Trailer Happiness in London, Union Bar in Copenhagen La Descarga in Los Angeles, Boston Shaker in Miami and Employees Only in New York are considered to be among the best cocktail bars in the world. What do they have in common?
They all create a hospitality culture that brings in return business without fail, according to Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas. The cofounders of New York bars Employees Only and Macao Trading Co., and craft spirits firm The 86 Company (and co-authors of two books) shared their insight on building a successful bar concept and staff during the San Antonio Cocktail Conference on Jan. 17.
In the session titled “The Team Equation: Building a Family vs. Hiring a Staff,” Zaric stressed the importance of making guests feel welcome and happy when they come to your bar. “You have to be a world-class neighborhood joint” and create a feeling of tribal belonging, he said. ”Knowing why you do what you’re doing is going to make or break your place.”
Of all the factors that make bars successful—location, concept, service–the service element of hospitality is the hardest to define since it’s based on emotion, Zaric said. Being hospitable is like being spontaneous—you either are, or you aren’t, he said, so you have to look for the trait in new hires. You and your staff should aim to create “a customized experience for each and every guest that comes in,” he said.
Understanding and believing in the “why,” as in why your organization exists, is key in creating a family atmosphere with your staff, Kosmas said. “People buy why you do it, not what you do.” Vanity of the owner is one of the biggest reasons that bars fail, he noted.
As a bar owner or manager, you also have to walk the walk and lead by example. “If you walk by a dirty glass on a table on your way to yell at the busboy for leaving glasses on the table, you’ve [f-ed] up,” Kosmas said.