The increased popularity of inventive, hand-crafted cocktails, most notably in the past five years, has given rise to the challenges of maintaining a bar that serves consistently well-made drinks efficiently. The ante has also been upped on what barkeeps are supposed to produce using fresh ingredients, homemade bitters and small-batch spirits. Never before has the guest been presented with such a plethora of choices. While these drinks sound wildly attractive on paper; the task of artfully delivering them while maintaining good customer service and sales volume is more difficult.
In order to execute efficient bar service, it is of foremost importance to keep your bar well organized, well stocked and well equipped with the proper tools. At the Waverly Inn in New York City, where I work as a sommelier, we’ve had to skim the number of spirits we carry, weeding out products that aren’t frequently used. Our cocktail list only features one tequila cocktail. We also anticipate the sales of our most popular quaffs—such as Sancerre by the glass—by stocking our fridges and cellars. Determine what is driving your sales and organize your bar accordingly.
It is essential to maximize the space behind the bar and in the service area in order to move freely and speedily, ideally allowing one arm’s length of space around the circumference of the body. This will help to achieve a faster pace, contribute to the overall pleasure of your job, and in turn provide better service to your guest.
The number of drink selections also needs to be carefully chosen. A good rule of thumb is to feature between eight and ten specialty cocktails. It’s good to get staff members beyond the bar involved in drinks training, both for morale and to ensure all employees are up to date. Product knowledge is key to your establishment’s success.
Lastly, acknowledge your customer immediately when they sit at your bar. As simple as this may seem, this action is often overlooked at busy bars. Your guest will immediately feel at ease and you will buy yourself time. Yana Volfson, the bar manager at Freemans Restaurant in New York City, who worked with me on the beverage program at Bobo restaurant, also in Manhattan, attests to the importance of remaining calm, maintaining a positive demeanor and making the bar an inviting place. Working at a very busy bar, which also services restaurant floor diners, she receives multiple orders simultaneously. She will batch cocktails in order to service her different guests efficiently. Your guest is looking to you to help guide their experience; when you are busy, think of their presence not as a burden, but as an opportunity to do what you do best and win them over.
Following these five steps and keeping your bar a happy place will earn your guests’ trust and produce winning drinks, leading to consistent and long-term
sales growth. ·
Step by step
1. Keep your bar well organized, well stocked and equipped with the right tools.
2. Set up your bar according to your top-selling drinks.
3. Create enough space behind the bar for efficient movement.
4. Support your staff with product knowledge and staff training.
5. Acknowledge your customers the moment they sit at your bar.