Tips for luring hotel guests to the bar in 2014 – Hotel Management

drink trayHotel Management posted their top tips for luring hotel guests to the bar in 2014.  Among their tips:

Focus on millennials. This generation is characterized by high expectations, disposable incomes and a thirst for new trends. “As millennial continue to invest in the experiential value of dining, eye-catching drink presentation as well as innovative and even adventurous ingredients will continue to drive incremental sales particularly in casual and upscale dining concepts in 2014,” Melanie Austin, account executive at Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, told Nightclub & Bar.

Simplicity should be left behind. Operators are encouraged to think outside of the box and innovate, as guests are becoming tired of repetition in hospitality and want to see personality in the properties they visit. It’s open season for hotels to start taking chances on how to attract customers.

Social media is also expected to continue to climb in popularity and utility throughout 2014, and there is also expected to be more social media options available to both guests and operators. Hashtags are now a marketing tool, and it is important to learn to use them in cross-promotion.

Ok, this may not exactly be helpful to you if you are running a hotel with a typical lobby bar.  That is where TrueGuest can offer a few more tips. Continue reading

Ask TrueGuest: Tips on Making Menu Recommendations

Dear TrueGuest,Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_Hospitality

We really need to increase our average check in our restaurant and the bar.  We have been working on making menu recommendations but have not seen any improvement.  What types of items should our employees recommend?

Great question, thank you!  Having restaurant servers and bartenders make menu recommendations is definitely the key to increasing your average check.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure that employees only recommend items that they have personally tried and love.  It sounds like a no brainer, but we have this conversation all of the time.  Server says, “our fish tacos are incredible and a must order”.  We ask, “do they have cilantro on them?”  Server says, “I have no idea”.  I guess they are not her favorite after all!  Make sure you are doing regular menu tastings with your team.
  2. Allow your employees to choose what they recommend, but have some limitations.  Here is where restaurants often run into trouble.  You start telling your servers that they must make recommendations but don’t provide any guidelines.  They tend to do one of two things, over or under recommend.  Half the servers immediately recommend the most of expensive item on your menu.  They think they will increase their sales and their tips.  Unfortunately, most guests do not fall for that and are turned off when you recommend the most expensive item.  The other half of the servers then under recommend.  When asked about entrees, they say something like, “you should get the chicken quesadilla appetizer, it is more than enough for an entree.”  Now, instead of increasing the check, they decreased it.  They took away an appetizer sale and sold the analyst a $9 entree instead of a $22 entree.  Ouch! Continue reading

USA Today Predicts the Hotel Bar Trends for 2013

usatodayHere is another great article from Hotel Check-In at USA Today about Hotel Bar Trends for 2013.  Barbara Delollis walks us through all of the crazy hotel bar upgrades.  From drinks created by world famous chefs to Lady Gaga-themed cocktails, our hotel bars are changing.

A few highlights from the article:

Don’t be surprised if you see a drink menu that features ingredients or garnishes such as herbal tea, freshly crushed pineapple juice or unusual seasoned ice. Expect to pay $12 to $18 for a premium cocktail, or perhaps more in big-market cities like New York.

You might even see items made in the kitchen in and around your glass. At Telluride’s Hotel Madeline, guests coming off the slopes and craving something filling can order a decadent Bloody Mary cocktail garnished with two cheeseburger sliders, stuffed olives, pickled okra, pickled green beans, pickled asparagus, celery, pearl onions, lemons, limes, pepperoncini, celery salt, black pepper and two strips of bacon.

Give that a minute to soak in.  I am starting to miss a regular vodka tonic already!  Here are a few of the other bar trends for 2013:

Continue reading

Ask TrueGuest: The Importance of Watching Every Ounce of Liquor in Your Hotel Bar

Featured

Dear TrueGuest,

I just finished your online guide to ‘Getting Your Beverage Cost Under Budget‘ and I am working on getting all of the internal controls in place.  However, I really feel like I am now spending all of my time chasing pennies and trying to control every single drop of liquor we use.  Should I really care how much alcohol is wasted?  A little bit extra vodka here and there shouldn’t make a big difference, right? – Javier

Javier, thank you for such a great question!  We often hear this exact question when we are teaching our liquor control class in person or giving a lecture on liquor controls at a HFTP meeting.  You are absolutely right, even an ounce of a really good vodka only costs about 50 cents.  Why worry so much?  Surely, that can’t impact the bottom line that much, right?  Wrong!

First, we have to start looking at the potential of that ounce of vodka, not the cost.  In many cities such as Los Angeles and New York City, an ounce of premium vodka at a high end bar can easily sell for $15.  So, for every extra ounce of vodka your bartender over-pours, you could be out $15 in potential revenue.  Most guests have a pretty small limit of how much alcohol they can consume in one night.  Let’s pretend a customer orders a vodka cranberry but your bartender pours 2 ounces of vodka instead of 1 ounce.  That customer has now had twice as much as she expected to drink and may not come back for a second one.  If that customer typically likes to drink two drinks, your hotel will be out $15 in revenue and $14.50 in profit.  Over-pouring is definitely a profit killer in hotel bars.  If you have just 50 customers a night and just 10 of them have one less drink because of the over-pour, you could be out over $140 in profit.  If you serve a few hundred guests, you can easily see how quickly the numbers add up.

I hope that helps.  Once you get your liquor controls in line, be sure to check out our post on maximizing bar revenues.

Ask TrueGuest: Best Methods for Pouring Alcohol

Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_HospitalityDear TrueGuest,

I can’t seem to get our liquor costs under budget.  What is the best control for measuring the bartender’s pours?

Good question!  There are a few different methods for pouring alcohol such as free pour, jigger, or measured spout.  Which one works best depends on your bar.

Typical lobby lounge – If your bar is typically slow, usually a measured jigger works best.  Just be sure to have plenty of jiggers on hand so the bartender always has one within reach.  We like the measured jigger because it is easy for your supervisors to monitor from across the bar.  Also, customers are accepting of a jigger in most cases.  Of course, the down side is that it is easy for the bartender to overpour using the jigger.  Most bartenders we see using a jigger like to run a tail with each pour.  Here is a good video on basic jigger techniques:

High volume bar – If your bar gets pretty busy and the bartenders need to crank out drinks fast, we like the measured spout.  The ball bearings in the spout automatically pour the exact amount and then stop.  The bartender would have to tilt the bottle back a second time to be able to overpour with these spouts.  Here is a good video of how the Precision Pours work:

Free Pouring Method – We really do not like any bars to use the free pour method.  It is both dangerous to your profits and to your customers.  Our mystery shoppers have reported time after time instances where they were poured a drink that had over 4 ounces of alcohol when a bartender free poured.  You can easily see how pouring 3 times the correct amount can be very dangerous.  But if you must free pour, at least have a good counting system in place and a system to test the bartender’s pouring skills.  Here is a good video:

Ask TrueGuest: Bartender Selling Techniques

Dear TrueGuest,

I am a food and beverage manager at a hotel with two bars.  Can you tell me some ways that we can increase our revenues?  We are obviously a little bit slower lately, but is there anything that we can do to help?

mixed-drink1The selling area of a bartender’s service is always overlooked. These selling standards are extremely important to generating higher revenues. Bartenders can come across as uncaring and unfriendly if they just approach and ask guests, “What can I get for you?” They also will not sell much more than the minimum guest order. Most hotel bars are not like the bars or nightclubs that stand alone.People usually expect more from a hotel bar.The service of a bartender should be similar to that provided by servers to a table of guests that are eating.There are many selling standards that should be in place for each time a guest arrives at the bar.This includes practices such as offering your drink menu to guests whether they know what they want or not, providing a food menu, suggesting any specialty drinks, offering more beverages, and offering bar snacks.Each of these practices has its own effect and benefit on your bartender’s guest service as well as revenues.Here is a breakdown.

Continue reading

Basic Bar Internal Controls

liquor-bottlesControlling your beverage cost is about much more than hiring the right bartenders and being hopeful that they are honest.  Whether your hotel just opened a brand new bar or have had one for many years, make sure that you have these 12 basic internal control standards in place to protect your bottom line.

1.  Position the POS terminal so that customers can see transactions rung up. Most bars have the POS screen positioned towards the bar so that the bartender must turn their backs to use the register. This helps on two fronts; first, all guests can see their transactions rung up and second, it is tougher for the bartender to see who is watching him or her ring up the transaction, making it less likely that they will risk using POS manipulation. If your bar design does not allow the terminal to be placed this way, consider installing a display arm that can be positioned to face the guest similar to ones in retail stores.

2.  Ensure that it is your bar’s standard to have alcohol poured first when preparing mixed beverages. Pouring the mixer into the glass before the alcohol can only mean one thing; your bartender is attempting to adjust the perceived alcoholic strength of the beverage. This is a good indicator that your bartender may be pouring less per drink to steal so that it will not throw inventory levels off.

3.  Require the bartender to give a receipt after each transaction. This is one of the simplest standards to use yet many bars obviously do not require the bartender to give one. Make sure that your bartender knows that if a guest pays cash, it is not some secret code for, “I do not want a receipt.” Even if most of the guests throw the receipts away, at least your bartender gave them one and hopefully rang up the transaction.  Check out our article on how bartenders split and re-present checks with the POS.

Continue reading

Book Report: Preventing Internal Theft, A Bar Owner’s Guide

preventingThis book, written by Robert Plotkin, has been around for quite a few years and is in its fourth or fifth printing.  The book does a very good job of covering internal theft in bars.  The chapters range from ‘Exploring the Causes of Theft’ to ‘Preventative Measures’.  At 96 pages long, the book is an easy read and serves as a decent reference.  If you are new to beverage control, you will find yourself going back to the book time and time again as you try to improve the controls in your bar.  A more experienced Bar Manager will not find much of the book very useful.

While there is a lot of great advice on preventative measures, the book does feel a little outdated.  Also, many of the recommendations for beverage control seem very costly when it comes to supervision.  Hotels that do not have a F&B Manager on the floor at all times will have a very hard time with the recommendations.  In addition, many of the recommendations are just way too time consuming and small to midsized hotels will have a hard time finding the time and manpower to do them.

Overall, we recommend the book for managers who are new to beverage control.  Veteran mangers can probably skip this book.

Cocktail Server Internal Controls

drink trayWith all the focus on good bartender practices and internal controls, what about those “other” employees? All good practices should extend to anyone who has the words, “Serve Alcoholic Beverages”, in their job description. With cocktail servers so prevalent and necessary to provide good service in lounges everywhere, cocktail servers should be held to the same standards as all bartenders. The temptation and the opportunities for a cocktail server to steal are enormous because they work independently and self bank. Dishonest cocktail servers use a variety of methods to take advantage of their situations.

These methods can include:

Short-Changing – Stealing by not returning proper change to a guest. This happens as the guest can become less attentive as they become more intoxicated.

Overcharging – Charging more than necessary for a certain drink and stealing the difference. This usually happens when guests have no intention of seeing a receipt and the server quotes the drink price to them.

Substitutions – Charging for a requested premium liquor, but ordering a well brand from the bartender.

Representing Checks – Presenting the same check to two separate guests/transactions with the same order, then pocketing the cash from one or both transactions.

Fake Walk-Outs – Alleging that a party walked out, but pocketing the cash instead.

Altering Checks – Voiding or adding to checks. Usually goes hand in hand with representing checks.

With the following controls in place, you will curb the chance that your cocktail servers have to steal.

Continue reading

Bottle for Bottle Exchange

All bars have an inventory system, but most bars overlook an important aspect that should be as controlled as any other process. Imagine that your bar revenue begins to decline; more notably, your cash sales. You begin to do your research and your business levels seem to be consistent and all of your costs seem to be in line. You even do a full inventory mid-period to find any discrepancies. Everything seems fine.

Can someone be stealing your customers? That person might be right under your nose.

liquor-bottlesYour typical bar will carry a variety of different alcoholic selections, almost all of which can be found in grocery stores. There are no distinctions between the bottles you receive from your liquor broker and the bottles you can buy in the grocery store. What will prevent a shrewd bartender from bringing his/her own bottle of Absolute vodka from the store, and pouring and serving to customers out of it, and pocketing the proceeds without a trace? Your bartender just opened his/her own business in your establishment.

Obviously, you cannot have a manager watch each bartender all night looking for any suspicious activity. There is a much easier method that allows you to control this aspect of your liquor operation at a glance; Ensure that you are using a proper bottle for bottle exchange program in your liquor inventory system.

An effective bottle for bottle exchange consists of just a few steps. First, obtain a stamp or a set of stickers that is original and difficult to reproduce. Secondly, mark all of your bottles with the stamp or sticker (discreetly on the back of the bottle to maintain appearance) to show that they are the bar’s property. Lastly, add the bottle for bottle exchange to your requisition process.

This bottle for bottle method requires the bartenders to save finished liquor bottles and exchange them for new bottles during requisition. The bar will not receive new bottles unless an accompanied empty bottle with the proper stamp or sticker on it is received in return. The manager then properly disposes of the empty bottles so that they cannot be retrieved.

With the new changes, managers can easily do spot checks to see if there are any bottles in the bar without stamps or stickers on them. It also provides some additional benefits. Your bar should not run short on any types of liquor anymore as any missed requests in the requisition process will be mostly eliminated due to bottle for bottle exchange. You can be certain that your bar par levels will always be maintained. Any missing liquor inventory will now be the sole responsibility of the bartenders and cannot be blamed on the process. Managers should also consider taking it one step further and disallow personal belongings such as purses or bags behind the bar. This will prevent the use of a personal bottle of liquor to refill the bar’s bottles. Also be sure to use separate stickers for the different outlets you may have so that you do not mix or confuse the bottles with each other.

The bottle for bottle exchange will definitely add some extra work and time to your bar’s inventory process. However, it will be worth the peace of mind you will receive knowing that you are making it tougher for bartender’s to steal from you.