We’ve all been to the “craft cocktail” bar with the bartender sporting the handlebar mustache, striped apron and hair in a bun, who spends 10 minutes carefully mixing up your cocktail and shaking it as if the contents in the tin were a mixture between cement and gold. After he places the drink into a glass the size of a thimble and hands you a bill for $42 for 2 drinks, you feel compelled to tip him a lot because that 4 ounces of liquid that you are going to pee out in 45 minutes took him for-ever.
That works in a particular environment, but not when you have 4 deep at a bar and only a few hours to make enough money to pay your rent. People will pay for quality, but speed also matters. Time is finite and must be respected.
There is a stat somewhere that says the average bartender makes about 2.3 drinks per minute, or 138 drinks per hour during busy periods. That’s on the internet, so it must be true, right? After seeing my team in action and spending 15 years behind bars, I believe those numbers to be accurate.
An unintended consequence of speed is consistency.
One of the biggest points of friction in running any bar or restaurant is consistency. Part of my responsibility as a General Manager is to speak with guests who are unhappy with their food or drinks. Most complaints are not because their items tasted “bad” but because it did not taste like their last one or like the one they had in another one of our restaurants. “It wasn’t what I was expecting”, was the most common feedback.
After finding myself taking bullets and becoming frustrated when soliciting this honest feedback, it would have been easy to point fingers at my bar team preparing the drinks. They wanted to be fast and were making mistakes.
This left me with two choices…get defensive and make excuses, or swim upstream to solve the problem at its source.
I decided to investigate by noting the drinks that received most complaints. Easy enough to pull a report that showed the deletes and voids. My findings were pretty eye opening, and there was an obvious correlation between deletes and the amount of ingredients and steps needed to create the cocktails. To my surprise, among these drinks were also our most popular cocktails, like our crowd favorite Mai Tai.
I found myself scratching my head and wondering how that could be possible?! If we make the most of these, should they be the easiest to master? How can a cocktail that outsells all others 4 to 1 also be the one guests most complained about?
I decided to recruit the help of a couple of our bar team members. Presented them with the evidence and their feedback was even more valuable.
“Most of our bartenders dread making the Mai Tai, the ratio of each ingredient makes it really hard to get it right every time.” One team member said.
“When it is slow we use jiggers and that makes a perfect drink each time but we can not afford to do that when it is busy it would take too long and guests complain”, the other team member added.
I don’t question my team's motives as they are not ones to cut corners just to cut corners. In fact, as a team member whose salary is driven by tips, they have the most to lose when a guest isn’t happy, so I know based on experience, their drive to seek and solve problems relating to guest satisfaction is pretty high. They are not the problem, they are the solution.
Here was our challenge: How can we improve consistency and speed of service without changing our recipe and sacrificing quality while improving team morale? How can we take our top selling cocktail that was designed to be a “craft cocktail”, and make it better by doing it faster?
We decided to experiment with batching our Mai Tai recipe. We ran a report that told us how many Mai Tais we sold per day then used those numbers and batched enough that we would not run out by making 1.5 batches needed. For the first week, each team member made it their mission to ask feedback from every guest that ordered a Mai Tai. Especially guests that ordered a second Mai Tai the same night, the feedback was positive, they could not tell any difference from their first cocktail. The best feedback on a cocktail is when they order it again, right?
After a month, we received no complaints about our Mai Tai cocktail, and saw an increase in Drinks Per Guests because of how quickly our teams were getting them to our guests. Our deletes and voids for these were down to almost nothing, and as a result, our beverage cost dropped. The bartenders were able to make a beautiful, great tasting, craft cocktail in 23 seconds and their tips went up! Win. Win. Win.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
“There is always a smarter, faster and better way”. -AMP Up1 Culture Values
When you hear a problem you solve it. When you see a trend, you swim upstream and change the results. Solve problems, but seek out trends as a leader. Spend a few hours solving a quick problem that occurs dozens of times a day and your net savings at the end of the year will be huge.
What is that “little” problem that you invested time to solve? What was the impact this had on your team, guest and business?
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