Monday, May 23, 2011

Dependable Drinks

Another great question from Quora: What is a solid drink to order from an understocked bar?

Vodka cranberry, splash of soda (or Cape Codder, splash soda if they have fresh-looking limes). Here's why:

-Every bar has all three ingredients.
-The quality of ingredients will be very consistent from bar to bar: vodka varies the least of all liquors from brand to brand, soda water is soda water, and 90 percent or more of all bars use Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail.
-This is one of the most popular drinks out there, so chances are even the least experienced bartenders have had practice making a good number of them and gotten feedback on at least some.
-The most common mistake most bartenders make with a highball is mixing it too strong, but since this drink has two mixers they're likely to use a little more mixer overall and thus actually make the drink correctly.
-It's a good drink!

If you're a dark-liquor drinker and want to mix it up a bit (pardon the pun), try Bourbon and cranberry with a splash of soda instead -- fantastic.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bar Efficiency

Great question from Quora: How can bars make the ordering and delivery of drinks more timely and efficient? This can be answered in two contexts: with regard to the front bar and with regard to the service bar.

The front bar, or walk-up bar, is where guests order drinks directly from the bartender. Speeding up service at the front bar usually requires additional training, which unfortunately can be inadequate in many operations. Key skills to develop are the ability to take multiple orders at once then prepare those orders simultaneously, as well as determining the most efficient order in which to make differently-prepared drinks. For example if frozen drinks are offered, bartenders should be trained to start these drinks first then make the rest of the order while the blender is running. Bartenders should also be trained to constantly monitor guests and anticipate their needs so service can be provided during slower periods, e.g., if a guest's drink is running low offer a refill during a lull rather than wait for the guest to reorder when the bar may be busier. From an operational standpoint, drink pricing should be tiered into groups so there are a limited number of price points, and sales tax should be built in so that the bartenders can quickly give the guest accurate totals as soon as the order is placed. This allows the guest to get payment ready before the drinks are served.

The service bar, which may be part of or entirely separate from the front bar, is where servers order drinks from the bartender for delivery to guests seated at tables. Again proper training is key to increased delivery speed, with efficient drink-making order being probably the most critical factor. It is important that drinks are prepared from the quickest to the most time consuming instead of according to when received so that orders can be completed and served as fast as possible. This avoids having an order for two bottled beers that could be prepared in seconds wait several minutes because it was placed just after an order for six martinis. An efficient drink-making order is usually 1) start frozen drinks 2) bottled beer 3) glass wine 4) straight drinks 5) highballs 6) draft beer 7) multi-liquor drinks 8) martinis 9) finish frozen drinks, though this should be modified to fit the bar design and layout. Bottled wine should be grouped with bottled beer if stocked behind the bar, or ordered immediately from the bar back if stocked in a cellar. Servers must be trained to pick up drinks as quickly as possible both to maintain product quality and to ensure that the service bartender is able to continually serve drinks onto a clear bar with minimal backup.

In addition, there are a number of factors common to both front and service bar operations, perhaps the most important of which is the motivational management needed to keep the bar staff (including bar backs) working at maximum speed. Too many bars suffer from slow service simply because the bar staff aren't working as quickly as they could be. Correct stocking is also critical, and should be set up in two categories: back stock and working stock. Working stock is kept behind the bar and should be adequate to last an entire shift; back stock is kept in back-of-house storage and should be sufficient to last between product ordering periods. Restocking working stock from back stock should be minimized during a shift. Finally, it is important to stock, buss, and wash an adequate amount of glassware at all times. One of the most common and avoidable bottlenecks in many bars is running out of glassware, which entirely shuts down drink service. The key to timely and efficient bar operation is to create a system in which the bar staff are never waiting on a process or input.