October 17, 2016

Unhappy Hour: 1 in every 6 drinks free

Happy Hour is a time proven strategy to attract bar guests at quiet times.

The effort and energy used to promote Happy Hour can be amazing, with arising back slapping and hi-5’s if successful.

On the flip side have you heard of “Unhappy Hour”, the time in every bar, in every minute 1 in every 6 drinks is given away free?


Studies show that bars are so focused on what’s being served over the bar that few pay attention to what’s being spilt, wasted or over poured onto the counter or floor.

Here’s how: Either free pouring or using a jigger it’s far too easy to not stop or control a liquor pour stream once a bottle is tilted. After the alcohol is dispensed, one needs to pull the bottle upwards to stop the flow of more alcohol, which is easier said than done.

Putting some numbers behind the losses comes down to timing, science teaches us that it takes 3 seconds to pour 1 oz or 30mL of alcohol or 1 second to pour 1/3 oz or 10 ml.

So in just a blink of the eye, a quick glance away from the pouring action or erratic hand/eye co-ordination can cause an easy over pour.

Here’s how the liquor loss can be broken down by tool used:

  • 1/10 - 1/6 Oz (3-5ml) over-poured via a speed pourer.
  • 1/10 - 1/6 Oz (3-5ml) from the bubble or lens naturally forming at the top of a jigger.

So here’s some totals:

  • Metric: 3 ml + 3 ml = 6 ml, per 30 ml shot
  • US/Imperial 1/10th +1/10th = 1/5th Oz per 1Oz shot

So why is it so easy to give away so much alcohol. Again this issue comes down to the consequence of poor bartender training/compliance together with the use of inaccurate pour quality pourers and jiggers.

When Inventory control folks see discrepancies in the numbers guess who they start blaming, bartenders.

Is it then really fair to blame bartenders for not performing when the culprit usually can be traced back to an under investment in cheap, poor performing tools?

For owners/ops managers  wanting to change the outcome, a re-tool is needed. The good news is that it doesn’t cost that much, with busy bars potentially recouping their total investment costs within 4-10 weeks from implementing.