Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Myths About Managing a Bar That Could Hurt Your Business

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Thu, Aug, 02, 2012 @ 16:08 PM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

Myth: Bartending School Is Vital for a Bartender

FalseMany of the best bartenders learn most of their useful trade while at work. This is because bartending schools vary widely in quality. Some emphasize the preparation of rarely requested drinks without stressing useful skills such as bar management, customer satisfaction, and customer safety. If you are hiring a bartender, you should consider the school he or she has attended, but testing practical skills will give the best clue of how many useful skills the person has for waiting on your bar. If you are considering attending a bartending school, investigate the school to make sure that you will be taught skills such as organization and techniques of serving. A good bartending school or course will emphasize dealing with customers. Be wary of a bartending school that is more of a "drink mix" school, stressing mixing many types of drinks without teaching anything besides drink preparation. There are many of these sorts of schools out there, which claim that a bartender's greatest asset is knowing how to mix an endless variety of drinks. Learning to mix the latest drink is relatively simple once one looks up the recipe, and most patrons will order the most popular drink of the moment rather than some obscure mix. A bartender with a good grasp of people and basic bartending techniques is usually more useful than the bartender who only knows how to mix hundreds of drinks from memory but has few skills besides. In some cases, an employee with a hospitality degree is better able to handle the bar job than someone who has attended a bartender school.


Myth: If You Hire Experienced Employees, There Is No Need to Train Them

 You still need to train your employees to ensure that they understand what you want them to do. In cases where an employee has worked at another establishment for a while, you may actually need to provide additional training to allow the employee to get used to the way you want things done versus how they did things at their previous job.


Myth: Hiring Younger Serving Staff Is Best

Many bar managers mistakenly believe that hiring young female servers will help ensure a high customer loyalty. This is based on the belief that middle-aged men are the main patrons of bars, which is no longer the case. When hiring servers or other staff, you should consider experience and skill over age or physical appearance. In most states, hiring based on age or appearance is discriminatory and can lead to lawsuits.


Myth: The Customer Is Always Right

Bar managers want the customer to be happy enough to return and satisfied enough to recommend the establishment to others. It is never wise to argue with a customer, and if the difference of opinion is something quite small, it is better to humor the customer in order to avoid making him or her feel embarrassed. On the other hand, if the customer insists that he or she is not intoxicated and can drink more, for example, then they should be refused further drinks.


Myth: Security Staff Is Vital in Today's Bar

Security does add a certain peace of mind, but at many establishments, it is still the bartender who acts primarily as the security force of the bar. Where your security comes from depends on your location and bar. If you decide you do not need a separate security staff, however, make sure that the bartender or some other personnel are willing to help customers in case of an incident.


Myth: To Run a Successful Bar, Just Serve Great Drinks

While quality drinks are a key to bar success, many people go to bars to spend time with others. If you serve good drinks but offer exceptional atmosphere and service, you are likely to do well. In today's competitive world, great drinks alone are not enough. Bar managers need to have good financial planning and careful advertising and marketing and offer great customer service in order to be a success.


Myth: You Can Cut Corners to Increase Profits

Reducing costs or cutting corners (reducing the size of drinks or firing staff) is unlikely to help. Customers expect more from bars than ever before. Offering them less is unlikely to bring you the results you want. If you are just starting out, it may take months to see a profit. If you have been in business for a while, increasing customers and getting more from each customer by encouraging spending and lingering are far better strategies than downsizing in order to make a profit.


Myth: You Must Keep Expanding in Order to Make a Profit

Many bar managers think that in order to make a large profit, they need to dabble in everything. For this reason, many bars spend large amounts of money setting up dance floors, live acts, larger establishments, and restaurants. When you are just starting out, though, it is often best to keep things simple. Do not expand randomly, assuming that spending more money will bring in more money. Only expand after careful research and weighing the potential risks and benefits. You do not want to get into debt for a venture that is unlikely to work for your bar.



This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: Bar staff, bar profitability, NightClub Management, bartenders you can trust, bar business, Bar drinks, Liquor cost, Bar products, drink recipe, liquor products

Bar Management: Standardizing & Optimizing Serving Practices

Posted by John Cammalleri on Thu, Apr, 12, 2012 @ 08:04 AM
By Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Part 2 of 3: Ensure Quality & Avoid Wastage

Mixed Drink Tips

cocktailsMaking a good mixed drink isn't always a matter of A + B = C. In fact, there are numerous small details that can contribute to turning your creation into something just that little bit better than the norm and, more still, that can help you keep your ingredients at peak freshness and productivity. Consider the following:

  • Champagne wastage. Many mixed drinks require champagne or sparkling white wine as an ingredient. Opening a fresh bottle for one drink can be wasteful. Consider purchasing a champagne bottle resealer for your bar, and make sure your bar staff knows how to use it.
  • Keep champagne fresh. If you have a steady flow of champagne drinks in your bar, just drop the handle of a metal spoon into the top of the champagne bottle and put it back in the fridge. This will keep the sparkle in your champagne for up to 12 hours.
  • Is fresh-squeezed orange and lemon juice a selling feature of your cocktail menu? If so, you should know that you'll get a lot more juice from lemons and oranges if you soak them in warm water for a while before juicing them.
  • Stir, don't shake. When a mixed drink consists of clear liquids and/or carbonated beverages, stir it - don't shake it. You don't want your clear liquids to bruise, nor your bubbles to go flat, and shaking the concoction guarantees both will happen.
  • "Difficult ingredients." Mixed drinks containing juices, sugar, eggs, cream, milk, or any other difficult-to-mix ingredient should be shaken - and shaken like crazy. Don't just give the contents a three-second rock around the mixer; give 'em heck!
  • Adding eggs. When you shake a drink that requires an egg, add an ice cube to the shaker. This will help break up the egg and allow it to blend into the drink more easily.
  • Prevent dripping. When serving wine or champagne from the bottle, a clean piece of wax paper rubbed along the rim of the bottle will prevent any dripping when you pour.


Serving Quality Drinks

QualityThe difference between a good and great martini is very small, but very important. The quality of your cocktail menu should be of paramount importance to you. The methods by which those cocktails are prepared should be a point of pride for all concerned.

  • Presentation. The color and presentation of any exotic mixed drink is key, and by adjusting the amounts of key ingredients, the bartender can not only change the color of a drink, but can also adapt it to suit any taste. Impress the customers by asking how they like their drinks mixed. Would he like it sweet? Does she like it dry? Maybe a little easy on a key ingredient? Often they'll have no preference, but in asking you'll impress the finicky customer.
  • The process of drink creation can be as important as the drink itself. A little showmanship in the preparation of a drink may slow the process down a touch. Also, if the performance is good and the bartender shows personality, your customers might not mind a little longer wait.
  • Garnishes. Maraschino cherries, olives, a sprig of mint, a stick of celery, banana, lemon, lime, all carefully prepared, an investment in fridge space, and a bartender who is quick with a paring knife - they can all set your mixed drinks off with a sparkle. The right garnish is as important as the right ingredients.
  • Novelty glassware. Most bars consider glassware as merely a vessel in which to serve drinks, but the clever operators see that using exotic and novelty glassware and building the cost of the glass into the drink price can bring customers flocking to that drink in order to get the free glass.


This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Bar & Beverage Operation, authored by Chris Parry, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: Bar inventory, bar efficiency, bar profitability, Bar drinks, Bar Management, drink recipe, bar control, Drink Recipes

Drink Recipes and Their Impact on Cost Reductions and Profitability

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Tue, Sep, 06, 2011 @ 11:09 AM
drink recipesBy Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing
Just because mixes aren't a drink's main ingredients, one shouldn't ignore their impact upon your operation's profitability. There is considerable scope for trimming costs in this area. Despite being sold in small portions, drink mixes have a high overall sales volume; it is also predictable and consistent. Review the range of drink mixes used in your establishment. It all helps to reduce costs.
  • Fresh orange juice. It is worth investing in a good commercial juicer for orange juice. A handy tip is to rinse oranges under hot water before placing them in the juicer - the juice yield will be higher.

  • From scratch drink mixes. Preparing a whole range of drink mixes from scratch is too time-consuming, and all too often, results in inconsistent quality. You're better off buying ready-made mixes. Test samples of mixes before making a decision. Prepared mixes can vary considerably in taste and quality.

  • Cut garnish costs. Your choice of garnishes to accompany drink mixes can, quite literally, eat into your profits. Bartenders are notorious for nibbling olives, cherries, pineapple wedges, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, pretzels, etc. Remove temptation. Store garnishes in airtight containers in a cooler, away from temptation. Also, establish par levels for fruit garnishes and only prepare enough for one shift.

  • Unusual juices. Use single-portion 6-ounce cans for less-frequently-served juices. Trade higher cost for reduced wastage, time saving and convenience.

The recipes you choose to feature on your drinks menu must do more than satisfy customer require­ments. Plan carefully; a lot of thought needs to go also into keeping costs down, while at the same time maintaining a fine reputation for quality and imagination. This is no mean task, but the following simple suggestions may help:
  • Communicate your recipe preparation techniques. Add a brief description about your unique preparation techniques underneath each recipe on the drinks menu. Tempt your customers to try "something different." The secret lies in your method of communication, rather than in the actual recipes themselves.

  • Highballs. Although highballs can be served in a variety of different-sized glasses, the ideal size for maximum efficiency and controlling costs is a 9-ounce glass. It accommodates the exact proportions for a standard highball recipe. The glass looks full to capacity; the customer is happy. Also, you know that the portions of ingredients are correct.
  • Recipes on napkins. Dare to be different. Get some recipes you want to promote printed on napkins. It's different, and it's a good marketing tool. It also channels customers into ordering the recipes that you want them to buy. Choose the "special" recipes on the basis of higher profit margins, but promote them as "added value" recipes.
  • Mobile mini-bar. As well as serving recipe drinks from the main bar, introduce a mini-bar on wheels. Get a bartender to wheel it around, selling "taster recipes" at promotional prices. The spontaneity of this approach is excellent for generating extra income.


This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Controlling Liquor Wine & Beverage Costs, authored by Elizabeth Godsmark, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: Bar Management, drink recipe, Drink Recipes

Pricing Your Drinks: The Need for a Structured Approach

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Jul, 13, 2011 @ 11:07 AM
pricing drinksBy Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Structuring a Price List


Guesswork just won't do in today's corporate world. Figuring that if your scotch costs you $14 a bottle you can sell a shot for $3, is just a little hit-and-miss when you take in all the other potential costs, like rent, insurance and wages, that your establishment has to cover over the course of a month. It's possible you might be able to charge less than $3, but it's also possible you should be charging way more. Take these factors into account when making your next price list adjustment:

  • Market positioning. Take a look around at what your competitors are charging. Figure out if you need to undercut them or match their level. Does your establishment give added value enough to increase your prices and still draw a good crowd? Are you a level above them in terms of services and product? Are you evenly matched? Are you looking for a more "low rent" crowd? Price accordingly.
  • The competition. They're not always right, but if they've been around a while, your direct competitors probably have a good gauge of what your local customers are prepared to pay for a drink. Take the time to look around and take particular note of any specials they offer on certain nights.
  • Customer demographics. Are your patrons blue-collar workers? Are they white-collar? Do they have families to get home to or are they likely to stay all night and spend every penny? Are they young adults or senior citizens? These all impact what you can charge without losing clientele, and you should have the information already from your market research.
  • Embrace simplicity. It's far better for your customers and staff to have to deal with a simple pricing structure as opposed to forcing them to break their brains over an intricate maze of differently priced products. Set across- the-board levels of prices; for example, well spirits might cost $3, middle-shelf $3.50 and top-shelf $4. Of course there's always going to be the occasional variation, but for the most part, a three-tiered system gives you flexibility in pricing without your staff continually needing to check a price list or hand out handfuls of change.
  • Include tax in your pricing. There's nothing worse than getting $0.84 change from a five- dollar bill on every drink you buy and getting home with a pocket full of silver and copper. If you're going to set your prices at a round level, include the tax in that price so you can use price levels to your advantage. If your alcohol tax rate is 10 percent, the non-tax price for a shot that costs your patrons $3.50 would be $3.18 ($3.18 plus tax of $0.32 equals $3.49). Let your accountant do the math, not your bar staff. Sales tax is a complicated matter that varies dramatically from state to state. Prior to estab­lishing the net price inclusive of tax, discuss the issue with your accountant and state Department of Revenue. Don't find out later in a five-year audit that you've been calculating the tax incorrectly.



This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Bar & Beverage Operation, authored by Chris Parry, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: bar business, Bar drinks, Bar Management, Liquor cost, alcohol cost, drink recipe