Category Archives: Raising the Bar

Where has all Your Profit Gone?

Your money is flying away; you'd better catch it!

Your money is flying away; you'd better catch it!

2011 is going to be an amazing year. The economy is coming out of a recession, people are opening their wallets again, and sales outlooks are all positive for the next 12 months. 2011 will also be a banner year in terms of opportunities to invest in your business. At times like these, traditional service industry staff turnover rates of 50%-65% plummet; and the employees in your bar are more loyal than ever before.

This column will be a four part directive for making your bar more profitable through systems and training. I’ll give you techniques and numbers that will make your bar more profitable… Guaranteed. In this issue, I’ll be discussing commonly overlooked areas where your bar is bleeding money. In the next issue I’ll tackle the importance of training your staff to stay ahead of industry trends so you’re offering beverage products and service that will make your guests come back for more with cash in hand… read on!

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Social Networking for Bars… Are Facebook and Twitter right for your bar?

Social networking is full of endless opportunities for your establishment

Social networking is full of endless opportunities for your establishment

Social Networking has a lot in common with the operation of restaurants and bars every day. In fact, before Facebook and Twitter came along, most social networking happened in bars… but it was done verbally instead of through text comments and posts. Everywhere you look, you see Facebook and Twitter. Have you dismissed it as “something that the young people do?” Running a successful social networking campaign is tricky, there are lots of ways to waste your time and money, but if you work it properly it can add value to your business and bring people through your doors. I hope this piece will provide some clarity and direction for what you and your staff should and shouldn’t be doing with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and youTube.

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Moving up to Cocktails!

Would you rather receive the tip from a Rum & Coke ($4) or a $10 Cocktail? Be the difference between an 'Order taker' and a 'Mixologist'.

Would you rather receive the tip from a Rum & Coke ($4) or a $10 Cocktail? Be the difference between an 'Order taker' and a 'Mixologist'.

Vodka sodas and Gin and tonics are fine, but as Canada starts making a move to catch up with the cocktail epicentres of the world, it’s time to take a serious look at your cocktail offering. Many restaurants are still stuck in the late 1990’s Martini cocktail phase, where drinks full of liqueurs and postmix juices, served in oversized martini glasses. Those days are gone, and the cocktails that are replacing those juicy martinis are elegant, sophisticated drinks, full of flavour and ripe with profitability.

We have all heard of suggestive selling, but few servers practice, many simply fall into the rut of being an order taker. It’s worth noting over 50% of drinkers are unaware of price at the time that they place the order, and that over 60% of guests will take the advice or recommendation of a server or bartender. so taking your guests from a Vodka and Cranberry to a Cosmopolitan should really be a piece of cake. The ingredients hardly differ at all, simply decrease the amount of Cranberry and add a splash of orange liqueur. The cost differential is minimal but your opportunity to sell the end product for a premium is tremendous.

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2010 Year in Review

The noted and extremely simple Sazerac.

The noted and extremely simple Sazerac.

It is a very exciting time to be in the bar business. There have been few times since the repeal of Prohibition that cocktails have been at the forefront of the media and the public conscience, backed by bartenders who are now considering themselves Mixologists and Bar Chefs.

Classic cocktails are back in a big way across the country. Led by great cocktail bars from the St. John Alehouse in the east to Clives Classic Lounge in Victoria on the left coast, passionate mixologists are taking a fresh approach to cocktails. It’s not just in the privately owned cocktail bars either. Major chains across the country are adopting new (and old) cocktails, techniques like muddling fresh fruits and herbs, and looking at their beverage programs differently than we did when big juicy martinis were all the rage.

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Forgotten Classic Cocktails: The Gimlet!

The Gimlet aka Gene Snyder on the rocks.

The Gimlet aka Gene Snyder on the rocks.

Once as popular as the Martini or Manhattan the mighty Gimlet is often overlooked by modern cocktailians. On several occasions I have even received a Martini with cocktail onions(Gibson) upon ordering a Gimlet. Two simple ingredients combine to make something much more. A juniper-citrus aroma, through the sweet and sour mid palate, and a long lingering finish. Hard to beat for a serious slake. If you have the means please make your own lime cordial, it really makes a difference. Recipes follow. Gimlet 1 / Scurvy 0

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TFL 4…Flair in the City

photo.jpgThe Toronto Flair League’s biggest competition to date was clearly TFL#3 as competitors from across the world got together to take part in the event.

Following TFL#3, the promoters got together and decided that there needed to be some changes to the direction that the league was headed in.

There have been many different up-start flair bartending groups or organizations over the years, and they all had one thing in common. The FBA, or Flair Bartending Association, which is the governing body in the world of flair bartending. This meant that each organization could host competitions, and could ask the FBA to judge, as they are currently the standard for how all of the major flair bartending competitions are judged.

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Flair and the City… of Toronto!

Toronto Flair League #2 August 31st 2010

Toronto Flair League #2 August 31st 2010

On the heels of a very successful first competition, the Toronto Flair League was thinking bigger and better for TFL#2 which was to take place on August 31st 2010.

The roster for the second flair bartending competition had grown from 22, to 29 bartenders.  Much like TFL#1, there were two divisions; amateur, and advanced.  Amateur competitors would receive three minutes of show time, and the advanced competitors would perform for four. Both amateur and advanced competitors were required to create two cocktails; one with working flair, and one with exhibition flair.

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My, Oh My, Oh Margarita!

Strap on your mixologist shoes, because the Margarita possibilities are endless!

Strap on your mixologist shoes, because the Margarita possibilities are endless!

For some reason, the world’s most popular cocktail has never quite captured Canadian hearts. Instead, the margarita has always had a bit of a seedy reputation, the chief protagonist in stories that start “remember that time in Mexico.” But rather than take up time and space determining our national opposition to the cocktail (bar mix instead of fresh lime, maybe?), let’s play with some variations sure to temp any palate.

The original margarita is as simple as its little brother, the tequila shot (salt, tequila and a slice of lime). Classic recipes call for three parts tequila, one part Cointreau and three parts fresh lime juice, shaken hard over ice. Made like this, the cocktail is deliciously balanced, the strength of the tequila working with the sweetness of orange and sourness of the lime. But while it will no doubt go down in history as one of the classics, we are lucky to be in the middle of a cocktail revolution, allowing us to use everything and anything in our power to concoct new creations.

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Mango-Mania: Creating sub-tropic masterpieces!

Stay away from the Winter Blues with summer cocktails!

Stay away from the Winter Blues with summer cocktails!

So I’m pretty sure that by now that we’ve all had the chance to try either a pomegranate martini one of the many other power fruit cocktails taking the country by storm. They’re good, aren’t they? Can I interest you in something even a little more luscious? If so, come with me down mango lane. For good reason, the mango is the second most popular fruit on the planet. With its versatility and availability, it has quickly climbed to the top of every mixologists daily shopping list.

Mangos are a sub-tropical fruit, requiring a long, hot period to properly ripen. More mangos are eaten fresh than any other fruit in the world. And there are over a thousand varieties of mango. The enzymes in mangos are tenderizing, similar to those found in papayas. Mangos help to lower cholesterol, aid digestion, and are rich in both vitamins A and C.

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The Tipping Point.

Great service is so hard to come by; If only we could all have giant forks.

Great service is so hard to come by; If only we could all have giant forks.

I’m ticked off. You might even say I’m at the tipping point. I’m fed up with receiving mediocre drinks and dealing with snotty bartenders who think they deserve to get tipped for service that is average at best.

Each year, I’m lucky to be able to go some place warm for the first week of January to unwind, recharge and set goals for the year. I usually look for a destination that has a namesake cocktail; last year I got to work with some amazing bartenders in Fiji. While I taught them a little bit about mixology, they schooled me how to make the perfect blue lagoon while standing in the Blue Lagoon in the Yasawa Islands.

Shortly thereafter I travelled to Miami in search of the best made mojito outside of Havana, Cuba. The offering up and down the Miami Beach strip was, quite frankly, pathetic. Most bartenders used mint syrup instead of fresh mint, lime and sugar. They also treated our party like an interruption rather than the reason for their employment. In Miami, I was told to “wait a moment” because the bartender was watching television. Then he not only charged me an 18 per cent automatic gratuity on the single mojito I purchased but had the gall to ask for an additional tip.

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