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While we all might need to cut costs right now, this doesn’t mean our offerings should be anything less than fantastic! Kelly Scott-Masson and Allan Gage from Sweet&Chilli & Nine Lives share some cost-effective ways to provide top experiences.

The New Age of Minimalism

Since Marie Kondo's 'KonMari’ method became cult viewing for the makeover tv world, a new wave of modern minimalism has been gaining traction. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg and with a bit of hard work and a little creativity, the minimalist way of thinking can be tied in beautifully with running a more ethical and cost-effective business. Better for you, better for the planet, and better for the profit margins. What’s not to love?

At Nine Lives, the aim has been to implement innovative but simple steps to ensure we come at everything with a pared-back approach.

Giving Customers More for Less

Millennials and Gen Z audiences are searching for venues and products that can offer them 'more for less’. They want greater experiences in flavor and taste using fresh, local ingredients that appease an elevated social conscience by causing less negative impact on the planet. This can be a strain on the budget for bartenders trying to create new and interesting cocktails, as organic, free-range & biodynamic produce come with a cost.

At Nine Lives, we simplified our approach and look to our community for solutions to this problem. Befriending an independent bakery around the corner led to them bringing leftover pastries when they popped by for their post-work wind-down. This was the inception of our almond croissant infused Metaxa, used in our Top Rocks serve. It’s worth having a think about your neighboring businesses and you can work together when it comes to ingredients and resourcefulness. You would be surprised by what innovative serves come out of it!

Savvy Serves

We design cocktails which minimize wastage and find innovative ways to repurpose any by-products of prep to ‘cross pollinate’ with other drinks on the menu in order to save money on ordering new ingredients each time and minimize waste. The garnish technique we used on one cocktail was made by pressing and dehydrating a coconut after it had been infused in Johnnie Walker Black Label for our popular Moby Dick cocktail.

A great way to save yourself money and reduce waste is getting friendly with local markets or greengrocers and taking their waste products for pickling, dehydrating, infusing, or making syrups. We enlisted the help of homeless charity St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots initiative, to create a beautiful, functional space in our garden, to grow our own seasonal fruits and herbs.

Sell off unused equipment that’s sitting around collecting dust and go right back to basics with running tender processes on utility bills, replacing all lightbulb with energy savers, and running maintenance on larger equipment items such as ice machines & fridge fans to ensure they are running at peak performance.

Do the hard work during mise en place, making the preparation over the bar simpler, quicker, and more cost-effective. Pre-batch and freeze martinis pre-shift for example. Focus your deliveries – use the same supplier for as much as possible and limit your delivery windows to once a week, enabling negotiation for better prices and the chance to cut down your carbon footprint.

Interior Design: The Devil is in the Detail

Firstly, modern minimalism should mean simple, not stark. Calm not cold. Consider replacing unnecessary dressing or furniture with well-designed essentials. This allows you to invest in quality rather than quantity. Small investments such as bamboo straws or our coasters made by recycling wizards Weez & Merl from sea plastic, mean we have long-lasting, quality items that make a clear statement on our ethical stance and that don’t need replacing weekly!

The dark decadence trend of bars such as Nightjar, Milk & Honey, and the outright opulence of your Scarfe’s & Fumoir’s although beautiful, are difficult to achieve for independent bars on a budget. One simple way to achieve beautiful aesthetics in a stripped-back and cost-effective way is to find a singular focal point, with small, complementary elements to bring the look and feel together, rather than try to fill the space with ‘fluff’. For Nine Lives, the beautiful central bamboo lighting is our key defining design element. We got our good friend and artist, Tim Whiting, to create hand-poured resin table tops and bar fronts for a unique and prudent way to repurpose and tie-in what we already had.

With the time we have been living in recently, table service is necessary and flexible furniture solutions are supremely important. The ability to rearrange your venue layout in a variety of formations will maximize the number of seated covers, leading to obvious benefits. Introducing an open plan layout into your venue allows for such flexibility when needed, however, it’s important to create clear ‘zones’ within your space to allow for a natural flow. This makes a more welcoming environment for guests and a more straightforward route for staff.

You could do this by using screens or shelving units to divide tables or investing in booths. Any ‘dead’ spaces can be repurposed with lighting and some clever dressing, such as Nine Lives did with the previously unused space by the entrance. Some beautiful vintage furniture and warm lighting have created a whole new inviting area for seating, turning it into what is affectionately now known as ‘Cosy Corner’!

It's a Digital World

Digitalization has also been boosted greatly by the current climate and hygiene aside. There are clear money-saving benefits to not using printed menus. QR codes bring your product to your guests for free and edits can be made in minutes rather than days. Look into the capabilities of your online booking platforms as many now offer integrated systems, that can see how long customers have been waiting, reducing queue times and maximize your profitability. Nine Lives use templates created using a free online graphic design program, Canva, to quickly create and edit our menus and posters, within the brand design perimeters.

Starting from Within: Maximizing Staff Talent

You should also make sure that your staff have an intricate understanding of their roles. Having more than one person perform the same job at once or wasting their time on unnecessary tasks looks unorganized and is confusing for the customer. Ideally, your employees should rarely be in the same place. Preferably they should be spread out around the venue. Where possible, invest in radios that will allow them to communicate clearly and streamline the customer journey.

Five Key Takeaways