Screw caps on wine

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More and more wines are sold in bottles with screw caps – and since wine is sold with screw caps, there is a lot of controversy about this topic.

If you are pragmatic, you would know, that a screw cap is far more advantageous. It is easy to use and opens without an additional tool. It closes the bottle air tight. It is has less impact in the environment – and the wine will less likely have a cork taint (the wine could still has contact with TCA, while it is produced – but most of the time, the cork is the offender).

Cork is more romantic. More natural. Some people argue, that wine in cork ages better (it has at least a long history of being “ok” in aged wines).

I have had a quite interesting conversation with Thibaut of Mouton Rothschild – as they are also changing some of their lower wines to screw caps. And this discussion just fueled my imagination.

Why are screw caps so controversial?

There are three important points. One is traditionalism – corks were used through hundred of years – maybe even millennia. People are quite resistant to change – even though there are objective reasons for a change. Corks are also relatively cheap – maybe this is the reason for the whole TCA dilemma… some innovations like glass corks (I think these are really cool) were just dismissed, because they were substantially more expensive.
Hence screw caps are the underdog. But I do think the real issue is, that they “feel cheap”.

We are in an era, where there are amazing glass bottles and closures – especially the liquor industry is constantly innovating this area. However the wine makers are using usually very cheap screw caps. The result is, that a certain sensual thing in the opening process get lost.
For a cheap bottle of wine, this is ok. However if you have a more expensive product, you like to be “soothed” by a sensual experience.

All is not lost!

There are different options, to improve the “look and feel” of screw caps. I would first of all change the thread: more “travel” and a noticeable point, which can be felt, when he bottle is closed or opened. Second: a coating on the thread. There is nothing worse than a “grainy” feeling, when you open a bottle – a coating on the bottle thread or the cap thread would ensure that the opening is smooth and enjoyable. Three: heavier cap – this for sure would increase the cost (probably only marginal), but having a less flimsy, maybe longer cap, would also just improve the experience.
There could be also the option, of using a small disc of cork instead of the usual rubber seal. These small discs would be far cheaper to produce and sterilize than corks, but would also ensure connoisseurs, that only natural materials are touching the wine (on the other hand, you would built in a chance for fail – this would though be an interesting compromise).

I am sure, that there are many further ways, to improve the screw cap.

What do you think dear Reader? Do you have any further ideas? Or do you hate screw caps and only buy wines with corks? Please feel free to comment your thoughts.

In these instances I also do see, that I might look for an opportunity in the consulting industry…

 

Government Simulation

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I do agree, that this hasn’t got anything to do with my job. However in the age of Brexit and Trump as presidential candidate (and probably upcoming: Dwayne Johnson vs. Kanye West in the next elections), but also chaotic governing in other countries, everybody should ask him & herself – what we can do besides of the rather passive voting? In the first world countries a revolution or putsch seems quite improbable. In the age of science, maybe the same can help us to resolve some issues?

In modern democratic politics there are basically two theories, which are competing against each other: the conservative idea: reducing the tax of the rich and the enterprises and deregulation of the trade, in the hope, that this will create more jobs (due to higher profits), more spending – and the liberal or rather social-democratic idea: protecting the worker, regulating (and controlling) the trade and nowadays: reducing the national dept.

Especially in the US, the democrats though changed from a party which stood for more social equality to a party which is “centre” – basically a relatively balanced governing (however the worker get less and less a representation in this politics).

These are two theories (obviously there is also the more progressive left-democratic side – though usually they aren’t very successful in elections – but it is nonetheless important to mention…) – but which is right? Or even more importantly, is an elected party or leader able to implement his political promises? And which implication would those action have?

Let’s just look for a moment in job fields, which are rather dangerous or complicated: a pilot, usually learns to fly on a simulator. Big parts of nuclear science or bio science is also done on simulators and simulated concepts. Even military strategies are simulated.

I do think, that politics has also a big impact on the safety of the citizen – often it is even a matter of life and death (think about war, crime or citizen unrests). So why shouldn’t potential political leader do a government simulation?

I am sure, that it cannot all be done with a software – but most of the scenario could be virtual – with real politicians and political scientists interacting. Obviously it also has to be a hybrid several disciplines society, economics, military, ecological, media (…).

Not only can the candidate and his team show, that he can successfully govern a country, you could see, how active or passive a candidate is, but every citizen could see, the results of respective actions.
For example, a lot of problems are far more complex, as a lot of people would like to see: let’s review one “solution” Trump has: He would like to ban Muslims and he things, that this would lead to more safety. But much more likely, it would have the opposite effect: If there is someone who literally target every Muslim, there is a far higher rate of radicalisation, support(er) for the radicals, as well as actions. Even with far higher spends into the police force, it is unlikely, that this could be kept under control. It further would have a very negative effect on the relations with other 1st world democratic countries, which would have a negative effect on trade. International (Islamic) partners, would also purchase their goods (mostly weapons) – in other countries than the US (Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars in American weapons, as well as the UAE, Oman and further Arabic countries). America would become “really” the bad guy. There might be even embargoes… Similar reactions could be expected for Trumps “ethnic cleansing” of latinos.

It doesn’t need a lot of intellect and intelligence to understand this cause and effect – but apparently about 50% of all Americans (*cough* Republicans) simply don’t even own this mental resources. In a simulation, people could see the effects on their virtual lives – hence it would be rather easy for them to agree or not agree.

A simulation would take out the guess work out of politics.

I think, that this would be a brilliant idea – and instead of voting for the candidate which has the most campaign funds, or the candidate which tries to get the votes through fear and anger (fascists’ traits), a candidate could be preferred, which really would have the ability to change things to the better.

I don’t say, that “building” this simulation would be easy. I believe that faculties for computer science and political science could join forces and for once (especially for latter) do something with a real practical and positive outcome.

Do I miss something? Why did nobody yet had this idea? Let’s discuss!

 

 

 

Pokemon Go – 5 points what does it tells us.

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There is a good chance, that some conspiracy theorists connecting the dots: Pokemon Go, Trump & Brexit (besides of other big “news” this year). I am not one of those – I don’t believe in non-existing conspiracies.

But even if you don’t believe in a “big brother watching you”, it moves us – it is not far away from our daily lives. Let’s focus on Pokemon Go…

You might think, why does this crazy grown up guy talks about a game for teenagers? Because grown up guys are playing it (in fact, I don’t play it). Because it has a very real impact in the live of “grown ups”. For example the stock market (at the point when this article was written, Nintendo just overtook Sony on the stock markets).

So let us do some bullet points, shall we? These are the points, which Pokemon Go tells us:

  • The market mechanics are broken!
    Yes Pokemon Go is a mass phenomenon, but the basic app is free, Nintendo is also not earning 100% of the revenue and the trend might just be short-lived. Does Nintendo deserve to raise their stock market? Yes! But their games and consoles were lower than average successful, hence to rate a company just on one successful game, is insane.
  • As entrepreneur of a physical business you have to be very naïve not to invest, into the different payed participation models.
    Businesses need footfall and Pokemon Go is creating footfall, like nothing else beforehand. In these not so rosy times, the Pokemon “Lures” look laughable cheap – businesses should be really think hard before rejecting this.
  • Augmented reality is a winner, when it comes to future trends/technologies!
    Yes, Googles Ingress didn’t faired very well – but maybe because augmented reality just needed a well known “vehicle” like Pokemon to be embraced by the masses. I would be surprised, if Ingress wouldn’t also become far more successful (the company which developed Pokemon Go is Niantic, the same company which developed Ingress and the engine Pokemon is programmed on is basically Ingress).
    And further – if other good applications come out for AR, the market will further expand – obviously AR has to be developed further, which will definitely have a direct impact into the development of mobile device hardware!
  • Sometimes “we” are all wrong, when it comes to, what people really want!
    I have said it so often – that very often people don’t really know, what they want (and usually I refer to the TED video of Malcolm Gladwell). Those readers who thought, that a game about Pokemon can interest adults, please raise your hands… now please only those should keep their hands risen, who don’t lie…! Even “current world’s most progressive chef” René Redzepi tweeted, that one guest of Noma played Pokemon Go throughout his/her complete dinner…
    I am often quite in touch with trends, but even me I never seen it coming!
    This isn’t bad at all – but it teaches us, that we should watch out, by making assumptions. Your customers just might need/want/desire something completely different, than what your objective thinking or (flawed) research is telling you!
  • Pokemon Go is a battery drainer.
    This point might wonder some people even more than previous points. However how do you attract people, which are playing battery draining (and data package diminishing) mobile games? By offering them free charging and WIFI.
    While I don’t really like signs, that “Pokemon are for paying guests only” (frequently seen globally), you can easily reserve your WIFI connection and your chargers to paying guests.

As you can see, there is a nation-economical side, a psychological – society side and a very real business sides of Pokemon Go. You might not be able to tackle the first two points – but for sure, you could benefit out of the last one!

Cash Margin Approach for Beverage Pricing

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calculator1-300x262Since quite a while, the two beverage suppliers in Dubai (or “the few” in the UAE) are approaching the hotels for a so called “cash margin approach” when it comes to wine pricing. There are few reasons, why I am not a fan of their approach (not the approach overall).

  1. Both suppliers have quite high prices. One reason off course is the pretty high taxation of alcohol (as well as the method of taxation, as it takes the price of the beverage as basis) – but another reason is simply, that Dubai has a duopol and you simply don’t have options to buy your alcohol commercially anywhere else. Talking then about pricing seems just a bit… hypocrite.
  2. In their presentations, they are comparing several “pairs” of restaurants – their pricing and their sales – however even though the restaurants might have similar stats, you simply cannot compare individual restaurants. If it comes to statistics, the bigger the sample size, the more accurate – the smaller, the more inaccurate (or the creator can choose, what the statistic should proof – which isn’t an objective proof, due to obvious reasons).
  3. No analytical support or base. This is a bit more difficult to explain – but when I asked my contacts of the respective liquor company, if they could give me a function / formula to calculate the prices, they told me, that this is exactly the point, not to just blindly calculate it.
    I respectfully (but also full-heartedly) disagree! If you cannot solve a problem analytically, it is probably not based on an adequate business model! Off course I wouldn’t blindly follow a certain formula, but use it as a rough guideline.
    Rest assured that it is really a tough thing, to create a formula, I am not a math geek, and found out, that really nobody in my surrounding is. On the other hand I feel, that if a supplier support this approach, that they should also invest into a proper analytical approach.
  4. It is a risky business: owners and owning companies are looking at the bottom line as well as the cost. It is not necessary, that they are tightly controlling every figure, but in case, that this approach doesn’t work (basically wine sales stay stagnant at lower prices – that means lower revenue and far higher cost), they won’t be very happy (rather the opposite). This is a high risk to take.

So – as said, it is not so much the concept I am against – it is an approach, you do have in a lot of countries and hotels. It is rather the execution, which leaves too many questions unanswered. When I was in hotel school, we learned to use a “mixed calculation” for beverage items (cheaper products will have a higher margin = a lower cost and more expensive items will have a lower margin = higher cost), which is similar to the cash margin approach – only that it is rather understated and doesn’t take “its mouth too full”.
Unfortunately we used “ranges” of prices and not a more complex (but more accurate) formula.

Because if it is the said cash margin, which should improve sales, you would also need to analyze the benefits and should have an analytical base – an app would be really cool!

What do you think? Would you agree? Do you have a formula for a mixed-calculation?
Please comment below!

 

Overused Excel Spread-Sheets?

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database_800I am working now give or take 20 years in the hospitality business. I worked in “normal” operations in different positions, updated concepts or changed them entirely, I did also openings.

When it comes to admin two applications are really widely used: Word and Excel.
I don’t question here the use of Word (well, I believe, that Word isn’t often exactly the perfect solution; often it is also underused, when it comes to its potential) – but the use of Excel.

MS Excel (or other spreadsheet applications) is great for what it is made for – “to do numbers” and calculations. But, funny enough in a hotel most of the department don’t use Excel for what it is made for – but they are using Excel as a simple (and lackluster) database.

The problem is, that Excel isn’t a database application. And this shows…

While I can understand, that in the day to day operation, database apps seem like an overkill (a database has to be “developed” which takes definitely longer than starting to type into Excel; however on the long run, it would be a far more convenient – and definitely far better tool – which is easier to use day to day – and also has other advantages as reporting etc.).

Though I am surprised, when it comes to openings – that the development team of venues, still use Excel.

Imagine the OS&E list for a new opening. Equipment often isn’t so straight forward – so pictures are often included. There is a lot of information which is needed. Let’s face it: a) Excel is pretty much the worst application, handling pictures; and b) The table becomes very confusing.
This is overall the problem with excel spreadsheets (besides of the lack of reporting features): it becomes unclear.

Databases are different. You can have a reduced list, which doesn’t look any different than an Excel spreadsheet (in fact, good databases can export their data into .xls) – for the same data, you can also add fields for pictures, for videos, for sound (not often needed in a hotel) and so on. This is then displayed in a form, in which you can see one or several sets of entries. You can also export this into pdf so other people without the database have access to it (suppliers, etc).

Another example, where a database would be great is a Masterwine list. I have one in Excel, and it is bothering me every day. I created it – but I have added all necessary information – however this makes it very difficult to work with! A database would be so much easier.

So why isn’t a database used more widespread?

I believe this has several reasons:

1) MS Access. It is just a nightmare – Microsoft did really a bad job in making this application accessible (to pun intended). The result was, that people just overlooked the whole category and cross-used Excel, which is maybe not as suitable- but it is far easier to learn and understand.
2) Other applications were not much easier to use than Excel. MySQL is one which comes to my mind, and I feel, as I would need to be a hacker (or programmer), to be able to pull a proper database of.
3) Costs and Filemaker…filemaker-icon
Filemaker is definitely my favorite database application by far. In the current version (14th iteration!), it is WYSIWYG, it works as a modern application, you can use templates, and you can just make it as easy or as complex as you like or need. But there is a hook. Like other “killer” application (looking at you Adobe), Filemaker has a cost, which isn’t really as accessible as it gets (Microsoft applications are established and come often preinstalled on computers, so are no factor) – we are talking about 330 to 550 US dollars per individual license! Obviously there are discounts for 5 and more licenses etc. – but let’s face it, a normal company usually doesn’t spend that money in an application, which they (GM’s, Directors etc) don’t understand.

In my company Filemaker isn’t even endorsed by the corporate IT – that means, it can’t even “legally” installed on company computers!

This is a pity, really. Because “corporate life” could become so much easier, if you could use a database. Think about Facebook, or Outlook (or any other mail application), or warehouse programs, or even iTunes… these application, we all like, we all feel comfortable with are databases. Yes, they are developed and all… but an application like Filemaker, makes it extremely easy for the user, to create simple databases.

Filemaker is not even only great, because of its simplicity and WYSIWYG features – but they also offer a free iOS app, in which you can insert (and delete) records and even use advanced features like QR or barcode readers and so on (or adding pictures to the database directly from the camera of the phone/tablet).

This is my very own opinion about Filemaker. I really searched for free or less expensive database solutions (Filemaker had for a time a more domestic targeted application called Bento- but took it from the market) – but really never found one. Hence I don’t need to be paid (nobody sponsored me), to voice my opinion here.

If you would know a different solution, which is as flexible, modern, easy to use (…) please let me know.

To Filemaker Inc.- if you would like to sponsor me a couple of licenses, please feel free to contact me 🙂

 

 

 

The Concept behind the People

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The position now at the Ritz-Carlton hotel is my 9th (or so) major position in a “super-luxury” hotel. And what most companies don’t really want to know (or want to say) is, that at least their projected people focus, their vision & hallmarks are very similar.

Every hotel company would like to employ great staff – which looks perfectly after their customer – with the focus on great engagement and great friendliness.

Yes – the execution is widely different, as well as the operational priority of these goals (and I have to admit, that The Ritz-Carlton in my eyes have to most serious attempt to keep the guest focus consistently on a high level).

This is has following consequences:

  1. The industry becomes more guest oriented & the overall standard rises.
  2. It becomes difficult to differentiate one brand from the other – after looking behind the “hotel crest”.
  3. Guests are expecting the best service – anywhere, anytime.

There are definitely further issues – e.g. that attitude not necessary translates into great skills. But this I will keep for now for a future post.

The main issue from my perspective is the perception and expectations of a guest, when he has the first time contact with the hotel. If the person would have just heard of The Ritz-Carlton and would have booked a room, he or she would expect a “regal” hotel. Very luxurious, very polite staff – but maybe ever so slightly distanced & proud on the verge to slightly arrogant.

However the guest finds very personal, very warm staff, very “close” – almost like extended family members.
Don’t get me wrong here – this are great news for guests, which are regulars and staying again and again in the hotel! But it is also a dissonance between brand (and brand reputation) and reality.

We need some brands to be elevated, “not for the common”, “not easily accessible”. Brands like Ferrari or Zenith watches, aren’t the most accessible and “friendliest” brands.

It seems to be unexpected, but I sense that there are guests, which are not “fully engaged” not because we are too friendly, but because their expectations are not met due to our approach.

Think, that you wanted to buy a Ferrari but you sit in a Bentley – the interior is equally good (if not better), it is beautiful, there is nothing where you can point your finger on, which doesn’t meet your objective expectations (even the performance is more than what is needed in the real life usage), but just the arrogance and madness is missing. I know – this example isn’t really the best one could imagine…

It comes down to the guest psychology. There are brands out, which target casual luxury – and the guests would be happy. The challenge here is, that The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t really target with its brand to this market.

If I think about it, it is the moment, when an employee which seem to be very “regal” (excuse the repetitive use of the word- but there are few words which can describe this “attitude”) interacts with a guest and let his/her guard fall and become personal. This would be really “magical” moment.

In history the most “impressive” personalities were in positions, which gave them a sense of royalty, but they countered with warmth and friendliness (Princess Diana is coming to my mind). Yet, you cannot be “Barney” in a top-luxury hotel uniform… There has to be a transformation happening, which creates this “magic”.

The challenge would be, how to manage to have this different “feel” at the hotel.
At The Ritz-Carlton I do feel, that the corporate, but also the top management does a lot to instil the Ritz-Carlton culture as well  as that we are a very special hotel company. However truth to be told, that at times this got lost in the day to day operations. Hence yes – it will be a challenge to implement this even more complex philosophy.

I guess uniforms is one thing, which can visibly do a change. I am thinking of a mixture of the past and the present… traditional formats hotel uniforms with contemporary cuts & details.

Maybe the name batches would be another thing, which could make a difference – instead of Dominik or Dominik Schachtsiek, Mr. Schachtsiek or Mr. Dominik S. would make a statement (eventually our credo is “We are ladies & gentlemen, serving ladies & gentlemen).
Using the good name makes us very casual in our environment – maybe at times too casual; – hence changing this, could “raise awareness”.

Having elegant events (like a GM’s cocktail), with a bit more of conventions, would also give the guests the sense of dealing with a “royal” hotel.

 

This is my personal opinion! I don’t meant to say, that there is something substantial wrong in our overall strategy… but I think, that there is definitely an opportunity to build the brand stronger. Maybe this would result in a decline of growth of the brand. But this could be countered with the creation of a brand, which is less regal and  more accessible, yet as luxurious as the Ritz-Carlton. And I took only The Ritz-Carlton as example, because I am working here and have experienced the culture. I am sure, that you could say the same for FourSeasons or Mandarin Oriental…

What do you think? Am I maybe totally wrong – or is there truth in my opinion?

 

 

 

Google Glass + Face Recognition * (Hospitality Industry) = Privacy Concerns?

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I have just finished my last post about innovation in the hospitality industry through google glass and face recognition, when I researched how far we are with FR.

In my researches about face recognition, one point came regularly up: privacy concerns! And Google Glass would even worsen this points, because they are clearly much more mobile than any CCTV camera installed… anywhere.

Hence: would it be really that bad?

I think it would be quite useless, if you are closing on this topic on a philosophical way. However we have to understand, what we are doing for the moment:

  • A lot of bars [definitely in the UAE] have CCTV cameras installed.
  • Guests are reserving a table with their names.
  • Guests are checking in with their passport details.
  • Guests paying with their credit cards.
  • They even have to show their id to come in bars & nightclubs [due to the minimum age of 21 years].
  • We already have guests’ profiles – to provide superior service.

Hence, if there would be a privacy concern – we would be already in deep trouble. 
I see the Google Glass only as extension, as tool, to use information more effectively.

There is still the possibility to inform guests, that their faces and names are recognized and saved. If a guest doesn’t want to be recognized – he / she could still go to another venue.

And the system has to be limited and the available data have to be restricted to different “clearance levels”.

The normal employee would need to know the name of the guest. The server would need to know the specific likes/dislikes, allergies etc. The manager might also be able to retrieve further patterns [as we are doing it already]…

I can only repeat it again – the hazards are far lower, than the increase in service quality with such a system…

 

The Next Big Thing in Hospitality

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The last big thing should have been interactive menus. And really – slowly some of the most innovative venues are implementing those. Unfortunately there are not a lot of restauranteurs, which completely understood this technology. Instead of simplify the experience, they implement an electronic menu to become geeky; at an expense of the customer. The investment into iPad [or other tablet] menus, doesn’t only include the devises themselves. One massive part of the investment goes towards the human-machine interface. It doesn’t make any sense to use the tablet as e-reader. It just makes sense to use it to give the guest a rich experience and always show the customer, what he/she wants.

I have pointed this already out before: the tablet is so amazing, due to the fact, that even a long wine list or cocktail list, just shows, what the guest wants.

Does the guest want to see the cocktails alphabetical. No problem. Does he/she wants to see the cocktails categorized in their tastes? On a push of a “button”. More information on certain ingredients. Here we go.

This is all more or less implemented in few venues. And I expect that more and more venues, will use its advantages.

But what really is the next big thing? You guessed it already [due to the picture]: Google Glass.

You might think, that it is expensive to fit every staff member [who has contact with guests] with such a device. You might think, that it looks nerdy maybe even stupid.

But it could resolve the biggest challenges, which we have in hospitality [and especially in bars]: guest recognition!

What is google glass?

Pragmatic you could say, that it is a personal head up display. It wears like a pair of glasses- however it has a camera incorporated, a microphone and definitely a computer. And it is not yet there – but it is in development.

However to use it, one has to combine the google glass with another software, which did [more or less covert] a huge step into usability: face recognition.

My prognosis: If someone will combine these two systems and will implement this into his/her venue effectively, her/his venue will become one of the most recognized in its area. 

Why? Let me ask another question: why do you feel comfortable, if a friend is inviting you to his/her house? Because you are recognized! Everybody who is in the household knows and your name and addresses you with your name. Not forced. But we tend to prefer to say the name of a person, if we know it. And the other person likes to be called by his/her name.

There are even more positive “side effects”. Google Glass can “record” the order of a guest – as soon as the waiter repeat and confirms an order, it could automatically go to the kitchen – or dispense bar, without being “punched” into a POS system. Or any information is on your fingertips [or lets rather say in your eye]. Almost any question of a guest could be instantly answered.

These are further uses. Though what would do the revolution in hospitality will be the face recognition. I guess that at a certain point, it will be inevitable to use this technology, to stay competitive. But the big advantage will go towards them, who are the early adapters [of an effective system].

I cannot wait to recognize every single guest, on a blink [and look slightly stupid]…

 

 

The “assembly-line” bar

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What is a more efficient system – a bar with several designated cocktail stations or a bar with one improved mixing station assisted by bar stations with rather basic functions?

The answer should be a no-brainer! 80% off all people would say, that designated bar-stations is the way to go. But not so fast…

Please take one step back now and compare it with two automobile factories [both smaller scale]. One has complete workstations in which a full car is built from scratch – the other would have designated stations, where only parts of the car would be completed. Reality proofs, that the second model works better. Why – because there are very few true 100% experts, who know everything.

In a bar, it is not as obvious – but lets be honest: how many bartenders are really top notch in your team? In my experience, it takes a long time and a lot of dedication and training, until you developed one specific bartender to be quality driven, well trained and knowledgeable. Only one [or maximum two] bartender in a team would consistently meet and exceed expectations. The rest… lets not talk about it.

But if this is true, you answer yourself, how consistent your mixed beverages are…

I got to know the concept of this “kinda assembly line” bar in my home country Germany. I was working in the American bar & restaurant “Louisiana” and just due to the space and controlling restraints, they had only 1 main mixing station [behind a quite big pillar]. There were two mirrored bar stations on both sides of the mixing station, which just draught beer, offered bottled beverages and soft drinks, poured spirits… the most elaborate thing they did was preparing highballs like gin & tonics. Work however wan’t dull – as you could take care and focus on the guests in front of the  bar and had also to “serve” the waiters their drinks.

Now the “organic” grown system was, that when you newly joined the bar team, you started as bartender on “the sides”. You got used to the stress of busy service periods, could adjust to the “rhythm” of the bar.

If you were more ambitious, you could learn the full recipes of the cocktails and come in, on your day off [or after your shift] to help the “cocktail mixer” of the day. When you have proofed yourself, you could get a shift as mixer on a lower business period – and when you mastered all of it, you would have the chance to get the weekend shifts and all. It was not about consistency and quality but about efficiency, routine and quantity – but this system would apply also for a quality bar.

If you focus on the staff, you might apply the 80-20 rule – 20% of your staff [bartender, hostess, good waiters] are responsible for 80% of your success…

There are two components, we can learn out of it – to focus on only a few employees in your bar, could increase your efficiency and quality dramatically. And the way to go is a “one mixing station” system.

Not only efficiency and quality are factors, which support this concept.
The drink mixer is focussed on the cocktails – and from the perspective of the guest, it becomes a focal point – there is always somebody who makes cocktails – not several points, where bartenders are entertaining guests, serving beer, serving wine, using the POS system, polishing glassware etc.

And – there is one more factor: motivation! I remember, that almost everyone, who set his/her foot into the door of the bar & restaurant and worked behind the bar, wanted to be the man [or woman] behind the shakers.

Obviously there has to be also a number two [in busy nights at least]- who supported the No.1 – arranging glasses, filling up mixers, spirits, carrying the drinks to their respective service side etc. And we didn’t exactly considered this job as bar back – as this person was doing the drinks, when the No.1 had a break, or left earlier etc. And obviously: the No.2 on busy business periods, was usually the No.1 on slower periods.

I am starting now, to get back to this method. Even with continuous, tedious as well as expensive [e.g. training systems like lobsterink.com] proofed, that again only 20% exceeded – however still the 80% didn’t. Hence to focus on your top guys, not only rewards and develops them and not only retain them, but also let your bar business flourish!

The future of the quality bar in Dubai & Abu Dhabi

There are several components which are usually “wrong” in bars in the UAE:

  • out of fashioned drink selections
  • bad value for money
  • average quality of drinks
  • wrong clientele
  • wrong planing of the bar

First: Out of fashioned drink selections:
In the UAE, bartender and guests alike still think, that the Bullfrog [the UAE’s spurious version of the Long Island Iced Tea with blue curaçao and Red Bull], Flaming Lamborghini’s and Sex on the Beaches are still the latest in mixology. Own creations here have usually the same style.
Some fancier bars often also sports an usually unsuccessful attempt to molecular mixology.

If you understand this business, you see now, that everything mentioned is a thing of the past [to be precise from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s].

Modern mixology would include: the utilization of ancestor recipes and interpretations; local / regional produce; simplistic concoctions with a raised attention on detail; avant-garde influences there, where it really make sense
[curiously nowadays everything seems to be about smoke- a trend I don’t want to follow].
Homemade ingredients like bitters, liqueurs and essences are even more substantial than only to be called a trend.

Second: No value for money:
My believe is, that a bad mixed drink is not worth the money – meaningless how less you charge for it! But there are also bars in superior locations, which are just charging 30% to 100% more than any other competitive bar. They might be occasionally better by a margin – but don’t bother about the differences; it is just a rip off – and most guests think the same.

Third: Average quality of drinks:
It starts with the recipe – nobody seems to have the interest in offering drinks in a classical [and good quality] way.
There is a tendency, that bartender, outlet manager, F&B manager are in bondage to the ideas of guests, how to make drinks. Sorry – I love my guests, but they should not tell me, how to make a classic drink; pst – that is why I am a professional and they are in this case just amateurs.
[I am not sure, if customers are also giving directions to doctors, dentists, mechanics, baker, bankers etc how to make their job properly].
But it is not only about the recipe – usually the drinks are not appropriately prepared. A drink has to be shaken for at least 20 seconds to reach the correct temperature and dilution. Watch any bartender in Dubai – and you might see, that he is shaking 5 seconds the most.
And then there are the products; like already mentioned in my previous post, externally  procured fresh juice is the standard here [from a company called Barakat]. Orange juice is anytime great; grapefruit juice still most of the time good [however it degrades much faster as it should], pineapple juice – I would say, less than 40% of the delivered product is adequate… but lemon juice is never good.
Craft bartender would now indicate on the article of Dave Arnolds [of the CIA – Culinary Institute of America], in which he made a series of tests, which proved, that the taste of lemon and lime juice is severely degrading after 10 hours.
Not to speak about low quality liqueurs, even worse tequilas and grappe etc. which is commonly used here in bars [yes, even the good ones].

Fourth: Wrong clientele
This is now a topic, which is a little bit… delicate.
Everybody who visited the UAE [especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi] and went to a swanky bar or nightclub realized, that there are certain ladies, lurking for prey.
And places, which have obviously enough “variety of these guests”, attracting men with specific ambitions. Other guests, especially women are feeling more than annoyed by this – and usually don’t bother to visit those bars again.
While I do understand, that diverse guests have different perceptions about a venue; the main reasons should be the beverages, the food, the courtesy of the colleagues, and later the ambiance and entertainment.
However it is not only this kind of “wrong” clientele: too loud music usually attracts very young guests, who won’t be very loyal to a bar, neither will they spend enough and would detract more mature guests, who might want to socialize [including talking to each other].

Fifth: Wrong planing of the bar:
This is a far more complex problem. Most bars don’t have the budget to be replanned in a reasonable timeframe. That means one time wrong always wrong. Also planning of a bar includes so many facets- which are simply a topic for several more posts – or even a book.
The most obvious one, some bars accidentally are doing right: The focal point.
The most successful and renowned bars have one focal point. This is a feature like a sculpture, a big and complex painting… sometimes a tree in front of a central window; anything which is complex enough, that one can loose him- or herself in it. It is beneficial if it is one point – as vistas can meet, or while talking, people can let their eyes wander…
One de-central focal point can be a nice view; and several bars in Dubai are [accidentally] utilizing this. Other bars sans view, are missing this focal point; trust me – there are a variety of venues with amazing designs – however without a focal point, people are missing “something”.
Another point of wrong planning includes the bar infrastructure. If a bar can attract at the beginning guests, people would be annoyed to wait very long for their drinks. A clever planning could prevent this: this includes the size of the bar [should not be much bigger than 70 seats], the layout of the bar [refrain from island bars], the location of the kitchen, the back of house] and so on.

One of the most important points: Bars are not planned as bars!

A restaurant is planned to serve food and wine – even better: usually it is planned for the requirements of a specific cuisine. The kitchen itself is even [nowadays] better planned to produce food.
However bars are commonly developed by designers with no sense for the necessities of beverage production, beverage service nor for the need of the bar guest.
Again – while a restaurant features a specific cuisine – a bar features a design concept [and maybe an entertainment concept] – and usually doesn’t focus on mixology [except of tikki bars] – this is plainly wrong.

The future of the bar in the ME!
The future of the bar need to focus on more on seriousness!
Either the specific style of mixology or the maitre d’bar, bar manager, head bartender has to be featured and has to be the mainstay of the venue. The blueprint of the bar itself has to make this possible.

Focus on quality is another point, nobody can deny! And a contemporary style. Even classic bars cannot refrain from the latest techniques as barrel aged cocktails, cocktail pairings and home-tinkered ingredients.

investments: contemporary mixology needs reasonable investments – e.g. into a carbonation system, smoking guns, quality bar equipment, quality glassware, whiskey barrels for barrel aged cocktails, specialty spirits / ingredients […] and in the worst [most expensive] case – a rotary evaporator.

Overall it is all about trust. If the bar operator found the right bar personality, this personality has to be trusted and has to able to lead the bar into the future.