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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!

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