Category Archives: Beverage Business Trends

Restaurants that got rid of tipping are bringing it back.

Because, as I’ve relentlessly insisted, tipping works better for everyone: the server, the customers and the establishment.

From our friends at THE RAIL a great industry publication:

CAN’T END TIPPING
Why it matters to you: restaurants have not been able to successfully end the tipping system. 
The tipping debate has caused controversy in the restaurant industry for years now. Some establishments believe that tipping is an unfair practice that puts servers ahead of the back of house staff whereas others believe the tipping is a fair practice that shouldn’t be changed. It’s been less than a year since the Oregon-based restaurant, Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro decided to enforce a no-tipping policy and as of last week, they have reinstated tipping. The original deal was that they would raise food and beverage prices an average of 20 percent to include tip, but unfortunately the higher prices were too much for some diners. The prices are now reduced to not include the tip and it will now be given manually.

This restaurant made a vast effort to change the system which is incredibly noteworthy. Unfortunately, the tipping system is so ingrained in the restaurant industry that it becomes incredibly difficult to interject a new structure. According to a tipping expert and professor at Cornell University of Hotel and Administration, there is really no obvious solution to the problem. “The biggest reason for restaurateurs to keep tipping is that it allows them to reduce menu prices, which increases demand.” He goes on to recommend that restauranteurs look at the level of difference between employees specifically BOH and FOH, and replace the tipping system if this is where “the highest pay discrepancies exist.”

Jon Taffer is right. But in the ’80s.

Bartenders and other hospitality pros are attacking Jon Taffer of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” for his answers in a HuffPost Q&A published this week. Many of his responses don’t sound like the bar business as we know it today. But in defense of Mr. Taffer, they are not as random they might seem. To decode where some of his more hotly debated comments come from, we have to get into the Wayback Machine and head back to the 1980s. Here are some of the responses people are attacking, and how they made more sense “back in the day.”

The Mezcal / Mescaline Thing.

In the interview, Mr. Taffer claimed that tequila is made from the same raw materials as the drug Mescaline.  This is not true now nor was it in the 80s. But there is an “80s reason” why someone could have made this mistake. Eating the worm in a bottle of Mezcal became wildly popular in the 80s and it was said to have psychedelic properties (the worm not the booze). I think Jon just mixed up this old school tall tale with the origin of tequila and made a little word salad out of Mezcal and Mescaline. The Mezcal remarks have been removed from the HuffPost story (something that would never have been tolerated by editors in the 1980s BTW).

The drink everyone should be able to make is the screwdriver.

As a 20 year old bartender in the 80s, I do remember this was a go-to drink for people who didn’t know what to order and very easy to make. The vodka cranberry of the Miami Vice era. There were many popular juice based drinks back then such as the Tequila Sunrise. Of course orange juice drinks pretty much vanished in the 90s so you have to be pretty old (ouch) to even remember the golden age of washing pulp out of glasses.  As for Mr. Taffer’s story about how oil workers chugged vodka/OJ in the 1920s, I can’t explain that.  Somehow I doubt orange juice was something you always had around back then.

An overlooked drink everyone should try is the “Old Fashioned.”

Today of course it’s a mainstay and granddaddy of cocktail culture. But the 80s was the era of beer tubs and drink factory bars with lightning service, simple drinks, bottled wine coolers and flair bartenders juggling bottles.  The Old Fashioned was considered a pain in the ass drink to make and about as complicated as you got in the big high energy bars which dominated the Me Decade.  “Mixologists” was our name for slow bartenders in the places I worked. In the 80s we buried the Pink Squirrel and Grasshopper 70’s drinks, and kept it simple. Shots exploded in popularity and bottled beer peaked. It would take the mid-90’s lounge culture to start bringing cocktails and mixology back. Of course none of this makes sense to a millennial or even a young Gen-Xer.  Netflix Tom Cruise’s 1988 movie classic “Cocktail” and you’ll get it.

You should tip all at once at the end of the night instead of with each round.

This almost never happens now unless you are dining or at the bar in a super empty joint.  But bars and clubs were more intricately organized for service back in the day. You were more likely at the bar and even at a table to have the same server all night (not 100% as Mr. Taffer does note). Clubs took a lot more care to make sure everyone was constantly being offered drinks and no money was left on the table. “Never have a customer waiting to give us money” as one of my mentors emphasized. Big places used a “zone defense” where it was impossible to stand, sit or lean anywhere in the bar without a server coming up and offering a drink (or hassling you to buy in some cases). It was the norm in the 1980s but nearly extinct today to have cocktail service covering not only tables but every area of the floor throughout the bar.  Believe it or not if you stood by the wall or by the dance floor a waitress with a big tray would come up to you and insist you buy a drink (not just a shot, a drink order!) We even had a waitress who worked “point,” which was the end of the first bar when you come in the door. This server’s entire job was to hit everyone that walked in the door and get a drink order.  Believe it or not even if you moved around a bit, these incredibly skilled servers would find you with the drink you ordered (and a full tray of drinks for others). This is a long lost art. Today you are almost always either at a table or walking up to the bar for every drink. This simpler system actually costs bars a lot of lost sales that would have been money in the bank in the 1980s. Back then it was never easy to stand around in a bar or club not spending money. Some of these ideas might be due for a resurrection!

It’s not OK for bartenders to drink with their customers.

In the 80s there were widespread bans on drinking while working in the corporate bars and many entertainment oriented places. Not everywhere of course but it was much more prevalent. Also there was a lot less free pouring and more bar supervision in general. I worked at a place for a bit where we hit a button and a pre-measured shot came out of the wall. From the mid-nineties on the trend shifted to free pouring and “have a drink with the customers.” As someone who was a bartender for years I do agree with Mr. Taffer that the best policy is don’t drink on the job!

It’s not rude to signal a bartender.  You should sip a cocktail before paying.

Two things common in the high energy 80s, but now seen as uncool. Times change.

But some things don’t change!

Mr. Taffer is 100% right that even today you can tell a bad bar by bad smell, don’t go to a loud bar for a date or business meeting, DON’T EAT FROM THAT BOWL OF BAR SNACKS, and the only way to prevent a hangover is don’t drink too much!

Here’s an attack article or here’s another one, where industry pros go off on Mr. Taffer.

And here’s a new one (update).

And here’s a local one. (update) “Who was that character that woke up after a 30 year nap?

Read the edited HuffPost interview here.

Full disclosure (ouch): I started my career as an 20 year old bartender and DJ in the 1980s and did that full time for 8 years before getting into management.

Cheers! – Tim

shortlink: http://wp.me/p2g9q8-Gj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hottest Beverage Brands in Bars 2014

These brands will be celebrating a very happy New Year’s Eve this year.  Congrats to my clients and friends at Boston Beer Company, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors!

fastest growing on premise brands

Thanks to Technomic for their reliably accurate projections.

Hospitality Business Hit Hard by Falling Millennial Wages.

Many hospitality business leaders and local operators are pulling their hair out over why traffic, sales and profits are falling at most bars and beverage driven restaurants. One big reason is a huge drop in the earning power of our primary market – young people. Read about it here, and here, very helpful in understanding the factors driving recent troublesome trends in sales and customer spending patterns.

At A-List we specialize in helping operators beat the trends toward discounting and lower margins by creating an exciting environment with exceptional customer experiences, that beats the competition in the war for customers’ shrinking entertainment budgets.

 

 

 

 

Is the economy partying like it’s 1999?

The economy is growing better each year since the crash, but there’s mixed signals in there. Good read for those of us in the hospitality business than depend on people’s discretionary income. Growing is a lot better than shrinking or crashing, but the data is a mixed bag to be considered.

Here’s some more good news on growing number of full time jobs.
Drop me a note if you need help sorting out consumer behavior and profiting from trends in the beverage and food service markets. Cheers! TimTheBarGuy

Fortune

The economy is rockin’ again! Sort of.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that job growth surged in November. In the past 11 months, U.S. employers have added nearly 2.7 million jobs. That’s the fastest job growth we’ve had since 1999, a year in which the economy was truly robust, but also inching closer to a plunge.

So, is the economy as good as it was in 1999? Not quite.

Yes, employers have added more jobs in 2014 than what they added for the entirety of 2005—the next biggest year for job growth—but we are still a long way away from matching 1999. Back then, the economy was adding 262,000 jobs a month. Today’s average is 240,000. Put another way, employers would still need to add another 527,000 jobs in 2014 to match 1999’s record, and we only have one month to do it (not factoring revisions). So, we’re likely…

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News Flash For The Alcohol Service Business.

Our entire market is about 30% of the population.
30% of American adults don’t drink at all, 30% drink less than 1 drink per week, and many in the top 10% of drinkers drink so excessively they are trouble, and you probably don’t want them in a bar.  That leaves about 30% that drink moderately and regularly.
A-List Marketing has developed, opened and marketed more than 40 beverage driven establishments, achieving long term success.
Read the research here – and let us help with your target marketing if you have a bar, nightclub or beverage driven restaurant.
Cheers! — TimTheBarGuy

Thanks to Jeff Haden on LinkedIn for the link to the research and the insights.

 

#bars #drinking #research #alcohol #marketing #trends #statistics

The Cool “Secret” Trend That’s Sure to Catch On.

Due to the long term trend in the drinking market toward exclusivity, mixology and catering to higher end clientele, I am convinced the Secret Cocktail Club concept will catch fire in multiple markets and be a leading edge trend in the year to come. There are many other possible permutations of the secret/private drinking theme; I am working with clients on some innovations right now!

Read about Chicago’s Liquor Lab Secret Cocktail Club here in Thrillist and get ready to see more of this.

 

#Events #Chicago #LiqourLab #CocktailCulture #Innovation #Trends #News #Bars #Mixology