Category Archives: Proper Service

Lessons from the Prohibition Era: Reintroducing Quality Cocktails & a fresh look at profits behind the bar

prohibition

 

Seventy-five years ago, during the Great Depression, Americans cheered and raised a glass to the repeal of prohibition.  Largely viewed as a huge flop — considering that as soon as Congress banned the sale and service of alcohol, consumption rose to record levels (though just how much it increased is tough to judge as “gangsters”  didn’t find it prudent to report their sales to the government) — there are lessons to be  learned from the “noble experiment,” which  can be applied to the recession we face today.

 

During the Great Depression, with expendable income on the decline, people did not slow their drinking; rather, they started drinking more. With the sudden rise in demand for spirits, consumers turned to what was readily available — bathtub gins and whiskeys better suited to removing paint. To stay afloat, bartenders had to be creative. This led to the rise of the cocktail culture, when bartenders added seasonings and other beverages to mask the  taste of inferior spirits.

Today, with the downturn in the economy, the pressure on bars to attract and retain guests is steadily increasing. Uncertain of the financial future, consumers are cutting  out time spent at their favourite establishments. Like the early ‘30s, this is putting the imagination and technical knowledge of today’s bartenders to the test.

But how do you re-introduce the concept of quality cocktails during a recession, when guests have been programmed to enjoy drink menus often designed around speed of service and profit margins?

The first step is to ease consumers into it. A good way to do it is through a fresh cocktail night to introduce the concept to guests rather than force them into a more costly,  unfamiliar cocktail menu right off the bat.

While you may not want to dedicate one night specifically to fresh cocktails, work to create and feature a signature cocktail using fresh ingredients. Put a fresh spin on a

popular or classic drink, such as the Sidecar,  French 75, Manhattan or the Old Fashioned,  which were born out of prohibition using  inferior spirits that still warmed the soul.

Today, with much better ingredients available, your bar can capitalize on the recession by becoming memorable in cocktails.

The second step is to “dare to be different.” Much like guests, many bartenders have become accustomed to using syrup or powdered sweet and sour mixes and the thought of putting an egg in a cocktail is  sure to elicit a shudder or two from some.

While it’s important that we work to educate guests, bartenders may require just as much,  if not more, training on what a quality cocktail entails.

Creating an avant-garde drink list doesn’t necessarily require jumping into molecular mixology, bottling your own bitters or infusing spirits behind the bar. Rather, it involves a little effort and a few fresh, quality ingredients to get you — and your drinks noticed.

The final step is to commit to consistency. This involves everyone involved in cocktail preparation.

By following these three steps, you will reap the rewards during the recession.

However, it’s important to keep in mind these things take time. In the eight decades we’ve been “freely” serving cocktails since the repeal of prohibition, many people have long forgotten what quality is. A few good cocktails may be just what you need to take the edge off.

Also posted in Mixology | Comments closed

Build an army of regulars through proper service

How many of you loved that show Cheers? If you do, you’ll remember that every time Norm walked into the bar on Cheers, the entire bar would call out in unison “NORM!” It didn’t matter who was behind the bar, they knew what he drank, and it was ready and waiting for him as he assumed his position at the end of the bar.

Norm embodied the “regular,” the men and women who frequent your establishment regularly. They are the ones who more often than not, tip well, and don’t ask for any special kind of service. In many cases they are the types who spend thousands a year in your establishment. They are the cornerstones of your business, you certainly can’t afford to lose them, so the question clearly is how do you keep them and how do you get more of them?

I’ve seen lower volume establishments where regulars are praised and glorified, and high volume bars also where they are overlooked with the attitude that “it doesn’t really matter what kind of service they receive, they’ll come back anyway.” In an industry where service is paramount to the success of your business and your frontline service, staff are often on a career stopover on the way to something better, operators need to actively empower their staff to make sure that they you are cultivating long-term relationships with as many clients as possible, and creating experiences that they’ll remember, and come back for.

A good rule of thumb is that management should always be where the money is. If the restaurant is operating, management needs to be making regular rounds checking on guest experiences, not just server problems. Quite often guests will deal with sub-standard service by leaving little or no tip, and leave feeling dissatisfied. Management can circumvent this experience with a quick chat with each table.

Guests are quite often more apt to give negative feedback to someone who is empowered to change the situation. “Mistakes and mishaps are inevitable in any restaurant; if they are handled correctly the guest will take notice. Fixing mistakes promptly and properly can impact guests greatly. Some of our longest running guests started off on the wrong foot, problems were solved and the guests were impressed enough to return again and again,”

Everyone wants to feel special, yet most servers overlook the simple things like a smile and a genuine interest in a guest’s well being. Anticipating the needs of your clientele is the surest way to make people feel special. People respond to that kind of service, and with this philosophy every guest is a potential regular.

It is important that the servers are focused on providing service tailored to the guest’s needs. Obviously a birthday party and a solo businessperson require different styles of service.

Also, it may not always be possible to chat and check with every table in your establishment, so creating an atmosphere where your service staff feels comfortable approaching management to resolve guest issues in a timely manner is crucial to your ability to turn any negative experiences into positive ones. The bottom line is that when the service and food are good, guests will probably come back for seconds, maybe even become your regulars. If things go wrong and the problem isn’t addressed, you’ll never see them again. If there’s a problem and you address it, you guarantee that they will come back with their friends. Maybe they can be your regulars too.

Adopt this philosophy and you will reach the level of success that only a few will experience in their lives.

See you behind the bar!

Also posted in Raising the Bar | Comments closed

Success Story: From the Emerald Isle to Toronto bartending scene

This week we are starting a new series of stories with BartenderOne’s most successful graduates: From all over Toronto, Canada and the World these bartenders are living proof that success in bartending as in anything else in life is achievable as long as you are willing to put the work and effort required. In an industry where competition is fierce, these stories also prove that a proper bartending education gives you an edge when the time to find the job of your dreams comes.

For this first chapter we have Michael Mulhall. Michael arrived in Toronto a few months back from Ireland. With a background as a barista, Michael felt that he needed a shift on his career in Canada and joined BartenderOne’s MasterClass. His outstanding performance along with his charisma granted him a seat on the first generation of the Blazers Challenge Project. Chosen as one of the four finalists from the first monthly qualifier, Michael soon became a key member of the College Street Bar team. His charming accent and good stories made him a favourite for patrons and his growth during his apprenticeship process was extraordinary with his participation in additional BartenderOne events such as TeamBuilding workshops.

Here a quick Q&A session with Michael to learn his story and secrets. Enjoy!

MICHAEL

Q- Michael, What is your favourite cocktail?

A- Rusty Nail

Q- Your favourite bar?

A- I’m a big fan of the College Street Bar. They’re charismatic, passionate, make their guests feel at home, and always put on a great show.

Q- What is your specialty in bartending?

Rather than specialize in any one area I take a holistic approach to bartending mastering every area to the best of my ability.

Q-  Where do you work right now?

Foundation Bar, Eaton Centre, Toronto

Q- What are your main goals as a bartender/mixologist?

Even before ever hearing about flair I had already taught myself how to juggle and I’ve a great appreciation for skillfully crafted cocktails so I aspire to competing in both flair and mixology competitions.

Q- What do you consider should be the main skills every bartender should possess?

Anybody can mix a cocktail but to be a successful bartender you need to have good social skills, hand-eye co-ordination, and a great memory to remember recipes, orders, guest names and their preferences.

Q- What do you love the most about this profession?
I love creating a positive experience with each guest so that they leave feeling better than they did when they first walked in. Brightening their day lets me know that I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.

Q- What you don’t like about bartending?

The moment you dislike anything or anyone it owns you. I prefer to view the world from a positive frame, to think constructively, to focus on possibilities and solutions, and to inspire others to do the same.

Q- How do you see yourself in 5 years in bartending?

I’m Irish so it’s in my nature to want to travel all around the world. I envisage myself in the future bartending on both cruise ships and abroad in as many foreign countries as I possibly can.

Q- What would be your main advice to those who are preparing to become a bartender?

Finding your first job can be tough but after you land one don’t be afraid walk away. I learned this the hard way. I naively ignored the signs, my employer went bankrupt, and I lost my job minus my final 3 weeks of pay.

Thanks Michael. Remember to stop by Foundation Bar at Toronto’s Eaton Centre to enjoy one of Michael’s masterpieces and get to listen to a few good Irish stories.

See you behind the bar!

Also posted in Mixology | Comments closed

More tips on bar etiquette (a.k.a how not to get on your bartender’s bad side)

Continuing our series about proper manners at the bar, here go a few more tips on how to get your bartender’s heart by not driving him crazy by D. Jennings, one of the top bartenders you will find in TO

… I’ve been bartending for over 10 years now, working at numerous venues and  different concepts along the way. During this time, I’ve been trained in many different steps of service to offer my  guests great service, in a timely fashion.

However, the skill and speed of a bartender is only half of the equation when it comes to getting served promptly at any bar.  The actions of the guests have as much to do with the speed of service as the bartender does.

Much like bartending schools teach people how to be a bartender, I think there should be schools on how to be a proper guest.

For example, lesson number 1 would be bring cash to the bar, not plastic.  The average cash transaction takes roughly 7 seconds to complete, whereas a credit card or debit transactions takes an average of 45 seconds from start to finish.  This extra time can really cause a backlog of guests trying to flag the bartender down wondering why it takes so long to get served a cocktail.

Lesson number 2 would be to make sure you have your drink order ready.  If you are at a busy bar, when the bartender comes over to you, you should be ready to order. This is not the opportunity to ask everyone what they want.

A side note would be to give the ENTIRE order all at once.  Don’t place an order, then when the bartender comes back with your drinks, you say, “oh and I need one more of these…”.  All this does is cause a line up of unhappy guests who are still waiting.  If  you were waiting in line for a while, it’s probably because someone in front of you has broken rules 1 and or 2.

There are many other rules that I will get into next time, but the one that will help you get faster service, is to be polite to your bartender.  If they greet you by saying “hi how are you today?”, “rum and Coke” is not the correct response.

Maybe I’m old school, please and thank you goes a long way.

Remember, the bartender controls the alcohol.

Until next time,

DJ

david j

Cheers!For example, lesson number 1 would be bring cash to the bar, not plastic.  The
average cash transaction takes roughly 7 seconds to complete, whereas a credit
card or debit transactions takes an average of 45 seconds from start to finish.  This
extra time can really cause a backlog of guests trying to flag the bartender down
wondering why it takes so long to get served a cocktail.
Lesson number 2 would be to make sure you have your drink order ready.  If you
are at a busy bar, when the bartender comes over to you, you should be ready to
order. This is not the opportunity to ask everyone what they want.
A side note would be to give the ENTIRE order all at once.  Don’t place an order, then
when the bartender comes back with your drinks, you say, “oh and I need one more
of these…”.  All this does is cause a line up of unhappy guests who are still waiting.  If
you were waiting in line for a while, it’s probably because someone in front of you
has broken rules 1 and or 2.
There are many other rules that I will get into next time, but the one that will help
you get faster service, is to be polite to your bartender.  If they greet you by saying
“hi how are you today?”, “rum and Coke” is not the correct response.
Maybe I’m old school, please and thank you goes a long way.
Remember, the bartender controls the alcohol.
Until next time,
CheersFor example, lesson number 1 would be bring cash to the bar, not plastic.  The
average cash transaction takes roughly 7 seconds to complete, whereas a credit
card or debit transactions takes an average of 45 seconds from start to finish.  This
extra time can really cause a backlog of guests trying to flag the bartender down
wondering why it takes so long to get served a cocktail.
Lesson number 2 would be to make sure you have your drink order ready.  If you
are at a busy bar, when the bartender comes over to you, you should be ready to
order. This is not the opportunity to ask everyone what they want.
A side note would be to give the ENTIRE order all at once.  Don’t place an order, then
when the bartender comes back with your drinks, you say, “oh and I need one more
of these…”.  All this does is cause a line up of unhappy guests who are still waiting.  If
you were waiting in line for a while, it’s probably because someone in front of you
has broken rules 1 and or 2.
There are many other rules that I will get into next time, but the one that will help
you get faster service, is to be polite to your bartender.  If they greet you by saying
“hi how are you today?”, “rum and Coke” is not the correct response.
Maybe I’m old school, please and thank you goes a long way.
Remember, the bartender controls the alcohol.
Until next time,
Cheers!
Also posted in Raising the Bar | Comments closed

No train, no gain bartenders! The costs of not training your staff properly

Dear bar/nightclub/restaurant owner:

Do you have unexplained losses in liquor or wine, in draught beer… in all three?

If your restaurant is like most hospitality concepts, chances are your current bartender training is based on generations of bartenders who may not have been fully trained themselves.

Most restaurants open with meticulous operational guidelines for how drinks are prepared, with detailed recipe lists that must be strictly adhered to along with opening and closing procedures, weekly checklists for cleanliness and follow up procedures. Does this sound familiar?

Maybe it’s a distant memory…

What usually follows can be likened to a game of broken telephone, where each generation of bartenders passes on an adapted interpretation of your original training message. In the hospitality industry where employee turnover rates are commonly 50%-66% per year, it doesn’t take long before your original training standards are barely recognizable

Perhaps your restaurant is okay and you have a good idea of how you can control the margins in the kitchen. Most managers have a good handle on food cost in the kitchen because many kitchens have portion-controlled menus. Use of a scale to measure consistency in portion size is common especially in prep areas, but there is no parallel on the bar side of the spectrum. Most bartenders freepour, although few have been properly trained to freepour accurately. You ask them to use a shot glass, which is slow and really offers no guarantee of accuracy during busy periods.


In the hospitality industry, there is a fine line between profit and loss. So fine in fact that after tax, profit margins in F&B often average less than 3% according to recent figures.

With margins like that, it’s hard to justify spending money on the business; however, it’s

been said that you have to spend it to make it.

There are a smorgasbord of liquor control systems available… at a price, and keep in mind you get what you pay for. Some bars that choose the ball bearing style pour spouts, which apparently stop automatically, may save money up front but you’ll pay in the long term. Most of these spouts will only pour accurately about 65% of the time. At the opposite end of the spectrum you could spend $100,000 or more on a high-tech liquor control system, however it may take years to see the return on your investment. Both of these systems, no matter how elaborate the programming, will limit your bartenders’ ability to create drinks that will truly satisfy your guests’ unique tastes and preferences.


At the very least you should make sure that all of your pour spouts are the same, and that you don’t have a mishmash of different colours, styles and pour rates. Not only does it look better, but if you find your liquor costs are out of line at least there is one less variable, and you can let your bartenders know that they’re pouring heavy.

The cost of not training your bartenders properly is astronomical.

All licensed establishments have bartenders but few have truly mastered the craft. But when was the last time your bartenders had any real training? Are they accurate and efficient or are they pouring away your profits?

The bottom line is that your ability to manage your costs is directly linked to the degree to which you empower your staff to help you manage those costs. We’ve all heard that the best defense is a good offense… so consider this.

Keep things simple:

Based on $10,000 in sales:

Your current liquor cost is 25% = $2500

Your budget liquor cost is 23% = $2300

Simple math says that you’re running 2% above cost or at a 2% surplus.

Your target liquor cost is 22% = $2200


This could be as a result of carelessness, spillage, spoilage, etc. As an incentive to keep costs in line, share these numbers with your staff regularly, and offer your bar team a quarterly party, or pay out a cash bonus to your bartenders if they hit a target 1% below your targeted liquor cost, in this case 22%. (Goals have to be within reason, and shouldn’t promote short changing the guest.)

Each year, based on these numbers, you are rewarded with $1200 in teambuilding and staff incentives. Your staff retention and job satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down and you empower a team of people to work

So put your hands on this and remember“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”  Embrace a culture of continuous perfection and success will come to you.

See you behind the bar

Also posted in World's Best Bars | Comments closed

Misconceptions about locations and libations…

Misconceptions…
As a bartender, I frequently deal with guests who have misconceptions about the cocktails I make.  People tend to drink beverages with little or no flavour other than the lime that is squeezed into their lowball.  It is a little beyond me why someone might want to drink something that tastes like nothing, but my own pre-conceptions aside, everyone is entitled to drink what they want.  Far be it for me to tell you what you like!  Give me a chance and I will certainly show you my version of a well balanced creative cocktail, and if you dont like it, I will buy it for you and you can go back to your vodka soda.
I have recently purchased a house with my fiancé, in one of my most unfavoured places, Oshawa, Ontario.  Commonly known as  ”the SHWA”, “the SHWIGGEDY”, I had my own misconceptions that had always had a sour taste in my mouth about this place, that was until I recently met my new neighbor Missy. She welcomed us to the neighborhood with a bottle of gin from her late husband. “I can’t stand the stuff”, she said with a scrunched up face.  That was my cue to show her what a wonderful backbone a good Gin could be in a cocktail that was lovingly mixed.  I had never tried this particular bottle, but I played with it a little and when I was happy with a new gin cocktail that worked with this particular spirit, I decided to invite Missy over for a to taste it. I proceeded to mix her up a cocktail that was adapted from a bartender I met years earlier, but worked particularly well with this spirit.
No.209 gin, Pimms No. 1, Rubicon guava juice, cloudy apple juice, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup & some bruised mint. Finished off with some caramelized Angostura Bitter figs. Needless to say, she had never tasted anything like it and I think I am her new best friend! Just as I had a misconception of the place I now call home & she had a similar misconception of gin. I was reminded of the dangers of passing  judgement on something, because sometimes all it takes is the right individual to show you how it really is.  They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. As it turns out, I love to teach people about mixology and bartending and while there is a quiet cocktail culture out here in Durham, I think I shall be the pioneer & unleash some phenomenal cocktails on the taste buds of the SHWIGGEDEZE!. The cocktail was called Gone Native, think I’ll change it to what I am now proud to be….Oshawa Native. From out east, may your vessel never be empty, keep mixing :)
Jeremy!

As a bartender, I frequently deal with guests who have misconceptions about the cocktails I make.  People tend to drink beverages with little or no flavour other than the lime that is squeezed into their lowball.  It is a little beyond me why someone might want to drink something that tastes like nothing, but my own pre-conceptions aside, everyone is entitled to drink what they want.  Far be it for me to tell you what you like!  Give me a chance and I will certainly show you my version of a well balanced creative cocktail, and if you dont like it, I will buy it for you and you can go back to your vodka soda.

oshawa

I have recently purchased a house with my fiancé, in one of my most unfavoured places, Oshawa, Ontario.  Commonly known as  ”the SHWA”, “the SHWIGGEDY”, I had my own misconceptions that had always had a sour taste in my mouth about this place, that was until I recently met my new neighbor Missy. She welcomed us to the neighborhood with a bottle of gin from her late husband. “I can’t stand the stuff”, she said with a scrunched up face.  That was my cue to show her what a wonderful backbone a good Gin could be in a cocktail that was lovingly mixed.  I had never tried this particular bottle, but I played with it a little and when I was happy with a new gin cocktail that worked with this particular spirit, I decided to invite Missy over for a to taste it. I proceeded to mix her up a cocktail that was adapted from a bartender I met years earlier, but worked particularly well with this Gin.

No.209 gin, Pimms No. 1, Rubicon guava juice, cloudy apple juice, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup & some bruised mint. Finished off with some caramelized Angostura Bitter figs. Needless to say, she had never tasted anything like it and I think I am her new best friend! Just as I had a misconception of the place I now call home & she had a similar misconception of gin. I was reminded of the dangers of passing  judgement on something before you have really given it a chance, because sometimes all it takes is the right individual to show you how it really is, or how great it can be!  They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. As it turns out, I love to teach people about mixology and bartending and while there is a quiet cocktail culture out here in Durham, I think I shall be the pioneer & unleash some phenomenal cocktails on the taste buds of the SHWIGGEDEZE!. The cocktail was called Gone Native, think I’ll change it to what I am now proud to be….Oshawa Native. From out east, may your vessel never be empty, keep mixing :)

Jeremy!

Also posted in iPour, Mixology, Raising the Bar | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Nightclubs: A different demon…

I have had the pleasure of working in all walks of the service industry, from roadhouses to fine dining establishments as a bartender, but never in the fast-paced environment of a nightclub until recently…

Jay Patience

My nightclub cherry has been popped in Toronto as a flair bartender and it has been a great experience.  Going from having no customers one minute to being completely slammed the next; with no time to breathe or think; and then… bartender instinct suddenly kicks in.

Read More »

Also posted in Flair Bartending, Mixology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Ryan’s B1 Adventures..

Just an average Thursday for our buddy Ryan here at BartenderOne. Join him on his rounds at a Diageo event and later on at our Mojito Madness workshop.

Diageo Vlog from Ryan Desjardins on Vimeo.

Also posted in Featured Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Coffee, Caffe, Café!

Coffee anyone?

Coffee anyone?

Coffee, Caffe, Café! It doesn’t matter where you come from or how you say it: If there is one thing I can’t go a morning with out this would be it. It’s a good thing I live in the Café rich city of Toronto.

Read More »

Also posted in Coffee, Mixology, Raising the Bar, World's Best Bars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Barback “the backbone of a great bartender”

Running-Back

A running back in football breaks a tackle and runs the whole field for a glorious touchdown run, but no one reflects on the vital block thrown by the fullback that made it all possible.

A lawyer makes a break in a big case and becomes an instant legal star, but who thinks about the members of their team who did all of the vital legwork behind the scenes to make the big break happen?

Read More »

Also posted in Raising the Bar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed