crafting cocktails by muddling fresh products directly in shakers rather than the traditional service glass. Then after vigorously shaking the contents — ice, muddled fruit and all — the bartender pours the frothing cocktail through the fine-mesh strainer en route to the chilled glass waiting below. Nary a trace of flotsam makes its way to the finished cocktail.

6) Choose ice carefully. The nature of the ice used is an important consideration when making cocktails. Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature. The relative hardness of ice is an often over-looked attribute. If ice isn’t hard enough, it will melt too quickly and over-dilute the cocktail. Another consideration is the nature of the water used to make ice, the quality of which will affect the taste of the finished drink.

The size and shape of the ice you use plays a key role in how drinks taste. According to Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA, small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and will therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks.

“Since ice balls are round they melt slowly and won’t over dilute a cocktail," she says. "They’re crystal-clear and last a long time, leaving the first sip as cold as the last.”
 


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