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Improving the existing bar

Ok - so I wanted to write another post about the "cocktail-robots" however, when I've read again my last post, I guessed, that it was pretty elaborate and comprehensive.

However the topic is strangely fascinating me. I love gizmos - am a bit techy [despite of my age] - and I am also very interested in the future of my job expertise. Instead of writing another post about the same subject, I am now try to gain distance and look at the technological elements, which should be improved in a modern bar.

Hence the topic: which elements in the existing bar faulty and what can we develop, to make it better.

POS and payment:
If somebody asks me, what element is the most distracting, the least effective... there is definitely one thing, which directly comes to my mind: the whole financial interaction process.

  • Posting a drink in a POS system [or in an antiquated register cash register like in Canon].
  • Prepare the drink [most of the time a bartender would create the drink according to a KUT or receipt]
  • Giving the guest the check after serving his/her drink.
  • Wait for the cash/credit card
  • Process the credit card [which involve another 2 or 3 steps] or give change.
  • Take back the bill folder.
Really awful. Even in my best times, I slowed down dramatically, when it came to processing the payments. And truth has to be told - why I am pretty good with Micros and a walking encyclopedia, I still don't know how to use the credit card machine - honestly! 
I estimate, that more than 50% of the waiting time in a bar is related to the posting/payment!
What can we do?
  • Update and streamline the interface of the POS - [maybe even shooting Micros to the moon and get a more modern POS system?!] - this will have already a major impact in the ordering!
  • Invest [and further develop] mobile POS systems, which can be used, to directly send the order, while taking the order.
These are costly and time consuming actions - but very realistic. Problem is, that the order process might only be 10% responsible for slow speed of service. Payment is the biggest problem!
  • Adopting digital wallets and similar system, just might the way to go.
  • An interesting idea would be, that every table [or bar seat] could have a QR code. The check could be "online" and guests could access it via their mobile devices, to see their consumption as well as pay [digital wallets, Paypal etc].
Really - on one hand, you have to incentify the use of these system [maybe giving a rebate or giving points, which can be redeemed] - but I have not really a clue, how to make this whole antiquated system more efficient. All what I know is, that it sucks. Ideas are greatly welcome [down in the comments].

  • The bar set up - inclusive stainless steel "furniture"/ elements, equipment [e.g. blenders], the whole bar counter etc. have a lot of creases, corners, edges (...) and are a nightmare to clean!
  • Glasswashers are not cleaning glassware as clean as advertised.
I hate to say - but commercial glasswasher are really expensive equipment, which doesn't work properly. Have fresh juices or cream in glasses and the glasswasher is baking these elements to the glass, instead of properly clean it. I read about great systems [e.g. Winterhalter ] - but when it came to the reality, it seemed that there is little difference between an old glasswasher and a hightech version. You still have to control every single glass for cleanliness [lipstick, food residues etc] - and you have to polish every single glass. Not good!

Again - the bar set up can be improved. This cost definitely money - but at least for new bars and hard-refurbishments, it is a good option, to hold the contractors and builders of the systems accountable [which is tough]. However the problem with the glasses remain. The appliance producer, really have to up their game and have to go back to the drawing board. There are further improvements to be done:
  • Glasses should be at room temperature, when leaving the machine [reduces heat-shock-related breakage as well as speeds up service].
  • The rack in and out solution, is not the best, when it comes to tight bars.
  • Bar equipment, should have its space in the machines, to be cleaned effectively.
  • Cleaning chemicals should be sustainable and easier to refill [modern machine are usually less a headache in latter point].
  • Can we have a system, which directly takes dirty glasses, dumps rests [but keeps e.g. stirrers], wash the glasses, dry them, and put them back into storage??? C'mon we are in the 21st century!
I just thought about it - and cannot believe it. While residential fridges becoming more and more high tech and offering partly unbelievable functions, the commercial bar fridge is the same old. Maybe the biggest improvement in the last decade might be the energy consumption, which became lower. Maybe!
This is especially disturbing, when you think, that a commercial double-door undercounter fridge is as expensive as one large "almost" top of the line household fridge [maybe without the tweeting function :)].
What is wrong with the bar fridge? 
  • Height adjustments of the shelves are finicky and inflexible.
  • Shelves are anyway antiquated.
  • Usually no incorporated thermometers and temperature record system [there is one, but it is build on and super expensive].
  • Built materials: rusting, scratching, not really made for the tough bar routine.
  • Hinges are usually old fashioned & exposed.
  • Loads of corners, which are "dirt magnets".
  • The condenser in the back of the lowest shelf [takes a lot of space].
  • Locks are usually pathetic.
Yes - the fridge deserves to be completely re-formulated and re-engineered. 
  • Maybe an antibacterial, toughened silicon coating would be great.
  • Drawers instead of shelves?
  • Incorporated temperature records.
  • Integrated stock control.
  • Top drawer for garnishes.
  • Proper locks, hinges etc.
  • Modern modular built [e.g. condenser can be exchanged without technician].
  • Self-cleaning [yeah - I am dreaming].
Inventory/stock take system
I have heard quite a lot in the last couple of years about inventory systems. I have heard even, that they incorporate NFC chips, which makes stock control perfect. And I have heard, that the system became dramatically less expensive. While we are talking about U$ 300,000 and more, when the systems popped up, rumors are, that these systems are now more widely available and due to the selling volumes, the prices went dramatically down. Lower 5 figure, low.
Honestly - I haven't seen one system working yet - but just check out the video. Sounds interesting...

I have worked in a bar [around 12 years or so ago] which had a quite comprehensive system in place - unfortunately they had these magnetic pourers on the bottle, which was just a huge pain.
But one of their secrets of their financial success was definitely this system [there were still some loopholes, which staff could take, to make sure,  they wouldn't need to pay the variances - but these were always kept reasonable, as nobody wanted to risk detection].

Guest recognition
This I have posted quite a while ago on my blog, but now I have even seen some systems, which are especially designed for the hospitality industry.
The problem is clear:

  • Guests are usually not reserving in a bar - hence you won't have the names without asking.
  • Bars have a much higher flow-through than restaurants. The ratio being around 3 to 4:1. Hence it is much more difficult to remember and use guest names.
  • Independently from the individual challenges in a bar - it is tough to get the names of whole groups of guests.
  • However: using the guest name and remember the preferences are paramount for good service.
Yes- face recognition is a solution. It still would need an adequate interface, so the employees can determine swift and inconspicuous the name of the guest. Different than my previous attempt, I would not necessary put Google Glass as the center point of this problem.
But then, it could work in tandem with a broader system. 

The imprecise & cheating bartender
And yes - I have to remind you again here and now, that bartending, how we know [and love] it now, just might be a thing of the past.
Again - oppose of most's viewpoint I evaluate the bartender not as holy grail. Quite the contrary! 
Even if we have an inventory surveillance system - the average bartender will still find some loopholes to cheat. And worse: the quality and especially the consistency of drinks are in jeopardy.
A machine would change this.

However this doesn't mean at all, that we have no more humans serving in bars. It is completely the opposite. The machines are taking care of the mixing, and the humans are taking care of the guest.
Off course, things like the blue blazer might just be a thing of the past then [as it is historic, technically it is a thing of the past anyway]. But bars can define themselves better, when the human element can just score with its strengths. 
Some bars will be able to redefine themselves, offering a never seen engagement with their customers. Some others will be able to drop their prices even more [and invest in security!?].

Overall I find it even positive. Because you will have to be good in your job, to land a job. Either way, you have to be a very good host and showman [without necessary throwing things into the air - definitely no bottles]- or a kick-ass mixologist.
Just to be fast and there [and out of an acting_or_whatsoever_job] won't cut it. I don't believe, that any bartender who is truly great, won't find a job. However all these beguilers and those, who see bartending as interim solution, just might get out of luck. Which is a good thing.

What do you think? Are there more elements in a bar, which are not effective [or working at all]?
Please feel free to comment!


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