Bartender May I Please Order Some Food….
Editor's Note: The following is one in a series of blogs provided by the experts who have worked incredibly hard to make Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" reality program, starring Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer, such a success. The Bar Rescue Insider blog series will deliver tried-and-true tips and tricks to help bar owners, operators and managers solve common problems and increase their bottom line. Tune in to Nightclub.com for the next edition of Bar Rescue Insider!
I eat out a lot! I travel a lot! Therefore, I get the opportunity to experience all areas of the service industry. I have recently noticed a very odd trend that seems to be taking place all over the country…bartenders are no longer taking food orders.
I find this insanely strange since I have more and more clients asking me to assist them with building their food sales and increasing their revenue. Now, I’m going to be honest when I say that at least 40% of the places that I have eaten at over the last five months the bartenders do not take food orders… so let’s break down some scenarios.
I walk into a place; let’s call it ‘Hannah’s Bar & Grill’. I mosey on in and sit at the bar. ‘Casey’ the bartender walks over, slides a coaster in front of me and asks, “What can I get you?” I reply, “I’ll have a bottle of lager.” She replies, “We have Genesee on special for $1.00.” I reply, “OK.” She returns with my beer and walks away. A few minutes later I ask Casey if I can see a food menu. She slides the menu down the bar and I take a gander. A few minutes later I let Casey know that I am ready to order and she says “You’ll have to wait, Sarah is out back and will take your order in a minute.” My response, I drop a $5 on the bar, then get up and leave. “Screw that.” I get on the bike, ride down the street, spend $100.00, tip $30.00 and have a great night.
I walk into a place; let’s call it ‘Hannah’s Bar & Grill’. I mosey on in and sit at the bar. ‘Casey’ the bartender walks over, slides a coaster in front of me and says, “Welcome to Hannah’s, what can I get you?” I reply, “I’ll have a bottle of lager.” She replies, “We have a great new local brewery that is similar to lager, let me get you a sample.” She places a one ounce sampler glass down in front of me. After I take a sip I say, “Mmm. . . that’s tasty, I’ll have one.” Casey returns with my locally crafted beer and drops a menu on the bar. She then states that “the chef is trying some new menu items and the BFG Wings are unbelievable.” We have a nice conversation and she lets me know that “the wings are baked, fried and then grilled so the sauce caramelizes. They are amazing.” She then asks if I’d like another beer since mine seems to be getting low, we discuss the local brewery and the chef for a bit longer. A short time later I receive my BFG Wings and then order a burger. Casey informs me that all of the beef is raised naturally and that the farm is about 25 miles away. A while later it comes out perfectly. The chef comes out from the back to grab a glass of water and stops by to see how the wings and the burger were… we exchange a few words and she heads back to the kitchen.
So it’s pretty obvious what the difference here was but do you see what I mean. Why is it that we as owners and operators have taken service out of the bar? You all know how I feel about the education of our investments, yes Investments, we have hired this group of people, so invest in them. We have hired them for a R.O.I. It is our job to have them do what is needed to make the business a success.
When did a bartender become a drink maker and that’s it? It’s imperative that we create a program with proper training and requirements that the bartenders are involved in and educated about food, not just what’s on the shelf behind their 2.5 feet of mahogany! Some tips. . .
- Test and re-test. Not only for drink knowledge but also for menu and food knowledge.
- Have your bartenders get involved in tastings and offer their own opinions to the service staff about what pairs well together.
- Make sure that your bartenders are involved in all server meetings as well as PRE-MEAL. If you are not having a pre-meal, DO IT NOW!
- Invite your bartenders into the kitchen. Make sure they get involved. You never know how inspiring watching the preparation of food can be. It could inspire an idea for that brand new mint infused drink that you’ve been looking to add to your summer menu.
- Have them get involved with the front of house. They can do a serving shift so they can see and hear what the guests are looking for.
- Demand a food sales number from the bar… it will INCREASE SALES.
And finally realize that the average person will tip $1.00 for every two to three drinks that they spend. So let’s do some math shall we. . .
If Geoff comes into the bar and has three drinks at $5.00 a drink. He will most likely tip 10% -15% or $2.25.
3 x 5.00 = 15.00 + 15% = $17.25
If Geoff comes in and has three drinks with BFG wings and a burger, he will tip 15% – 18% or $5.76.
15.00 + 8.00 + 9.00 = $32.00 + 18% = $37.76
If this is the case with just 5 guests a day your bar will have an increase of $595.00 a week or $30,940 a year! Your bartender will see an increase of $28.75 a day in tips or over $200.00 a week and over a year an increase of over $10,000!
So whaddya say…. Bartender may I please order some food. . .
(See ya in Season 2!!! Jon Taffer has brought me in for some doosies this season!! I’ll see ya then.)