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The opinionated respond on "making money while breathing fire"

Our bartending industry seems to be divided: there are the "craft bartenders" with suspenders and impressive mustaches (nowadays also with tattoos of bartending tools) and "dive bartenders" which are all about speed (and have probably a more rustic look - but still have tattoos of bartending tools).

Frederic of had this post which cemented these two philosophies:
My middle talk on Friday at Tales of the Cocktail had one of the more curious titles, namely "Make Money while Breathing Fire." The name was not about breathing actual fire but how bar teams can differentiate into the greeter and the speed person/drink maker. The panelists were JJ Goodman (owner of London Cocktail Club), John Lermayer (Miami's Sweet Liberty), and Zach Patterson (West Holywood's Melrose Umbrella Company) with moderator Adrian Biggs (Bacardi ambassador). 

The premise of the talk was that with the cocktail renaissance, there was a lot of pressure in making ice, appearances, glassware, ingredients, and cocktails perfect, but at what cost? 
People of the "speed faction" always paint the picture of the craft bartender, who cannot serve his guests, because cocktails take too long; and who is educating everyone and showcase themselves to be something better than their guests.

To be honest, I have been to quite a lot of craft bars (but not in the US) - but never encountered this stereotype. Sure a cocktail can take longer, if the business is crazy. Sure, some bartenders educate or edutain along the way. But this purely negative stereotype IMHO isn't realistic.

And further: the assumption, that guests would not return, if they get a great cocktail, but their experience (measured by the timeliness of service) isn't great, is just not true. 
I have worked in Vu's Bar: with Dresscode and great cocktails (at the time) - and due to a crazy business level, our cocktails took at times very very long. But basically all guests returned and we had a sky-high customer satisfaction rating. 
Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME?
There is also another point, which the Tales of the Cocktail discussion simply dismisses: Market Segmentation! Yes - maybe some bars are not customer-friendly, but to assume that most bars in the "craft segment" are like that, is just non-sense!
Back to market segmentation: there are guests, which like raucous bars, they prefer a busy place before they like good drinks. But this is one particular group. Other groups are gourmets - me for example go only to bars with good drinks - if they are busy ok - but I would even prefer a bar, in which I can talk to the bartender.

I also have the feeling, that in the discussion was a big emphasis on making the most money as possible. Instead of making some money with what you believe in. IMHO there is a market for bars, which are just offering what people could expect - where you go with your buddies, when you want to unwind (...). But there are also a market for bars, which are doing new things, opening new markets, pushing the limits (quality-wise, service-wise, presentation).

And further... most bars will do sufficient mis-en-place and find short-cuts to serve impressive ice shapes, garnishes etc. without jeopardizing the timeliness of service. And it is basically the job of the bar manager (and the bartenders) not only to create innovative cocktails but also be able to serve them...

The take away isn't, that craft bars are great and dives aren't. The take away is, that there are a lot of different people out there, which have different expectations. And that there are a lot of bars out there, which are different and have a specific target audience. Only because there are bartenders, who never left their 20's, doesn't mean, that there is no demand or no justification to open a refined bar.
And even though I am not a fan of "elite" venue, even if a bar can find these type of customers, it is ok. 50 $ cocktails which take 30 minutes to make (or which you have got to preorder)? Why not!


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