This past weekend, I saw Steve Schneider at the New England Whiskey Festival at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and it brought back a great memory.
Some years ago, I had the good fortune to have Steve visit one of my beverage operations classes. He was, quite simply, one of the best guests I have had in all of my years in higher education. If you know Steve, or have seen him speak, you know what I am talking about. He is Principal Bartender at Manhattan’s acclaimed Employees Only, which was named World’s Best Cocktail Bar in 2011. Steve has earned the title of World’s Fastest Bartender and in 2015, he was named Nightclub & Bar Bartender of the Year. A former Marine, he stars in the documentary, “Hey Bartender.”
Steve is passionate, engaging, and humble—and he held my students in the palm of his hand during his visit. As he told them his story, he kept coming back to the same themes, ones that have always built the foundation of our industry: focus on the customer, exceptional and consistent product, and tight operational controls.
While Steve understands the importance of the art of the cocktail in today’s market, he rightly characterized the beverage industry as a whole when a student asked him about it.
“It’s a business,” he said.
And it’s a good time to be in this business. The market’s appetite for creativity and quality at the bar, paired with the efforts of a new generation of supremely-talented and dedicated bartenders, has generated the cocktail renaissance.
As beverage managers, we need to remember that this is a business and success depends on treating it as such. Operators need to refocus on operational controls, especially key success measures that depend on accurate and systematic cost analysis and pricing. This is especially true for operators who are hoping to succeed at the junction of “customer” and “product”—something that the business of craft cocktails satisfies. These high-quality beverage items are often high-cost items, and they have upped the ante on the need to understand how to accurately calculate costs. If operators can do this, they can correctly price their cocktails and effectively measure their efficiency—all of which will help boost their business.
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