Pro Tips for Introducing Food in your Bar
More and more bars are elevating customer menus and service with food to widen their offering and provide guests with a fuller experience. Vasilis Kyritsis, Co-owner of The Clumsies, number 3 on World’s 50 best bars list, outlines some easy tips on how to create and implement a simple food and drinks menu.
BENEFITS OF SERVING FOOD
The Clumsies is an all-day bar. This sort of venue is a common concept in Greece as Greek people love staying in a bar and enjoying their coffee, their cocktails and, of course, their food. Therefore, we’ve been serving food since day one as we knew Greek people love eating and drinking at the same time. Allowing for food on your menu means you can extend your offering and enjoy the incremental profits that this brings.
Serving food can offer the guest multiple new experiences each time they come to your bar as you can collaborate with different bartenders and chefs. It also allows you to experiment by exploring different cultures by trying out different cuisines like Italian or Mexican, and creating amazing food and drink concepts that complement one another. For example, Margaritas for Mexican food or Aperitivo for Italian food. I love visiting a bar where the focus is on offering the guest an elevated experience, and tasting foods from around the world whilst imagining or trying a magnificent cocktail alongside it. I find visiting other venues a huge inspiration when it comes to creating new food and cocktail recipes.
However, adding food to the menu can be quite a daunting experience if you’ve not done it before, so I have provided top tips for getting started.
HOW TO GET STARTED BRINGING FOOD TO MENUS
1. LAYING REALLY SOLID AND SIMPLE FOUNDATIONS
Creating a food menu for a bar can be interesting yet complex as you need to take your current cocktail offering into consideration. You have to research flavors and what food will complement that cocktail best, as well as taking the time to understand your customers’ needs and wants. Researching what your customers need is really important. Ask them for their favorite snacks. Other things you can do include in your research journey are reading cooking books, watching chef related programs such as “Chefs Table” on Netflix and other cooking programs, talking to your local food producers, mimicking flavors that you always like in your cocktails. Opening up your senses is the most important thing when it comes to researching food for your bar.
- MENU - KEEP IT SIMPLE
At Clumsies we love having all of the menu on a page. The food we want to highlight comes first and then we have different categories that cover all the palettes i.e. vegan food, low calorie food, full fat dishes, deserts…One more thing that’s very important to note is that we keep our ingredients simple on the page. We only mention the main flavors to keep people interested. Especially during lockdown or a reduced service, I would strongly recommend a smaller appetizer menu. This should be a combo of short cocktails and bites of bar food starting from lighter flavors to more
2. TAKING IT UP A NOTCH
- FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL
You know how the classic saying goes, and it’s true, preparation is absolutely crucial when it comes to introducing food to your menu. At Clumsies we have modern equipment and enough space at the kitchen to make sure we can create the right comfort concept for our regulars. In a busy bar like ours the backbar and preparation stage is really important so that we can prepare the food as quickly as possible for the guests.
Cooking simple food for a bar does not require special equipment sometimes. Bar and Kitchen teams can share prep stations and saucepans, as well as storage space in the fridge and freezer (we do the same at the Clumsies). Be resourceful too - for example, maybe to create a dessert on your food menu, you can use same cream & soda siphons ingredients you use in your cocktails.
- RAW LOCAL INGREDIENTS ARE FUNDAMENTAL TO SUCCESS
Bartenders and chefs have access to so many high-quality homegrown ingredients in Greece so we are very lucky. You can find a lot of micro producers creating fresh fruits, vegetables, spices & herbs on a daily basis. This is my most important tip: invest in the raw material. When you use the best raw material available then you can work with a lot of different techniques and inspirations.
3. BE ASPIRATIONAL + INSPIRATIONAL
- SUSTAINABLE LIVING
Speaking of resourcefulness, we try to reuse as many ingredients as possible to reduce waste, this is a key element of our prep stage and keeps in line with our commitment to working more sustainably. This technique also goes to show that preparation can be key to making ingredients stretch that little bit further and therefore save you a bit of money. For example, we make a cordial using cooked red apples with spices. We use the syrup made from this for the juice and the red apples are used to create a lovely apple chutney by our chef.
- WORK TOGETHER AND GATHER INSPO FROM THOSE AROUND YOU
We are also proud to say that we collaborate with one of the best Greek chefs (Athinagoras Kostakos, head chef of Scorpios, Mykonos & Co owner of Meraki restaurant, London). On a smaller scale, collaboration can lend itself to creating delicious meals. Partnering with small shops and producers, and therefore working with an abundance of different materials, can make you more creative as you discover every single flavor of each ingredient. For example, discovering the range of taste a tomato has from its inside to the outside. Working with its seeds, to different types of ripeness, to different temperatures, can massively improve and lengthen your flavor skill set.
- PERFECT COMBINATIONS
I love the umami flavors that food and drink together usually bring. I am also a huge fan of using vegetables in my drinks. We have a cocktail on our menu which contains homemade beetroot soda, it’s a twist on a classic fizz with Tanqueray No.Ten, Kumquat Reduction and Homemade Beetroot Soda. Delicious.
- PROMOTION IS KING
Promoting your food menu is just as important as promoting your drinks offering. We gave equal attention to both menus since day one. We invited a lot of food specialists to taste and share their feedback on their social media channels about our food, we promote a lot our food events on our own social media, using our hashtags and working with our talented photographer, Kosmas Koumianos, who creates high quality content which highlights every intricate detail of our menu.
- REWARD YOUR REGULARS
We really wanted to create an international bar, but it was very important to keep the Greek habits front of mind with them being the main customer base. Adding food to your menu will give your regulars reason to continuing visiting often and an impetus to spend more.
THREE COOL COMBOS OF SIMPLE YET DELICIOUS FOOD & DRINKS:
- Truffle Burger & Ketel One Bloody Mary
- Spicy Shrimp Tacos & Don Julio Tommy’s Margarita
- Banoffee Desert & Zacapa23 Rum with Burnt Caramel Mead
- Keep your packaging sustainable as much as you can
- Highlight your country culture & flavors in your food
- Find the best raw material you can, supporting local micro producers
- Create simple menus with food & drink combinations that last
- Promote your new food menu as much as possible on social media etc