Being in business for yourself is tough. It’s lonely at the top, and there are far too many times when getting some sound advice would make all the difference in the world. The problem with advice is that it better be right on target or it will only make matters worse. There’s the rub. What you need is to find someone who knows the business so thoroughly that the individual can quickly identify your specific situation and deliver advice that is credible and on target. Yet finding that person when you’re in need can be as challenging as the business situation you find yourself in.
Enter Sean Finter. In 1999, the Canadian native started Barmetrix, a beverage consulting firm in Sydney, Australia. At the time he was a restaurateur, a career choice that didn’t suit his personality. Having already worked in many different types of restaurants in Toronto and the United Kingdom and owning several venues in Sydney, he found that being anchored to one location had become stifling. Based on his experiences starting and operating food and beverage establishments, he realized he could share his accrued knowledge to help others avoid the pitfalls all operators face.
According to Finter, helping others succeed at their businesses seemed a loftier goal than working solely for himself. “I love building restaurants and getting them to the point where they’re profitable, but I’m not a guy who likes to sit back and count the chickens when things are up and running. I started Barmetrix to serve 100 clients, 100 people … that needed the help, and we achieved that goal in our first few of years in business. That’s how we got started, and we now have offices in Australia, the U.K., Canada and the U.S., with Washington, D.C., as the head office for the U.S.”
Finter and Barmetrix now have worked with more than 1,000 on-premise accounts since the company’s inception. The services Barmetrix offers are nearly universal in their application. In other words, if your business has bar stools, glassware and a bottle opener, Barmetrix can help you generate greater profits.
“There are three principal areas of management that we focus on,” Finter says. “The first is inventory. The average bar and restaurant in the U.S. loses over 20% of their inventory every week. Or another way of putting it, 20 out of every 100 drinks sold go missing or unaccounted for. This typically is in the form of free drinks that do not get rung up, overpouring by staff, theft and short deliveries. We look to reduce those losses to less than 3%. That represents a considerable savings.”
Barmetrix achieves this goal by providing a series of prerequisites to an effective inventory system. Armed with laptops and electronic scales, Barmetrix’s trained technicians can track inventory usage down to the milliliter. The company also offers its clients the option of using the system to track inventory themselves. A Barmetrix consultant then will produce the final reports and consult with the client. This ensures that a third party is still analyzing the data.
Bartender training is another aspect of Barmetrix. The company developed POURtrainer, a standalone system that can be purchased by any hospitality venue to train staff. Utilizing specially designed interactive software, the system analyzes bartenders’ speed, accuracy, adherence to recipes, pouring techniques and knowledge of drink prices. The program identifies each bartender’s strengths and weaknesses and then compares results with the bartender’s peers.
The third aspect of Barmetrix’s services — Pulse-Plus — is designed to ensure that management and employees are on the same page of the playbook. “Nearly every bar or restaurant lives or dies based upon the experience guests have in their stores,” Finter asserts. “That experience has to be remarkable and has to be delivered by a Gen-Y workforce. Managing that with one, two or even 10 venues can be challenging. Managing that experience with a few dozen or more venues is almost impossible. So we created Pulse-Plus. It’s a private web portal customized for each group that increases engagement, service and knowledge, all the while decreasing turnover and the pervasive feeling that the staff is never heard. We’ve been told by clients that it’s the most exciting thing that they’ve come across in years.”
So is there a beverage operation that Barmetrix can’t help? In Finter’s estimation, the answer is an unqualified yes. “To be honest, we can only help beverage operators who are ready to embrace change. We can implement great processes and procedures. We’ve got a lot of great coaches and we’re good at planning and making things visual, but none of that matters if people don’t really want to change how they’re conducting their business.”
Finter goes on to explain that people in financial straits are eager to embrace change, primarily because the absence of change means that they’re out of business and everyone loses. Successful businesses also embrace change. They’re looking at how to become better, how to improve things for the next year and five years beyond that. Operators on both ends of the spectrum want to take on a new set of initiatives. He considers them Barmetrix’s prime clientele.
In a high-risk industry like the food and beverage business, Finter believes that success comes to those who focus on guest engagement.
“If you can’t draw your service strategy out on the back of a cocktail napkin, then I don’t believe you have one,” Finter contends. “If you’re asking a 22-year-old to be the face of your business, and you can’t write out or draw a picture of your strategy on a napkin, you simply don’t have one. A 300-page manual just doesn’t do the trick anymore. To be successful, you need to know what you want and keep that objective in clear focus. We are in the energy management business. When we keep that right, we do really great things, and I promise you that your financial viability will improve.”
After everything is said and done, one of the most impressive qualities about Finter is that he delivers his advice with the quiet confidence of a caring uncle. Few people with his extensive hands-on experience are as obviously grounded as he. So if you’re in the market to change the direction your business is headed, give him a call. As they say, the results are guaranteed.