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Advice from a Bar & Beverage Specialist: Reducing Bar Costs

This week’s Perlick blog has several layers. We are excited to welcome Toree Gotsis of Apex Commercial Kitchen Co. as our guest blogger. Toree is a Bar & Beverage Specialist with Apex and has some great advice for our readers on how to reduce the cost of operating a bar. Perlick has worked with Apex for years, and we love collaborating with them on various projects.

Toree Gotsis of Apex

But before we get to that, we wanted to learn a little more about Toree. Toree has blazed her way through the bar and beverage industry for the past decade, and given that its Women’s History Month, we thought it would be cool to learn a little bit more about her and her journey, before we learn her master tips for running a bar as efficiently as possible.

Perlick: What got you into the bar and restaurant industry?

Toree: It was a long road to get to where I am today. I started off in the restaurant industry when I was a teen. I was a host, server, office manager & finally when I turned 21 I started bartending. That is when it changed from a job to a career path. It was fast paced, the conversations were real and less rehearsed, & it allowed me to use some creativity. I bounced around different bars in Chicago, soaking up as much as I could from each place. I was working as many shifts as possible, taking on new roles such as helping with cocktail menus and consulting. I did that for about 6 years, until I had my son, Hudson. Then I realized the long bar hours and long nights with a baby did not mix well. The opportunity to move from behind the bar to selling bar equipment came about from a random conversation I had with my friend, APEX in-house Chef, Adam Klosterman. I shared with him that every bar I ever worked at, no matter if it was a hole in the wall or a prestige cocktail bar, was never set-up for success. As a bartender, you would have to create a makeshift work area to achieve a functional environment to do your job. A light bulb went off in his head, APEX could offer an in-house bartender to help consult and design efficient bars. That was almost 3 years ago!

Perlick: Why do you love the bar industry?

Toree: I love the realness. It allows you to connect with so many different people on so many different levels. And there is nothing better than that first sip of your favorite cocktail. I mean who doesn’t love a well-made drink?! 

WOMEN IN THE BAR INDUSTRY

Perlick: It is Women’s History Month, and a good time to recognize all the awesome women in our industry. What do you think women especially bring to the table?

Toree: I am not going to lie, it’s tough being a younger woman in this industry, but it’s also so rewarding. It is shocking that in 2021 I still enter meetings where men will direct questions to my male work associate rather than me. But the reward comes by winning that customer over with my designs and recommendations, or to get a call saying I opened their eyes to things they never gave attention to before. It’s not rewarding to just prove my worth, but because I know I am helping out the bar community. I am saving some bartenders from working behind an obstacle course of a bar and having another stressful shift. As a woman, we have so much to bring to the industry, especially a fresh & new perspective. So many design elements come from women working behind the bar, we want to make sure a woman can serve a guest without standing on her tippy toes or leaning across the counter, or that there is enough space to walk behind the bar without rubbing against another staff member. It’s these little details that for so long were missed.

Perlick: You are a mom too. How do you balance it all?

Toree: It takes A LOT of help – I couldn’t do it on my own. I have an amazing husband who is my partner through it all and that reflects in how we balance kids, work, the house, & ourselves. There are days that are harder than others, but we make it work. I also have an amazing work team with Apex. It makes balancing work that much easier, and they allow me to turn my job into a passion. I am very lucky to be surrounded by the best people in every aspect. When we are not working, my family and I love to eat. Sounds funny but our days off revolve around what new meal we are going to make, what new ingredients are we going to try, or what new spot can we check out. This past year made it very difficult to indulge the way we used to, not only with COVID, but we welcomed a baby girl this past August, so dining out was no longer a viable option. But we loved the cool new ways restaurants and bars brought the experience to our home!

We love Toree’s enthusiasm and passion for her craft. Now, let’s learn a little more about how to make the most of our bar’s space and equipment.

TOREE’S TIPS: REDUCING BAR & RESTAURANT OPERATION COSTS

Layout & Equipment: First things first, make sure the equipment in the bar is functional!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to set your bartender up for success. How can we expect a bartender to make 100’s of drinks an hour, while being the face of the establishment, while having 20 different conversations with 20 very different people, all with a smile on their face if they have to run back and forth with their heads cut off just to make a simple cocktail? Make sure the bartenders have the equipment they need where they need it. Each bartender should have their own equipment to do their job as well. The space behind the bar is already small, why have bartenders working on top of each other? This will slow down the process. If you are not a bar expect, get someone who is involved during the design process. This will help in so many ways: Bartenders will be able to make drinks faster, they will be able to focus on guest experience instead of where items are located, both attributing to higher sales and more profits for not only the end-user but the bartenders as well. Happy Bartenders = Happy Customers = Happy Operator!

Perlick Equipment: Apex

Training Programs: An intensive training program will help with turnover in the future. It is worth every penny to make sure each bartender knows everything about the operation. This includes steps of service, how to prep every ingredient, the flavor profile of ALL ingredients, liquor, mixers, wine, beer, etc. & most importantly HOSPITALITY! The more educated the staff is, the more comfortable they feel selling that product, that cocktail, to whatever guest that walks through the door. That equates to higher sales & higher profits for both the operator & the bartender.

This will also allow bad seeds to be picked out through the training process. If a bartender cannot memorize every drink, how will that drink taste if a guest orders it? If a bartender does not want to learn the flavor profile of that glass of wine, how will they sell it? How will they help guests experience what the establishment is trying to create? Their attitude during hard, tough training is a glimpse of how they might act during a busy period when they are in the weeds. 

Allow creativity: Let the bartenders do what they do best. Let bartenders help with the drink menu, they will sell the drinks they help create more likely than ones they don’t. Let bartenders help with the beer and wine menu, the same thing will happen.  They will also feel appreciated, like their input matters, and that goes a long way. This helps create ownership and the bartenders will respect their job, their boss and their value.

Ordering: Train staff on how to order liquor correctly and efficiently, to avoid sitting on a large amount of inventory at a given time. Make sure bartenders are set-up to help with this, incorporate an inventory training program. Talk with your liquor representatives – there are always deals going on. Try to create signature cocktails with liquor that always have promotions such as buy two cases get a free case to help lower liquor costs. Sometimes those are your staples, but you can always add flare and uniqueness by infusing that spirit or adding homemade ingredients to that drink recipe. Also, if inventory of a certain spirit is higher than it should be, run featured cocktails to get dead stock off your shelves. This will also allow your bartenders to be creative.

Sustainability & Collaboration: The bar is a lot like a kitchen, and many of the ideals translate to the front of the house. Use the whole ingredient. If lemon peels are being used to garnish a cocktail, make sure lemons are used to juice, create a simple syrup, etc. DO NOT just throw the ingredient away! That equals $$$ waste and not to mention a waste of a perfectly good product. Reuse empty liquor bottles for syrups, pre-batching or nowadays cocktails to go! Seasonal products help save $$$. When ingredients are in-season they are cheaper to buy and more readily available. COLLABORATE with the back of the house if there is one. There should always be a line of communication between the chef and lead bartender or beverage director. This will help with costs as well as inventory. For example, if the Chef is putting duck on the menu, after being cooked the bartender could use the fat drippings to fat wash a spirit such as scotch to use in a cocktail. The cocktails on the menu will actually compliment dishes and vice versa. Imagine that!

Presentation: Presentation is everything! We live in the world of Instagram and Snapchat and this is free marketing for any establishment! Spending a little time on a picture-perfect cocktail is well worth it. Make sure garnishes are well thought out, glassware makes sense and is eye catching, and use ingredients that include vibrant colors. These all will help advertise and sell! A less exciting but just as important part of presentation is consistency. Make sure that no matter what day, what guest orders a cocktail, that it tastes the same every single time. There is nothing worse than hearing the hype of a cocktail and then ordering it and it not meeting expectations. Loops back to training!

Final Tip – Piggy backing on large menus: Choose an identity and do that well. Do not try to dabble in it all. It will end in a headache for you, a lot of dead stock and confusion for your guests. This also correlates to ordering. The larger your order with a wider selection of spirits & products, the less likely you are to hit promotional deals for a given product. Guests have more to choose from, so you are not going to go through your inventory as fast. 

Perlick can help you set up your bar for success! Check out our website for all kinds of bar solutions, including Custom Cocktail Bars. We are here to help ensure your customers and bartenders are as satisfied as possible.