The respect of transparency
How much information does bar staff need in order to do their jobs? When training and developing bartenders, what we share effects more than we realize. As more career bartenders start out, Haley Forest looks at how they learn the art of a business.
It once was that sales, losses, costs and – crucially – profits were only accessible to the privileged few. Some bars are now offering a new level of openness by sharing these with other businesses and, more importantly, their staff. While some young staff are there to party their way to “easy money,” a growing number of bartenders are choosing this as a career and crave the tools to progress into someday owning their own establishments.
At events like Cocktails Spirits in Paris and Bar Convent Berlin, established owners like Alastair Burgess of Happiness Forgets (London) and Joerg Meyer of The Boilerman (Hamburg) freely talk about their financials, drawing in veteran and novice bartenders alike to get a peek into how they run their incredibly successful venues.
While not every kid who picks up a jigger has the means to attend these events, some bars are taking it upon themselves to show the way. Houstonian powerhouse, Alba Huerta has instilled a high level of transparency within her programs at Anvil and Julep. With a rigorous training program and staff meetings that expose their weekly performance, they invest heavily in the people making their business run.
“Allowing them access to the owner’s perspective is empowering,” says Alba. “It gives them a sense of ownership, pride and responsibility to do the right thing. Not only do they gain a sense of professionalism but it helps mold their work ethic and prepares them for bigger goals. Overall, you get a bartender who is fully in tune to all operations, expectations, and management of the bar. They have a greater purpose to go to work that’s not just tied to income.”
Arash Hajianpour of Candelaria, Glass, and Le Marie Celeste in Paris agrees. “By supporting staff bottom-to-top through a constant process of learning and involvement, you’re expressing the tried-and-true formula of understanding equals engagement. Everyone will better work together to reduce waste, increase profit and remain sensitive to the needs of the bar.”
Balancing the transient with the enduring
Using numbers to set goals for incentives is a semi-common practice to drive sales, however some believe that casual staff aren’t genuinely interested enough to understand. By giving them that kind of information there is concern it would be merely be opening a can of worms, causing confusion, suspicion, and malcontent.
This sentiment isn’t rings true sometimes, and can be a derivative of those who don’t necessarily understand the business and everything it entails. This lack of interest and comprehension roots deeply into the type of people employed and what their individual goals are, which then begs the question: Who is being hired and why?
When running a business with a mix of “vacation” bartenders and long time hopefuls, if the information is available, will the staff be able to utilize it? Pouring Ribbons in New York City share financial reports with the staff and help teach the interested ones how an operation runs. Joaquin Simo explains, “My partner leads bar business classes that show them how to read a P&L (Profit&Loss), how to understand what the bar’s fixed costs are, what a “good” month is, what a healthy net-to-profit ratio is, how pour cost affects the bottom line.”
The now vs the future
What it comes down to is a willingness to teach, learn, and realize not only what employees you want to hire and develop, but what business you want to run. The responsibility falls on both parties to excel and progress; as staff cultivate this as a profession, so should business owners nurture the future of the bar industry. “Lead by example and your bartenders will follow,” expresses Alba.
“Show them transparency, and they will show it back to you. Teach them that this is a career and not just a job and you’ll see that person’s work ethic change in a way that you never expected.”