Finding Time: Should You Be Outsourcing?

Bars

Image: Louie and Chan's main bar

Bar and club owners are outsourcing tasks to save time—among other benefits

David Wiesner estimates he’ll soon be saving $700 per month for Louie and Chan in downtown New York City.

The owner of this restaurant (which includes a bar, lounge and nightclub) is about to outsource his payroll to a company that specializes in this area—something he’s thought long and hard about.

“It comes down to time and energy,” he says. “We have to process payroll weekly and there’s the potential error that could happen in-house. If we are hiring someone for this they are accountable and expected to be accurate.”

Wiesner’s not alone in outsourcing tasks. As bar and nightclub owners endeavor to use their time—and their employees—more effectively, they’re outsourcing more tasks to outside companies.

Brendan Dillon - Hamlet & Ghost

Hamlet & Ghost

Brendan Dillon is the owner of Hamlet & Ghost, a contemporary craft cocktail bar in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Before he opened last December he contracted with Cornerstone, a brand ambassador company that helps develop brands, including the creation of their cocktail menus.

“Having someone who had experience not only in craft cocktails, but could also look at the numbers and see if we were heading in the right direction, was so helpful,” says Dillon. 

Before opening the bar, he consulted in person with Cornerstone’s managing director Alex Straus, collaborating on the direction for the drinks menu. Straus developed all the cocktails and decided which classics to incorporate. 

“We come up with our own ideas but Alex can see what’s new and exciting all over the country as he travels everywhere and sees things every day of the week. He tells us about the big trends he has access to and knows what direction the marketplace is going in,” explains Dillon.

Hamlet & Ghost bartender - Hamlet & Ghost

Hamlet & Ghost

Beyond allowing Hamlet & Ghost to stay on trend and offer up a top-notch cocktail menu, the biggest thing for Dillon was “he freed me up and I was able to keep working on the little things that had to happen before a bar opened. I could program the POS system, make sure the contractors finished their work, have staff going in the right direction and train them.”

Dillon works with Cornerstone on an ongoing basis. “It’s a partnership,” he explains. “They work off a percentage of our liquor.”

We’re bringing a culture of quality and craft cocktails to the bar,” says Straus. “We also help with pricing of the cocktail menu. We look at profitability, purchasing, costing and relationships and real support from [liquor] brands that might not have given the level of attention to that type of establishment.”

The Unofficial Dive Bar

The Unofficial Dive Bar

The Unofficial Dive Bar in St. Anthony, Minn., outsources the tracking of its beer to SteadyServ, a draft beer management system.

Through this, there is a scale under each keg and a router that connects the keg to the POS system. “You get an app and it tells you how much is in each keg, accurate to a couple of pints,” says general manager Pete Blattner. “The really great part is the staff can log in, too. It lets me know what’s been rung in, what’s been used from the keg, and gives me accurate numbers.”

Besides the obvious advantage of accuracy, the other win for this technology is the time it saves, Blattner explains. “Can I do that stuff? Absolutely. But I have other things to do.”

Blattner mostly uses the app for SteadyServ, though he can access it easily from his computer, too. He uses it to track beer use, to learn if there are problems with the kegs, and to keep a running inventory so he can see in real time what’s selling.

Outsourcing comes down to time for everyone who does it.

“It frees up time for the bookkeeper and controller if we outsource payroll,” says Louie & Chan’s Wiesner. “Outsourcing makes more sense on the bottom line, on the time being saved so it can be spent on more important things and we can hold [the outsourced company] fully accountable.”

The only downside, he says, is if that company makes mistakes, which happened once before when he tried outsourcing payroll, so he is a little gun shy. “Then it’s difficult to fix it and get into the system and rectify their errors,” he says. This time he’ll use a smaller company, where it’s easier to speak to a human being if there is a problem, he says.

And on the plus side, “we’ve done it for so long that if they don’t deliver, we can bring it back in-house with no problem.”

At the end of the day, he says, “it comes down to freeing up time and using the brainpower of people who are over-experienced for tasks that help our business excel. We’ll save a little actual cash but we’ll win on a much bigger level since our energy is freed up too.”