FIVE COST-SAVING TIPS FOR BAR OWNERS
For bars looking for cost-effective and efficient ways of working, industry pros Charlotte Halsius and Vijay Mudaliar lay out some hacks for reducing cost without scrimping on the quality of your drinks and service.
Owning a bar in the current climate can be both challenging and rewarding. In order to serve your customers and staff well, it’s worth taking time to consider maximizing profits while minimizing costs – all the while being mindful of the service and quality you offer. Not all changes need to be big and Charlotte Halsius, Diageo Brand Ambassador Sweden & Norway, and Vijay Mudaliar from Native, Singapore show how they cut costs in their venues with savvy ways of working and creative know-how.
1. Waste Not, Want Not: Reusing Ingredients
We work heavily on reducing our waste. We try to look at each part of a fruit, herb, vegetable, and spices with curiosity about its unlocked potential. Pineapple skins, for example, might be commonly thrown away in bars but in recent years we've seen bartenders use them to make tepache, a tasty fermented beverage. We have a pineapple cocktail on the menu at Native that’s infused with the pineapple skin and the pineapple flesh is grilled and used as a garnish.
The key is to be curious and try new elements. Making powders with leftovers for your snacks, misos, kombuchas, kefir, meads are some great options.
Maximizing every ingredient is as important for the environment as it is for your wallet. When I worked at the bar, we cut down on waste by using each ingredient to its fullest potential.
The lime wheel for example could be used as a nice garnish or to make a delicious citrus syrup. The syrup could then be used to make lemonade, slush, cocktails, or sorbets in the kitchen. If you somehow end up with more syrup than you can use, treat your guests to a non-alcoholic refreshment. The cost will be next to nothing and the gesture might be enough to lure guests back next time.
2. Simplifying the menu
We have changed our menu during this period to a fun, lighter feel for our customers. In order to reduce costs we took a closer look at ingredients we used in our cocktails and, where possible, spent time making our own ingredients. We make our own kombuchas, meads, and misos now instead of buying store-bought brands. This takes more time but means we save on cost and adhere to the quality that we're looking for.
We have also started a cocktail delivery channel of our favorites on the menu to help connect to our customers at home. This has helped us see some added income as well.
Keep your menu up to date. There is no value in having drinks that no one orders. A cocktail with no rotation can be a real money eater. Not only does the cocktail take unnecessary space in the menu, but the ingredients also take up space in the bar, the ingredients will go bad and, in the end, you’ll be flushing money down the drain. By checking sales data you can clearly see which drinks are most popular and which are no longer profitable to keep.
3. Training Staff
Our employee training focuses on technical training and knowledge building – both of which enable the team to effectively and confidently upsell and/or cross-sell to increase spend per head. Aside from product training we also instill a mindset in our team to care for themselves and have introduced quarterly physiotherapy sessions to encourage the team to have healthy postures and learn about injury prevention. By investing in your team’s well-being and health you can reduce accidents at work and costs associated with that – including temporary hiring.
Having a well-trained team certainly helps, as does a well-briefed one. Make sure you take the time to have a quick briefing before service, and if there is no time – make time. A well-briefed team are less likely to make mistakes and so before each service, we create a sheet for all drinks on the menu that includes the name of the drink, the short story behind it, flavors, and the recipe.
By giving the staff the info sheets to read, they can confidently explain and recommend drinks to guests even without tasting it. An asset that’s helped us save a lot of time and money.
4. Listen to the people around you
There is no better way to save costs than by giving customers what they want, not what you think they want. You can do that by sharing surveys, analyzing sales report data, or simply having open conversations with guests. It was the feedback like this that encouraged us to expand our non-alcoholic offerings, to include a range of low ABV and fermented beverages for customers.
My best advice for all restaurants and bars is to listen to your staff. They know the daily service better than anyone else, they know what needs to be improved.
When I worked in the bar, we would gather the team at the end of the night for a short summary of the day. We asked each of them to share three good things and three bad things that needed to change or improve, this really helps streamline your offering and save costs.
5. Upskilling staff in different roles
Instead of having a different person for each role, you could invest in upskilling your team across the venue which will pay off in the long run. The more knowledge that can be shared within the different sections, the more agile the venue can be. What could be better than the chef covering the missing floor station, the server that can help in the bar during peak hours? The more we learn from each other the better we become. In the end…we are all one team!
- Limit waste and save by using ingredients to their full potential.
- Reduce the number and variety of drinks on your menu and focus on quality ingredients.
- Invest in staff training to minimize mistakes and offer a heightened guest experience.
- Continuously improve and seek feedback from customers and staff.
- Upskill your team across different roles to be more agile and effective.