Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Human Resources and Owning your Bar

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Thu, Apr, 14, 2011 @ 13:04 PM



Part 3:Bar working


Human resources is the single most important function in the bar business, yet remains the overlooked, misunderstood, and taken for granted. If the bar manager is responsible for the hiring of staff, then he must have the ability to hire the right kind of people. He must know where to get them, what to look for on an application, and what questions to ask during the interview.  It is necessary to describe what the specific job requires. For example: Bartenders must have the ability to give attention and recognition (the primary reason a customer returns to a particular bar—it’s not the drink!); they must be willing to take direction (the more experienced the bartender, for example, the harder it is to break them of their habits of doing things “their way”); and most importantly they must have a personality! They have to look alive, happy, and think of themselves as “show people,” constantly entertaining.

They must be honest and never succumb to the temptation of drinking while they work. A bar manager who drinks while on shift, or allows his bartenders to imbibe with customers, is not professional and doesn’t know what he’s doing (potential for law suits, uncontrolled environment, no workers comp protection if injured on the job, etc.). He is inviting problems. No job I know of allows workers to drink beverage alcohol while working.

The ultimate success or failure of your bar will be determined by those you hire. How well they do their job with cash and product, the frame of mind they are in when doing their job, and how they directly interact and impress each customer they serve directly affects your bar’s sales, profitability, and the length of time you will stay on as the bar manager.

Do you have a bartender’s manual, cocktail server’s manual, bar back manual, orientation manual, training manuals for all positions, etc., that describes exactly how you want everything done? Do you have the writing skills to create these manuals if need be? Have you documented your house rules about eating, smoking, free drinks, break privileges, payday, schedule posting, dating, using the company telephone, cell phone policy, personal belongings, accidents on the job, switching shifts, cashing checks, when to be at work, serving minors, serving visibly intoxicated people, gambling, holidays, illegal drugs on the property, “to-go” drinks, being on the property when off duty, etc.? You must paint a picture for everyone to follow so that your policies are consistent and there is no misinterpretation. Every rule you could possibly make has to be documented, so you can say, “It’s in the book!”

How do you train your new hires and how do you continue training and motivating the entire staff? A bar manager should be constantly testing the entire bar staff for compliance with house recipes, glassware, garnishes and knowledge about new products and promotions.Do you evaluate your employees’ performance on 180 day intervals? Do you document an employee’s disciplinary problems and retain a copy for the personnel file with a timeframe for improvement? There are so many lawsuits these days over seemingly insignificant problems that it behooves a bar manager to do everything within his power to support his and his company’s position in court. You must have the documentation to do so. Do not become lackadaisical when terminating an employee. You must use a termination form and fill it out

Handling a termination correctly requires knowledge and experience. Many states are “employee at will,” meaning you don’t have to have a reason to fire someone. But this is being challenged nationwide, and you don’t want to be the test case for your state. Therefore—document, document, document! And always have a witness present when you are terminating someone.

You should know whether or not your employees should be allowed access to their personnel file and what they can and cannot see in their file. Do you ask medical questions about your employees? When? During the interview? (No, that’s against the law.) What about the I-9? Are there more forms that can be used to determine identity and eligibility to work besides a driver’s license and social security card? No? Are you sure? Check columns A, B, and C on the back of that form.

What information should you have in the employee’s personnel file to successfully fight an unjustified claim for unemployment compensation? In the event of an injury, do you fill out an injury report for workers’ compensation and send it to your insurance carrier within seven days? 

Do you understand the laws pertaining to the Bureau of Alcohol in your state? Do you understand why it is illegal to “marry” liquor, or why you can’t refill an empty liquor bottle with any other substance? What about the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act)? What does it state? And ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act)? Do you know the laws pertaining to reporting tips, sexual harassment, the Equal Pay Act, the Tip Credit Law, and Overtime Pay Rate for Tipped Employees?

“You have to know all of the laws that pertain to the business you own and are managing. Otherwise, it can be very costly and it could land you in big legal trouble.”If you are in a state that takes a tip credit (paying less than minimum wage), have you informed your employee at the time of hire why you are taking the tip credit and what their rights are as a result? You’re breaking the law if you don’t. If you are paying less than minimum wage (taking the tip credit), do you ever penalize your employees financially for a missing check, a walk-out, being $20 short in the register, the cost of a uniform, etc.? (Nope—it’s against the law!) Can you deduct anything for meals, or the service charge for a tipped charge? Check with your state, as it varies nationally.

You get my point—there is so much to know and be aware of. As a manager, one of the most important rules is: Don’t do anything that gets your owner/business sued. So you must


Know the laws that pertain to the business you are managing. Otherwise, it could be very costly and land you in big trouble.Now that we have scratched the surface of human resources in the bar business and put forth some questions for you to look into, you should have a better understanding of how much there is to know—and we’ve just begun!

Topics: bartending schools, bar business, Bar Management

Running a Bar Vs Managing a Bar

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Apr, 13, 2011 @ 12:04 PM
e-mail: ", web page 

Part 2:bartender

“The ultimate success or failure of your bar will be determined by those you hire. You must paint a picture for staff to follow so that your policies are consistent and there is no misinterpretation.”

As a bartender, you learned and practiced proficiency in bar terminology, product knowledge, mixology, tools of the trade, bar equipment, dealing with the public, cash controls, cleaning, stocking, bar organization, and the laws related to the responsible service of beverage alcohol. To be a bar manager you must continue your learning process far beyond that of a bartender, and here is where we run into a problem— learning the additional, necessary skills needed to effectively manage a bar.

A bar manager must have the knowledge and ability to directly oversee all bar operations and personnel, which includes the processes of hiring, training, evaluating, disciplining, terminating, and scheduling (human resources), and ordering, receiving, inventory controls, product cost purchasing (beverage control). Additionally, he should have the ability to properly price drinks, execute promotions, and pull a shift or two behind the bar to help out on labor costs as well as stay current with drink trends, maintain efficiency, and stay in closer touch with the staff and customers. I believe a good bar manager should work at least two shifts behind the bar every week (and never the same two days).

Topics: bartending schools, Bar trends, Bar Management, bar location

How to Run a Bar?

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Fri, Mar, 25, 2011 @ 11:03 AM
e-mail: ", web page  Bar Management
phone number: (800) 447-4384

Every bar is different. Popular liquors are pretty much the same from bar to bar, but how it gets to the customer—the pour, the glassware, the way it’s made and garnished, and how it’s priced—can vary. So we put the same pour spouts on all the bottles and encouraged the owners to “control the pour.” No more count system (they had four different types of spouts on the liquor bottles, each one wider or faster than the other). They agreed to a controlled pour, went with a 1¼ oz. metal jigger across the board, and made it a requirement that all bartenders measure each shot of liquor. This technique will lower their portion controlrelated losses by 3 to 5%.

A “doghouse” concept was created and implemented (back-up bottles and storage area for each brand of liquor at the bar). They no longer had the operational crisis of running out of liquor at the bar on a busy night. It would never happen again.

Next, we addressed glassware. The highball glass they were using was ten ounces, their shots 1¼ ounces. This was causing the bartenders to over pour each shot in order for the drink to taste right using the correct amount of mix to liquor. This adds up over time.

I explained to the owners the importance of enforcing a drink recipe manual for their bartenders. No bartender should be allowed to make drinks their way. The house gives the bartenders the recipes for all drinks, how they’re to be made, and how they are priced. Bartenders should be routinely tested on the house drink recipes.

We then created inventory control forms for all parts of the liquor inventory. This included a Liquor Requisition form (accounting for the empty bottles at night’s end); Storeroom Perpetual form (accounting for the daily movement of liquor into and out of the storeroom);

We then created inventory control forms for all parts of the liquor inventory. This included a Liquor Requisition form (accounting for the empty bottles at night’s end); Storeroom Perpetual form (accounting for the daily movement of liquor into and out of the storeroom);

Ending Inventory Count form (the physical counting of the liquor at week’s/month’s end); Usage/Cost form (gives you an Operational Pouring Cost percentage and an Actual Pouring Cost percentage number at the end of the reporting period); and an Order form (for all liquor products by vendor). Utilizing these forms creates day-to-day accountability for the liquor inventory and a way to hold the bartenders accountable for what they do.

Of course, the draft beer program was out of control. They were using frozen mugs and pitchers, and they were wasting at least half a keg per brand because of the constant foam problem. We stopped that by simply lowering the temperature in their walk-in cooler to 36 degrees (from 42 degrees) and going to refrigerated glasses instead of frozen. I told them to call their beer distributor and have them install separate pressure regulators for each brand of beer so the internal keg pressure in each brand of draft will equal the amount of pressure coming from the CO2 canister, thereby reducing the amount of foam. Bartenders were taught to open the tap handle from the base of the tap handle, not the top, thereby reducing the pressure that creates foam on the pour.

In doing all this, the number of kegs they had to order each week was cut in half (half!). The beer companies won’t like it, but too bad. I asked them if a beer company ever volunteered to help them out with their foam problem. Of course not! Their taco bar sells a lot of draft beer, and these changes saved big bucks. [Ed. note: See page 34 for more information on draft beer management. 

The owners of this bar/restaurant were very experienced with food service, but had never worked in a bar before. They had no bar skills, yet found themselves in a position of having to make serious, daily operational calls. They hired a bartender/bar manager with 12 years of experience, but his knowledge was still limited. He said he knew a lot about the business, but my conversations with him put him in the same category as so many supposed bar managers—they’re nice people, they mean well, but they don’t know a lot! And it’s not their fault. There are no schools, to my knowledge, that teach “How to run a bar.” You learn by the seat of your pants (and by reading Bar Business Magazine). You bring something with you from the last place you worked that you think will help the new place. Usually, it’s bad habits and bad theory. Not good for the old place, not so good for the new place, either!

I could go on about the improvements we made for this client, like the changes in controlling every bottle of beer, wine, champagne, and energy drink, correcting the tip reporting, and numerous other human resource discrepancies, but I think you get the point. There is so much a qualified bar consultant can do to help you realize the profit potential of your business.

My session with these nice people lasted about five hours. In that time I estimate I put in their pocket—if they follow through with all the changes I suggested—at least an additional $90,000-$120,000 in profit per annum, and probably more.

As such, I recently had a conversation with another bar owner in Augusta, Georgia, who said to me, “We should have hired you before we opened. I know you would have saved us at least $200,000.”

So why didn’t he? 

Topics: bartending schools, NightClub Management, Bar Management