2019 marked the 10th consecutive year of record sales for the distilled spirits industry. While the influence of modern cocktail programs is not being tracked on a national scale, industry professionals are keenly aware that well-executed programs have a positive impact on an establishment's bottom line.
As the momentum behind craft cocktails continues to build, seeking opportunities to improve processes and standardize protocols can make these programs even more profitable. Here are four easy ways to do it:
1. Investigate Bar Inventory Variance
It is commonly attributed to overly-generous pours, spillage, broken equipment, returned drinks, and theft. To reduce variance, it’s important to understand where these problems originate and how to fix them.
I. Educate Your Staff on Variance While Training Them
Properly-trained bartenders make fewer errors, so investing in staff training sessions can provide a valuable ROI. Establish SOPs (standard operating procedures) to analyze each element of your work-flow and incorporate variance reduction analysis into your training protocol.
II. Protect Your Bar Inventory
Studies show that unkempt containers, “cheater” bottles, and juice pourers used to store cocktail ingredients can increase the rate of spoilage due to bacterial growth. While these may not make the health department checklist, over time this gradual decay of inventory can amount to significant variance (and fresh ingredients are expensive). Investing in sanitary bar supplies is a great way to protect your product and reduce variance costs.
III. Increase Consistency
Inconsistent cocktails can tarnish any bar's reputation and cause drinks to be returned or thrown out. Setting strict SOP’s and utilizing pre-batching techniques (more on this further down) are great strategies for alleviating mis-pours and improving drink-to-drink consistency.
2. Streamline Menu Designs
A well-designed cocktail menu can serve as a valuable way to differentiate from the competition.
However, keeping the intricacy of your cocktail menu in-check is an important component of operating a cost-effective program. Even the most skilled bartenders experience pile-ups during peak-service due to overly-complicated cocktail specs.
When determining the elaborateness of your cocktail menu, keep these simple steps in mind:
I. Start With an Honest Evaluation of Your Staff
Your most novice bartenders should be able to execute your cocktail builds with the same speed and consistency as your seasoned staff – no exceptions. Far too many menus are designed according to the expertise of a head bartender or beverage director without the proper training to ensure a successful execution staff-wide.
If you're determined to push the envelope, then proper allocation of training and resources will be essential.
II. Consider Your Layout Limitations
If storage is limited or movement is restricted due to an in-effective layout, then skip the complicated 12-ingredient cocktails. Survey your space and analyze the flow of your bar to determine how ambitious you can be with your cocktail menu. Cultivating memorable guest experiences is important, but this is more often a result of an empowered team; rather than an intricate cocktail list.
III. Be ready to scale quickly
Does your cocktail menu allow you to take full advantage of a packed house? Leverage your point-of-sales data to determine your peak hours and adapt your program to maximize revenue during these times.
Keep in mind that your point-of-sales system is the gateway for every dollar you bring in. Overly-complex menus often result in corner-cutting techniques or sloppy ringing at the POS terminal.
Under-ringing drinks not only contributes to increased variance costs, but it can also overwhelm even the most calculated inventory management systems. Sometimes mis-rings are intentional (theft is also a variance issue), but often they are the result of an overly-complicated system.
Conduct frequent audits of your POS system to ensure custom cocktails are being properly accounted for and bartenders aren't ringing ad hoc.
3. Pre-batch Strategically
Pre-batching – or assembling cocktail ingredients prior to service – can be an effective solution depending on the environment.
While some view this strategy as a technique that strips bartending of artisanry and technicality, it’s hard to deny the increased drink-to-drink consistency and operational efficiency that pre-batching can achieve during peak hours.
If you’re overseeing a high-volume program, shaving precious seconds from each cocktail crafted amounts to significant time saved throughout a shift.
I. Don't Miss The Details
Not to mention, reducing the overall number of bottles in the well or speed rail can drastically improve the organization of your bar.
II. Figure Out What Your Needs Are
Analyzing friction points and assessing opportunities to pre-batch cocktail ingredients will increase your rate-of-service and allow your team to work smarter, not harder.
III. Consider New Equipment
Once you’ve established fixed costs for your house cocktails, you can then assign a cost to the pre-batched product and integrate the bottles or containers into your inventory management system and existing SOP's.
4. Increase Operational Efficiency
This concept is often considered the organizational ethos of profitable programs that understand the operational efficiencies that result from structured workspaces. There are several steps you can take to properly structure your workstations and increase your rate-of-service.
I. Standardize Stations
Having totally different ways to operate can throw off even the most seasoned bartenders.
Once you've established the blueprint for each station, incorporate the standardized setup into your training program (laminated pictures work like a charm) and communicate your expectations to staff.
II. Be Strategic With Placement
This is where your bartenders are stationed. Generally speaking, the “service well,” “the pass,” or the “service station” is the station that bars used to expedite drinks to the rest of the restaurant (outside of the bar space).
If a bar has two “wells” (stations). The “point bartender” will be used to make drinks for the bar and the “service well” will be used to expedite drinks for the rest or the lounge, restaurant, etc. The roles are very different – the “point bartender” is servicing the bar and creating guest experiences, and the “service” bartender is expediting drinks.
If possible, design your stations so the service bartender can focus intently on expediting drinks. Position this person to work autonomously and field inquiries from servers and support staff during peak periods.
III. Get In The Game
In order to have a bar where your employees actually want to work, you must be willing to provide them with the tools they need for success. Don't just yell at them to do a better job, instead, discover ways to make their jobs flow better.
The best way to do this is to work behind your bar. This doesn't mean taking "point" on a Saturday night, but covering a station during a break can help you discover opportunities for operational improvements. Make sure to implement them as soon as possible and train your bartenders with these new changes in mind.
5. After Thoughts
There are no silver bullets to increasing a bar or restaurant’s efficiency; however, these improvements are largely a matter of degrees and percentages. For example, shaving off several seconds for each drink made would turn out to save quite a bit of time.
These strategies are intended to maximize margins based on the customers you’ve already acquired, but that's only half of the equation. Be on the lookout for other ideas on how to bring more people in the door (and keep them coming back).
This article was created for the use of Ordyx POS by Crew Bottle Co.®