If you’ve attended the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, you’re familiar with Thom Greco. The president of Thom Greco Holdings, Inc. moderated a panel of Bar Rescue experts, posing questions to a panel made up of Phil Wills, Mia Mastroianni and Chef Nick Liberato, who provided plenty of priceless advice for attendees. “If you can take one idea home with you and use it to your success, you will have an edge on your competition,” said Thom before he and the panel dove into their presentation.
Phil Wills, a flairtender, mixologist and molecular mixologist with 15 years in the industry working at corporate restaurants, clubs and bars and eight episodes of Bar Rescue under his belt, is all about what he calls moments of truth. “There are three things that customers do when they walk into your establishment: look, consume, converse,” he said. His aim is to provide his guests with more positive moments of truth than negative. One of the most effective ways to achieve this goal is through cleanliness. "In the bar, you're always cleaning all the time,” so he advised attendees to create a list for cleaning. Phil is also a massive proponent of the Wow Factor. “We're in the business to create reactions, and that reaction is that Wow Factor,” he exclaimed, “If it makes me go wow, I know it's going to do well!”
Mia Mastroianni aka Tall Mia aka Factory Mia has over 10 years in the industry and is known for her speed, efficiency, proper technique and organization behind the bar. She’s also the Cocktail Engineer at Soho House West Hollywood and a winner of the Miss Speed Rack competition. Mia explained her expertise in her trademark efficient manner: “I am a bartender. I am in the trenches.” One of the best ways to achieve efficiency behind the bar is through preparation, consistency and standards. Wouldn’t drink a cocktail the way you or one of your bartenders just made it? Then don’t send it out. She recommended that bartenders set up their stations so they never have to leave it the rest of their shift. In terms of consistency, Mia applies what she calls the Cosmo Test (a bar test she created). Have all the bartenders at your venue make cosmos and analyze the results; they should all be the same. If they aren’t, get the bartenders together, create a recipe list for all cocktails and get everyone on board. As for hiring bartenders, Mia advised everyone to hire for personality: “You can teach anybody anything but you can't teach passion.”
Chef Nick Liberato aka Chef Nicky, has 18 years in the business, starting in a produce stand in South Philly. His specialties are Northern and Southern Italian cooking and he has 6 episodes of Bar Rescue to his fame. While he’s a successful chef, he also has front of house expertise and maintains that details make all the difference: “Don't worry about the money right now. Worry about getting it right and the money will follow.” His approach to consistency in standards is to cross train his staff so they understand what goes on behind the bar and in the kitchen. “When you get your hands in it, you can speak from experience,” he told the room. When hiring, protect your brand: “Don't sacrifice anything in your establishment; these people are going to represent your business.”
To a roar of applause, Jon Taffer took the stage to close the presentation. He pointed out that Thursday, the day after the final day of the Nightclub & Bar Show, would be the most important for everyone who attended. This is because, of course, Thursday everyone would be reflecting on what they had learned. The great, Jon explained, would apply what they had learned at Nightclub & Bar 2015 while the mediocre would not. He then asked the room if they had learned something they could take home and apply to their businesses. “Then do it!” he shouted in Taffer style, “Because we don't want to have to come rescue you!”