Bar Reputation/Bartender Reputation/Bartender Following
In a couple of previous articles, I mentioned bar/bartender reputation, and thought before I went any further, I should define, my use of these terms. BAR REP is the way that the public views, the staff of bartenders as a whole, within a bar setting. Where as bartender reputation is the view of just one bartender, within a setting.
The best example that I can give, of a healthy and functioning bar rep, was when I was a manager. Before a bartender could work a shift, they would have to go through the bloody mary training. Usually done on a Saturday or Sunday morning shift, the staff of bartenders would show up, and order bloody, after bloody, after bloody, from the new bartender. This was done because, all were made from scratch. Our bar rep was on the line, with each new staff member. They needed to be able to do them, right, fast and consistent with the taste of the rest of us. In combination with the news, from my award winning cocktails, news spread fast, that we were a talented bar staff. Compared to other bars at the time, who averaged 60-70% beer sales, and 30-40% alcohol. We consistently averaged 60% alcohol and 30% beer. This bar rep of talented bartenders, made us your destination, if you were looking for great tasting mixed drinks. If you were on a date, or with family, and wanted to impress, you came to us. If ya wanted to drink beer and get rowdy, you went somewhere else.
Bartender Rep and Following is a viewpoint of a bartender individually, and has nothing to do with the establishment as a whole. Every bartender would like to think, that once they leave their present bar, that the place will be vacant, boarded up and closed. They want to believe that sales will drop, and a picket line will form outside, demanding their return. This never happens.....never. Only in rare circumstances will sales even drop. Much in the way, that I compared the bar world to legalized narcotic sales in Article 1, this is another example. What everyone needs to remember, is the basics. Alcohol is a habitual substance, used by habitual people. So if you can get customers in the habit, of appearing at your establishment, consistently, and regularly, the staff can turnover, (somewhat), without an impact on sales. This whole habitual ideal, is proved in substance, every day from 3-6, at bars across the country, at Happy Hour.
What as a manager can be done, to increase bar rep? Find a talented head bartender/bar manager, and insist that his major responsibility is to train. Training is the most often overlooked, most vital element to success.
What can I do as a bartender to increase my following, and my bar rep? Be real. Be fair. Be sober. And move!!! Never, never, never let em see ya sit.
Ready to Drink Cocktails
In my last article, (#3), I wrote about bar rep., the view of the bar staff as a whole. In the previous article, (#2), I wrote about how the inventory that the bar carries, can impact, both sales and bar rep. Now as I continue with my articles, with this fourth installment, I want to discuss, READY-TO-DRINK cocktails or RTDs.
With the introduction of wine coolers, in the early 1980’S, came a newest segment of the alcohol market, RTDs. Remember, if your old enough, the old Bartles & Jaymes, TV commercials? With that advertising blitz, they became the early leader in this new market. Soon after, came a flood of new wine coolers, then came malt RTDs. Smirnoff Ices, and Bacardi Silver, soon took over this rapidly expanding market. They came out with exotic flavors and new tastes, and everyone clamored to get a piece of this newest trend.
Now 30 years later, although sales have dropped off, they are still there. Not only there, but getting better. Introducing, actual cocktail imitations, flavored long islands, can now be bought in this bottled form. What’s next??
Because of this, I worry for my beloved profession, and it’s future. Understand, this is my chosen career. I was professionally educated, and properly trained to be a bartender. This isn’t something I fell into, something that I’m doing until I get my degree, or get married, or until something better comes along. This is it! Those of you, who are old enough to remember, think about this. In the late 60s early 70s, I can remember going to the local drug store, and getting a properly made fountain drink. Made by a soda-jock, is what they were called, I believe. Now they are all gone. So are the local drug stores, by the way. Will bartenders and bars, for that matter, follow the same path? In 30 years, will I be able, to go to the convenience store, and be able to pour a vodka & cranberry? I can buy a similar product in the bottle now.
As far as the RTDs and their place, in present day bar inventory, do a little thinking. At one point, I can remember, mixing for a high ranking member of the Applebee’s corporate team. At the time, I was working in a hotel, and at that time, their corporate offices, were 2 miles away. I was frustrated, because I had just gone through a period of unemployment, and had applied at every Applebees within a 50 mile radius, of my home.
At each one I was given the company line….”Educated or not, it is our corporate policy, not to hire bartenders. We hire only for servers, and you must wait tables for 2 years, before we can put you behind the bar.” I didn’t spend that kind of money, on school, to wait tables. When I asked him about this policy, he stated “I can teach anyone to be a bartender, but you can’t teach good service.”
STOP AND THINK ABOUT THAT STATEMENT FOR A SECOND. (PAUSE).
And no, I didn’t lose my subject matter. RTDs, bear with me.
That statement isn’t well thought out. Proper training teaches both. But this same general attitude, of anyone can work a bar, is the same reason, you can’t go into your local bar, these days, and order a properly made Manhattan, or Stinger. Its this same attitude that have helped RTD’s find their way into the bar market. RTDs, in the bar world, are cocktails, that are ordered by customers, who in the past, have been burnt by bad drinks, coming from improperly educated and trained bartenders. These are people, who don’t drink beer, but don’t trust the bartender, to mix something yummy. Either that, or they just turned 21, and are uncomfortable, ordering and so they chose a familiar taste.
If owning a bar, given the fact that RTDs account for a nice segment of the market, I wouldn’t carry them in inventory. It damages bar rep. A talented bartender, can spot, recognize and make that nervous visitor, a regular customer. Mixing a new favorite, that keeps them coming back, and bringing friends. Telling them all along, about this killer bar, with the incredible bartender, who makes her drinks taste like candy. If ya give em an RTD, your just another bar, with another bartender, handing another bottle.
Part of the process, of writing articles, for the website, is reading articles and information posted on other bartending websites. The article posted below appears at:
When reading my post, below, my comments are listed as: Bb: This is the bald bartender’s thoughts, on that segment.
This is a very nice article, written about what should be a very lucrative time period , of daily bar operations. I just wanted to give a working bartenders perspective.
According to several sources the term 'happy hour' originated on board U. S. Navy ships in the 1920's. It was used to describe the scheduled entertainment period for boxing and wrestling bouts that took place on board to relieve stress.
The idea of drinking before dinner began in the Prohibition Era. People would host 'cocktail hours' at their homes or attend 'happy hours' at speakeasy's before they would go to dinner where no alcohol could be served. The term wasn't widely used by the public until it appeared in a 1959 Saturday Evening Post article about military life. Food was added to happy hours in the 1980s to help deter the increase in drinking and driving.
Happy hours are almost universally expected by any establishment's patrons to be part of its daily offering. Some happy hours are better than others.
Bb: wow, love the history!! I never knew the history of happy hour.
Here are 5 characteristics to identify when evaluating an establishment's offerings.
1. Ambience - Examine your surroundings. Is this place for you? Do you feel comfortable there? Does it have a blue collar or white collar feel and clientele? Is the lighting right? Does the bar look nice? Can you access it easily? Does it feel too crowded? What kind of music is playing? Essentially, this characteristic has to do with the feelings or vibe you get from the establishment. This also can determine what friends of yours may or may not like it.
Bb: Gregory, you’ve hit a very key element here! One that most people (including bartenders) don’t think of. “What kind of music is playing?” For the majority of my bartending career, I’ve been the evening bartender. I’m the one that comes in, towards the end of happy hour, and works the main part of the evening. Get a clue bartenders!! The stereo/sound system is there, for the enjoyment of the customers, not the employees. Scope out your customers and focus music genre, based on them. Not you! The same goes for the televisions also.
2. Bartender/Service - This one could be split into two separate categories but for the purpose of this article it will go hand in hand. Is the bartender attentive to the customers? Do they make eye contact? Are they courteous? Do they offer information about the happy hour specials? Are they appreciative of your business? When your beverage is almost empty, do they notice and offer you a new one? No matter how crowded an establishment gets during happy hour the bartender should always be aware of their service. The good ones do because this is when they can make the most money.
Bb: These rules should be applied, not only during happy hour, but at all times. Note: Personally, I don’t make eye contact with the customers, except for when I’m talking to them directly. I work in a fast paced environment. (and I’m ancient, in bartending years) My eyes, primarily stay focused at bar level, scanning drink levels, anticipating my next customer.
3. Food - As previously mentioned, food has been offered during happy hour as a way to slow down the amount of alcohol consumed and the speed at which it is consumed. Is the food offered a cold buffet, hot buffet, specials from the bar or ordered straight from the menu. Are the offerings mini versions of the main menu to give you a taste of their menu to entice you to stay for dinner? Are the special portions fair? Does the food taste good? If it is a buffet, does the buffet stay filled the entire time? Are there any special dishes offered?
Bb: Food and food management, is my weakest link. All I’m saying on this one, is you’ve sparked my imagination, with a twist. I like a LATE night happy hour, in addition to the daily version. You bring out a small buffet, made up of unsold dinner specials, plus food items, that you are looking to promote. (This process would allow a cook to begin closing the kitchen, saving labor hours.) At the same time, you are sobering customers up, practicing alcohol responsibility.
4. Signature Drink - Many restaurants and bars offer specialty drinks or house favorites to entice patrons. Does your favorite establishment have a specialty drink that keeps you coming back? Is it a drink you want to tell your friends about? That's a good sign if they do.
Bb: My signature drinks are what I’m known for. My recipes, (especially when used with my mixers), are what has made my following. The best way to sell and promote signature drinks, is by selling a “taster.” A taster is a scaled down version of the original. Most signature drinks are sold in pint sized specialty glasses. When promoting these drinks, offer a lower priced, smaller sized taster. Sell the taster, then sell the full-priced version next.
Signature drinks should be something totally different, a different taste, ingredient, garnish or glass. Something, they just can’t get anywhere else. That’ll make sure, they keep coming back.
5. Value - This characteristic many times can be the overriding factor in the happy hour decision making process. How long do the specials last, what are they and how much do they cost? This information can be the most widely disseminated facts when determining where to go after work with some friends. The big question is where can this information be found in one place quickly and used to your advantage? How and what is the best way to spread this information to your friends and your community? There are many more considerations that can go into making a decision on evaluating a happy hour. What are yours?
For information about happy hours and to share and blog information about a happy hour you enjoy, check out www.findagreathappyhour.com
Bb: The only additional notes: Most patrons should realize that most bars, change bartenders during happy hour. Happy hours are the transition, between a.m. and p.m. shifts. I hate shift changes, mainly because, they are during happy hours. This could be easily changed by bar managers, adjusting schedules, allowing bartenders to focus on customer needs first.
History of Happy Hour Posted Originally: March 1, 2012
Black and Tan Controversary March 17, 2012
Bald Bartender: It’s sometimes a challenging task, to continue to find topics to write an article about. Then, sometimes, it just falls into my lap. This morning, I turned on the news, to find out that Nike, keeping with the St Patrick’s Day theme, introduced a pair of shoes, nicknamed the “Black and Tan.” At first I was impressed, the bar world, was getting positive press. Then it turned. It seems that the term “Black and Tan” isn’t just a drink name, but rather a reference that upsets, people of Irish descent. So then I went to Wikipedia, and did a little research. This is what I found......
Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland nor are these drinks known as a 'Black and Tan' in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which operated in Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.
The style is believed to have originated in pubs in Britain with drinkers ordering a mix of dark stout and draught bitter. The earliest recorded usage of the term in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1889, though an earlier origin of an 18th century blend of porter and pale ale has been conjectured. Several American breweries currently make premixed Black and Tan, and it is a popular blend at American bars. One of the oldest and best known commercial examples is Yuengling's Original Black and Tan.
The name "black and tan" had earlier been applied to dogs, such as the black and tan coon-hound. It was later used as a nickname for the Black and Tans paramilitary reserve during the Irish War of Independence.
The most common type of Black and Tan in the United States uses Guinness Draught (not Extra Stout) and Bass, though variations using Harp Lager instead of Bass are referred to as Half and Half. Guinness and Newcastle is generally called a Black Castle. The "layering" of Guinness on top of the ale or lager is possible because the relative density of the Guinness is less than that of the ale or lager.
To prepare a Black and Tan in the American way, first fill a glass halfway with the ale, then add the Guinness Draught (from the can, bottle, or tap). The top layer is best poured slowly over an upside-down tablespoon placed over the glass to avoid splashing and mixing the layers. A specially designed black-and-tan spoon is bent in the middle so that it can balance on the edge of the pint-glass for easier pouring.
Contrary to popular belief, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans. As a result, these drinks are rarely referred to as a 'Black and Tan' in Ireland where the name is seen as contentious and disrespectful due to the atrocities committed by these troops.
In March 2006, Ben and Jerry's released an ice cream flavor in the United States for Saint Patrick's Day inspired by the drink; the name offended Irish nationalists because of the paramilitary association. Ben and Jerry's has since apologized. A spokesman told Reuters, "Any reference on our part to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended. In March 2012, the drink's name once more came into the news when Nike, as part of an Irish themed set of designs, released a pair of shoes advertised as the "Black and Tan" and generating offense similar to the earlier Ben and Jerry's ice cream
There are several variations of the Black and Tan listed on the wikipedia page, so check it out. My response to the whole Nike controversy is a common sense approach. The shoes don't celebrate the atrocities committed, but rather honor the bar industry. This is an industry built with major Irish influences. Isn't all this fuss, overkill?