September 23, 2015
In a world of technological advancement – where the prospect of attaining information and answers requires only the click of a button – is it possible to solve the age-old dilemma of causality?
Forget the vexed question of chicken or egg; we’re confronting the more pressing issue of which came first, the theme of the bar or the widespread trend.
Take Tiki culture for example, an enduring concept used in restaurants and bars primarily in the United States and to a lesser extent around the world.
Tiki culture first gained traction in 1934, with the opening of Don the Beachcomber in California – a Polynesian-themed restaurant and bar. Serving Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punch, this exciting new establishment was decked out in pacific cane furniture, bamboo torches and flower leis.
Don Beach, the owner of what came to be this popular and extensive chain, has even been credited for the innovation of several Tiki cocktails that have stood the test of time.
One establishment, that drew inspiration from and went on to rival the Don the Beachcomber brand was Trader Vic’s, which also grew to international fame.
From here, Tiki culture spread like wildfire, with fruity, tropical cocktails packed with the punch of rum popping up everywhere, including Hollywood – where the Mai Tai featured heavily in the film Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley – before coming to a calm at the end of the decade.
Tiki culture then surfed its way back into the U.S.A on the wave of alcoholic globalization that followed the Second World War, as soldiers previously stationed in the South Pacific wanted to celebrate the good times and forget about the bad.
This time, however the bartenders raised the benchmark for quality cocktails by introducing flavours inspired by the cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti and the Philippines.
As all good things do, Tiki culture came to an end in the 1970’s where it was seen as incredibly kitsch – nothing but a lowbrow style of mass-produced popular culture.
Until more recently, Tiki cocktails – the Zombie in particular – were resurrected by bartenders working in the nooks and crannies of hipster havens across the globe.
Still served in a traditional Tiki mug, the classic cocktails continue to reach new standards as the bartenders interject a modern twist.
While a history of Tiki culture makes it look as though the theme of Don the Beachcomber fuelled a widespread trend, others would argue that the venue simply amplified the relaxed lifestyle of tropical cultures that we as consumers already adored.
So instead of offering a definitive response we dare to question:
When the quality of establishments continues to peak and our cocktail preferences are consistently met, does it really matter if theme trumps trend or does it point to the futility of identifying the first case of a circular cause and effect?
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September 18, 2015
September 13, 2015
Most of us are guilty of flipping a bottle, can or packet to check the content label for the sugar, fat and preservatives contained therein.
Many of us understand: we are what we eat; therefore cant the same be said about the things we drink too: such as spirits, wine and sparkling (SWS)?
Soft drinks and most beers routinely display nutritional information on content labels, strangely though (SWS) do not!
In a quickly changing world what would happen when consumers demand the same level of nutritional compliance on SWS.
Spirits in particular are renowned for using generic marketing descriptors to evoke some form of emotional connection via history and processes to differentiate against competing offers.
In the US there’ve been famous court cases started by consumer activists over “misleading claims” made by Distillers concerning what the terms “handmade” and/or “ hand crafted” really mean?
Is it only a matter of time before consumers ask far more vexing questions moving beyond “authenticity”, to demand total transparency on the contents of the liquids they drink?
We suspect this prospect may be lurking around the corner, if so, there’ll be tremendous changes on the way SWS are packaged, advertised and marketed.
Further down the track what would happen when bars, clubs and pubs are required to list on cocktail menus, calories, sugar, fat, preservatives on every drink served?
Are you prepared?
September 02, 2015
How long should a guest wait for their drink? Or, the real question should be; whilst a cocktail can take anywhere from 10 seconds to 5 minutes (or more!) to make, what's a reasonable wait time for a customer to be both intrigued and fascinated by a mixologist/bartender making a drink?
Depending on a number of factors, the style of the bar, the skill set of the bartender and how busy the venue is, the wait time can vary tremendously.
Many rookies transitioning from bartender to owner do not necessarily take timing into account. When looking at potential guest wait time, there appears to be a laissez faire or, "she'll be fine" attitude. Sadly, a wrong decision made at the very onset may doom a bars income generation and profitability.
So when making a cocktail what are some factors you need to take into account. Below we have identified key elements that need to be considered to ensure efficiency, management of your guest’s expectations and positive turnover.
- The number of separate ingredients and how long they take to gather and combine
- How much will the drink sell for, versus cost and time to make?
- Can you make an 80 per cent GP and still sell the drink? What's the expected sell price, versus the cost price, including labour
- How many people are making drinks behind the bar?
- Are there pre-batched ingredients on hand for more popular / high volume selling drinks?
- What type of venue is it? i.e. High volume cocktail bar, speak-easy, dive bar
- What are the guest’s expectations?
- Do you have a clear drinks philosophy?
- What's the expected spend per guest target?
- What’s the demographics of your patrons?
- Who is your competition in the area?
- Is your bar set-up so staff can move quickly and efficiently?
- Do you have a glassy/bar back support to help?
Reflecting carefully on each of the questions will determine the ideal time your bar can turn a multi-drink order around. Ultimately, it's the guest and what's left in the till at the end of a shift that will be the ultimate arbiter of how long the average drink should take to make!
August 27, 2015
Behind every great bar there are great brands, great bartenders and great tools – the perfect combination for delivering liquid gold to thirsty guests. But, when the competition is literally only a few steps down the road, quality, value and consistency (QVC) become the real metrics to use when measuring success. Unfortunately, as a business it is a lot easier to stock the bar with top-shelf product than it is to deliver top-notch QVC.
Quality and value are both driven by related factors, yet contrary to popular thinking, consistency is not something that automatically occurs from success in these two areas. Instead, consistency is something that much be practiced and earned until a staff member holds the ability to replicate an exact outcome every time, regardless of either quality or value.
In a mixed drink, success in consistency requires a correctly portioned amount of alcohol to be delivered, without wastage, into its final serve – no variation in volume, taste, or appearance. Of course, this is often something that is easier said than done.
We’ve all returned to a bar and ordered a repeat drink that tasted completely different to when it was previously consumed.
This common occurrence begs the question: how can two drinks, made by the same bartender with identical ingredients taste so different?
It is the pouring paradox; great spirits brands are manufactured consistently, yet at the point of serve if the spirits are not poured by a bartender using proper measuring and pouring tools, then certainty changes and consistency is no longer guaranteed.
More than just an annoyance, unwittingly this same inconsistency affects venue profits. When customers (even subconsciously) don’t know what to expect from the next order they tend to migrate away from a prepared, mixed alcoholic beverage on to the certainty of a bottled drink alternative – which are almost always sold at lower price points with a lower margin. It is a sad truth known as ‘category swapping’ and is a constant that could have been avoided.
As a business outcome, consistency becomes an important pivot around which quality and value live, and something a reputation depends on.
With increased inconsistency comes poor quality and a greater loss in value - the failure to make the few-hundred-dollar investment in accurate bar tools has then allowed for a far more detrimental impact than many publicans or managers imagine.
August 23, 2015
For most of us in the industry there lies a certain mysterious air around Japan, a secretive knowledge of history that is far deeper than pre-prohibition cocktails or the preferred drink of English Kings. It is not an understanding of fact or instance but of earthly pursuits— of precision and order.
Japanese bartending is unique in the sense that it extends beyond the way a drink tastes, and though the finest and most considered ingredients are often used, drinking in Japan is not spawned from a cocktail list, but rather a cocktail experience.
For those working in Japan a “classic” is more than a recipe, it is instead something of noble tradition—and making these classics become an art well before the final pour. Like seasoned chefs or dojo masters, many aspiring high-level Japanese bartenders have been known to train for years before ever stepping foot behind a bar during service. However once there, they craft cocktails with restrained perfection, carve ice with seeming ease, and embody the ethics of hospitality to the very core.
Western visitors have commented that when served in the finer bars of Tokyo, the cocktail was placed in front of them with the same level of care as when a jeweller places his most expensive diamond on a mat for viewing. The result is a drink so beautiful, so perfect and so steeped in ritual that a customer is almost afraid to breathe in its presence for fear of ruining the illusion. By the time he or she is ready to sip they have formed such connection to the experience that the night will likely never be forgotten.
Of course there is a downside to such craft, especially when transferred out of the small private dining clubs of Tokyo – many which only sit 10 to 12 patrons. In a less ridged market, where even a small bar can mean upwards of 100 guests at any given time, the ability to meet volume and still maintain such severe and rigorous talent is obviously taxed.
So what can you take away from Japanese bar culture? What is possible (or moreover feasible) to duplicate in your bar?
The answer, at any level, is refinement.
If you are a large bar, refine the ritual of how you value customers, do you welcome them? Do you listen to them? Are your glasses clean? While you may not have the time or capacity to provide a full experience, refining the points of hospitality that are often ignored – like greeting, is a step at harnessing the respect and professionalism Japanese bartenders communicate to their guests.
If you are a mid-tier bar, refine you tools. Replace worn glassware, teach a proper hard shake (the technique was invented in Japan), and invest in stirring or straining equipment that provide a level of imperial dignity to the acts. Equipment that is streamlined and easy to use across stations allow for more elegant applications of technique, even in higher volume situations. Most importantly once you have the proper tools to facilitate heighten technique (in little time) ensure they are respected.
If you are a craft bar, refine your presentation. Allow guests to connect with their drinks as closely as your bartenders who create them. Allow them to watch as the whisk(e)y is gently poured over the rounded ice, and then swirled to chill, using an elegant, extra-long bar spoon with a trident on one end that is so revered in Japan. Develop a higher level of theatre and consistency that will translate in their eyes into intrigue, remembered experience, and loyalty. Take notice of BarShido, our notion of the study, repetition and respect attained from a long and practiced pursuit.
For those who possess the right environment and a level of commitment, making the benefits of Japanese bar culture more readily utilised is not a difficult feat. There are many additional techniques that can be easily learned by top level professionals. Have a look at the following styles explored by industry experts who have made a point to see the ritual culture of presentation travel well across international markets.
August 14, 2015
Checking in with your customers is a valuable part of the business cycle. Through surveys, social media, or even word of mouth, it is important to gather feedback properly… and ask for it correctly.
We’ve all likely been surveyed incorrectly before, asked to weight in even though the questions provided were so leading or sugar-coated that it was impossible to generate honest feedback.
Though these types of prompts can certainly produce ego-boosting results, they ignore general areas of concern — the very aspect that makes asking for customer response wholly beneficial.
Without uncovering points to focus and improve on, any survey losses its true insight, the type of information your staff needs to know in order to learn and progress.
Asking customers for help requires the implication that we intend to respect their time by ensuring their answers always lead to a payoff, be it improved service, an enhanced product or a better experience ahead.
Asking the no-holds-barred questions, especially publically, takes guts – but becoming vulnerable, stirring the dust, and opening up to the hard truths will lead to the benefits customers ultimately desire.
Ask how you can better your business, not what a favourite product or experience was, opt for candor over candy!
Candor is that ability to look honestly at your business’s reflection, to see not only areas of light, but also those that shadows cast across the mirror of your customer’s involvement.
Hospitality is about learning and delivering quickly, even if that means sometimes uncovering areas of your business that you would rather hide - it is much better to jump off a cliff and unpack a parachute on the way down then it is to unexpectedly fall later.
August 07, 2015
In a world where communication is increasingly disconnected, hospitality remains inherently human. At a number of points, our industry has the opportunity to provide real interactions that can turn into remembered experiences within guest’s hearts.
This personal nature, expressed through everything from first-impressions to final goodbyes, can potentially become another competitive advantage for your venue; as long as you manage to convey it authentically.
Ironically, this same warmth, responsiveness and care can be projected even before a customer meets your staff face-to-face. Follow this script below to transform an unknown visitor into an instant raving fan – all before they actually arrive at your venue. Sound impossible? Give the role-play below a try!
Phone rings in a restaurant…
Staff Member: Good afternoon… this is [NAME OF VENUE]
Guest: Hi I’d like to make a reservation for… at… on…
Staff Member: Certainly Sir/Ma’am, it will be our pleasure. May l ask if this is your first time joining us or are you a returning guest?
If he or she is a first-time guest…
Staff Member: We are looking forward to welcoming you and your friends, and we’re looking forward to providing a wonderful evening.
Is there anything specific you’d like us to take care of before you arrive, say a special occasion?
The conversation continues shortly thereafter.
This is a the first big step towards an ultimately happy, or daresay ecstatic, guest— one who is looking forward to a new experience and is confident in the knowledge that their friends will be happy with the choice of venue selected.
From here manually input the details gathered on your reservation system, noting NEW GUEST and special requirements (if any).
With this system, needs and expectations of the group are assessed, and staff members are aware of potential areas to go above and beyond— all before the evening begins.
Follow through ensures when the guests arrive, whoever welcomes them will be able to maintain expectations and extend the personal connection established at the very first touch point.
If the person calling is a returning guest, make use of the same system by pulling up the guest’s history (if on file). Continue by noting anything relevant and informing front of house staff to look for further opportunities to add nice touches or a friendly flourishes to the visit.
There are so many more extra touches your staff members can add throughout the evening to enhance guest experience, critical of course that each team member in your chain of service is willing to pay attention and provide the same level of care.
This level of consideration is usually provided at top tier venues. The creation of higher customer service standards particularly when not initially expected can really resonate with guests and can easily (and almost effortlessly) become the difference between sending off a one-time diner and welcoming back a life-long regular.
August 04, 2015
We all know how hard bar-tending can be - even simple mixed drinks are far from child’s play when a night is busy and nerves are high. The jigger jitters are real, and as all of us can attest, just pouring alcohol from a bottle into its final serving place can be fraught with shakes, quakes and trouble.
A slip of the hand, bump of the bottle, every innocent mishap creates potential SOWO for your venue’s bottom line. That’s Spills, Over-pouring, Wastage, Ouch – and this is an acronym none of us have time for.
In an average bar SOWO accounts for a 3-5 mL (1/10-1/6Oz) loss on every 30 mL (1Oz) shot of alcohol served, multiply this by how many serves are poured daily and you’re looking at a massive volume of liquor forfeited yearly.
Mistakes happen at all levels, but pinpointing the difference between an occasional misstep and a pattern of poor performance can save a significant amount of your stock and sanity.
Recognizing bar-tending bad habits is the first step to stopping SOWO, here’s some of the potential warning signs:
Holding a bottle in an awkward or unusual manner making it difficult to stop or better control a pouring process potentially results in over-pouring alcohol. This problem is usually easy to fix with proper training, however if the behaviour is a result of general carelessness or laziness this may be a sign of other risk factors.
Flash Over Function
Unusual bottle cuts and martial moves based on show rather than care can increase the frequency of mistakes and disrupt the work flow of a bar with collisions, distractions, spilt drinks the result.
Nothing is a bigger risk factor than good old-fashioned sloppiness. A need to slow down is often difficult to distinguish from a lack of care, and a staff member with little to no pride in their work is challenging to correct.
A safe pouring process requires the filling of a jigger to capacity, stopping the liquid flow from a bottle, and then emptying the jigger into a glass or shaker. Watch closely for a bartender who cuts corners and dumps the jigger just before it’s full, yet continues to free pour more alcohol into a receiving vessel. This really bad habit is possibly the most costly, as every ½ second of pouring time equates to 5 mL (1/6 Oz) of extra alcohol being poured away FREE!
The best way to stop SOWO is to invest in bar training programs that continuously re-enforce HOW and WHY you want bar practice to be done. Reward good practice, re-inforce bad practice with consequences!
July 24, 2015
In an industry with such a high turnover rate, staffing changes are a constant consideration for any bar manager. Make the right decision and your team’s lives becomes easier, their morale becomes higher, and their work becomes more profitable – but make the wrong decision, and everything can turn around in an instant.
When a dutiful hire turns out to be a dud, recovering is exhausting — especially if it was your job to vet them in the first place.
It can be challenging to develop a system for evaluating potential hires, more so when staff is needed and options are slim. Managing a hospitality team is about selecting diverse people to fill diverse roles, each often requiring a completely different skill set.
The key to selecting a team member, partner, associate, supplier or whoever, is to pay attention and ask the right big-picture questions.
Don’t get snowed by someone who is just a smooth talker if you are hiring for organizational skills. Don’t be fooled by a great look or presence when you are hiring for back of house. Take the time to make sure what you see can match up with what you really need.
Some years ago l read a short article that challenged the reader to apply a scientific thought process to the suitability of an individual for a role or position. It’s easy to think you do this already, but in the moment so much of what you set out to evaluate can be easily be forgotten.
Understanding the need for a process allowed me to look beyond the first impressions (and beyond what I thought of as standard “interview” success) to really make sure I had gathered enough initial information to clarify common success factors.
What do you really need to hit on in order to make role selection possible? The answer can be boiled down to the 4C’s…
Does the person have the knowledge, intellectual skills and experience for the job, position?
Does the person have the personality, character traits to fit into the organisation?
Does the person have the enthusiasm for the role long term, is there a burning desire to succeed, what is their need and or needs?
Does this person have the ability to grow, learn, follow, lead, innovate, apply, assist and build?
Expanding each of the 4C’s into questions specific to the position being considered allowed me to build a clearer picture of what I wanted to see in an ideal applicant.
Running through what you hope to hear from a future hire will allow you to build a clearer picture of who the right person for your job is.
Next time you are hiring, ask the right questions and make sure the contender fits into your 4C’s. With a bit of extra insight you will be one step closer to hiring your next rock star team member.
July 16, 2015
“Am I getting as much as I’ve paid for?”
That’s the question many consumers seem to ponder when drinking wine at a bar or restaurant — and rightly so. How does a consumer know when they are receiving the correct volume serve?
With a mixed drink, value for a customer is simple: a jigger is filled and a shot is measured, but in wine there lies confusion. Consumers are constantly faced with a huge variety of wine glasses, and almost every glass manufacturer has a different idea on what the volume capacity should be for each.
Head into a restaurant using a smaller sized glass and it may be filled to the brim, but visit a venue using a larger volume glass, and a the serve is just a quarter of the way up the glass.
While we in hospitality may easily spot even small variations in bowl size, the communication is not as clear for most sitting at the table.
With the exception of certain European countries where it's the law to serve wine in consistent volumes mentioned on menus and signage, other markets (such as the US, Canada, Australia and many Asian countries) have no obligation to advertise or even advise what a serve entails.
Some venues use glassware with white lines or etchings (called plimsoll lines) to help determine when a correct serving of wine is poured, however consumers are still largely kept in the dark as to what quantifiable amount that measure actually is.
Though plimsoll lines may be better than nothing, they are still at best an estimate of where a designated volume line should be. In many instances the correct volume serves for each category can vary quite significantly – 120mL, 90mL and 60mL, which is the line delineating? Add in Champagne, fortified, and desert wines and additional classifications only further the complexity.
If a customer goes into a supermarket and buys a bag of grapes, they’ll be charged by the standardized weight of the grapes, but ironically, ask to be served the liquid from grapes in a wine bar and the calculated cost is treated very differently.
In an age of transparency, accountability and expectation there is a call for the “glass of wine” to become more tangibly understood. Is it time for wine serves to be standardized and measured just like their spirited brothers? In short, yes.
Consumers have a right and expectation: what is paid for is exactly what they should be getting by volume.
July 09, 2015
The old adage what's not measured is not valued!
This blog is not about comparing the merits of style, art, and experience of free pouring bartenders; but rather the acknowledgement that without measurement, there's no accountability, without accountability, profitability and consistency will surely suffer.
Über recommends always measuring or portion controlling spirits, wine, beer and sparkling wines! See our selection of accurate and cost effective pouring and measuring tools... Click here
One can tell a lot about a business by the activities and actions that are valued; as value determines where focus goes.
Business budgets and projections are judgments based on some form of calculation... lowering the gap between goal and reality requires measurement with arising actions.
There isn't a sports star, business person, doctor, scientist, plumber, architect, politician, exam, race or just about any form of performance activity that's not measured... the exception is what happens behind a bar.
Profit is the ultimate indicator of success in business (NGO's accepted)... The insurance policy one takes to protect profits comes down to the investment one makes in training with the commensurate tools to pour and measure alcohol, accurately and consistently. Über has a range of pouring and measuring tools to assist bars increase profitability, consistency and reduce over-pouring and waste. Click here
The prize for making profit is the chance to come back tomorrow to do it again. The penalty on the other hand: the doors shut!
If you want to quickly increase profits, improve drink quality and consistency whilst reducing unnecessary alcohol wastage one of Über’s tailored pouring solutions will solve your problems full stop... More information Click here