How To Manage A Successful Bar

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An invaluable comprehensive guide to running a bar for maximum profit and minimum stress. Detailed coverage includes 25 of the most important drink recipes; beverage and equipment basics; how to hire, fire and motivate staff; establishing rapport with customers and handling difficult situations; dealing with mixed orders from waiters; legal aspects of safety and sanitation; guidelines for responsible alcohol service. Contains numerous authentic examples.

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An invaluable comprehensive guide to running a bar for maximum profit and minimum stress. Detailed coverage includes 25 of the most important drink recipes; beverage and equipment basics; how to hire, fire and motivate staff; establishing rapport with customers and handling difficult situations; dealing with mixed orders from waiters; legal aspects of safety and sanitation; guidelines for responsible alcohol service. Contains numerous authentic examples.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471304616
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/1/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 748,597
  • Product dimensions: 0.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Standard Bar Inventory.

Wine and Champagne.

Beer, Nonalcoholic Beer, Sodas, and Bottled Waters.

Bar Supplies and Equipment.

The Bar Manager's Guide to Opening.

Who Are the Customers and What Do They Want?.

Hiring and Training Bartenders.

The Law, Crimes, and Whom You Don't Serve.

Bar Health and Hygiene.

How to Get and Keep a Job, Hire Personnel, and IncreaseSales.

A Shift with the Bartender from Hell—and with One Who's Read ThisBook.



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First Chapter

How to Manage a Successful Bar

Christopher Egerton-Thoma




Bar managers and their staffs can congratulate themselves on being members of one of the oldest professions. Their place in human society is almost as old as recorded history.

How It All Began

The consumption of alcohol began with civilization. (Some would say that civilization began with the discovery of alcohol.) Reconstituted debris from grave urns found in the valley of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, where humankind first began the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers, turns into a thick and nutritious vitamin B loaded beer—a far cry from most of the bottled beers of today. This may have been humankind’s first manufactured food. One theory holds that part of the motive for settling down to farming, as opposed to endlessly wandering in search of food 10,000 years ago, was to raise crops that could be fermented into beer, cider, or wine. Rice, dates, palm leaves, cacti, fruits, cereals, flowers, and potatoes have all found fermentation somewhere.

Spirits came later. Brandy was perhaps discovered in the Middle Ages at a medical school in Salerno. Another theory is that it was invented by a Dutch merchant who found he could transport the distilled liquid to the point of sale, where water could be added to turn it back into wine—only to discover that there was a good market for the spirit just the way it was.

The Old Testament contains references to wine; and Noah was one biblical character who had too much to drink on occasion. Pagans, Christians, and most other religious adherents embraced wine and beer heartily. Alcohol played a part in religious ritual from the Greek and Roman temples of the classical world ("a libation to the gods"), and is still used in African voodoo and modern Catholic Church rites.

Centuries ago water supply was often uncertain and alcoholic beverages earned a practical place as simple liquid refreshment apart from their other, quickly apparent, advantages. This benefit should not be too exaggerated. Wine and beer were often of poor quality, and complaints about beer that had deteriorated at sea are common in naval and merchant records. One of the reasons that the Pilgrim Fathers stopped in New England was because they had run out of drinkable beer and needed to make some more.

Until late in the 19th century the seamen of Her Britannic Majesty’s Royal Navy were permitted a free daily allowance of either eight pints of beer, or two of spirits, which might be either rum or brandy. Since more than 60 percent of seamen were either convicts or "pressed men" (rounded up from taverns in naval base areas), it is not hard to see the role of alcohol in those delightful times. Many of the men must have spent their lives in a drunken stupor.

Accounts of battles on land at this time also betray an alcoholic presence. Barrels of rum and brandy were rolled into the infantry squares at Waterloo. Alcohol was used as an anesthetic for operations, particularly the amputations that were so enthusiastically undertaken in those days.

The word "alcohol" derives from the Arabic al-kohl, which originally referred to finely ground antimony eye-liner (still in use throughout Arabia today by both sexes), but eventually came to mean any kind of exotic essence.

It is perhaps ironic that alcohol is now forbidden throughout most of the Arab world by the dictates of Islam. Alcohol consumption in strict countries such as Saudi Arabia can be punishable by jail sentences or public caning. Many Westerners have come close to this fate, and rescue from it has strained diplomatic talent to the limit.

Though it cannot be denied that Islam has effectively imposed prohibition where others have failed, it is hard to imagine any French government that imposed a sentence of 50 lashes on anyone taking a glass of red wine with dinner surviving for long.

In other Moslem countries alcohol is sometimes tolerated, usually where a dependence on foreign tourism makes it desirable. In Egypt, for instance, it’s available in hotels catering to tourists. The Sultan of Oman, having been educated at Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point, is no stranger to alcohol and has decreed that it may legally be consumed in his country, although tourism is somewhat discouraged.

There is no shortage of references to alcohol down through the ages. The Babylonians had strict regulations. Ancient Roman poet Pliny gave us the often quoted line In vino veritas—"In wine there is truth."

Few philosophers have bothered to point out that there’s a lot of nonsense, too, perhaps because this is so self-evident. In ancient Greece Socrates warned that "If we pour ourselves immense draughts, it will not be long before both our minds and bodies reel." The ancient Greeks were very insistent that wine should be diluted with water. It was considered bad form to drink it straight.

In the 12th century Omar Khayyám had plenty to say on the subject of wine:

Yesterday this day’s madness did prepare;
Tomorrow’s silence, Triumph, or despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, or where.

Writers from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas have leaned heavily on the world of alcohol, and Shakespeare’s famous dictum that "It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance"is a homily confirmed by many. So rich and well-thumbed is the lexicon of bibulous quotations that it’s hard to find anything that does not have the dull ring of cliché.

King Charles the Second of England complained of an acquaintance that he "had tried him drunk, and tried him sober, and there’s nothing in the man." An apocryphal story about Abraham Lincoln concerns General Grant, after whom a fine whiskey is named. Certain officers complained that General Grant was drinking too much. Lincoln’s reply was, "Please find out what it is he drinks— and send a case of it to each of my generals!"

Bars from Pompeii to Prohibition

Excavations of the near-pristine ruins of Pompeii, the ancient Roman town covered with ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, reveal a thriving alcohol industry. A population of approximately 20,000 supported 20 inns and 118 bars. Most of these bars served wine, beer, and hot drinks (hot water added to wine or warmed beer). Tea, coffee, cocoa, and spirits were still I, 500 years down the line.

Until the discovery of the cork, wine was sweetened and boiled to steam off some of the water content. When the wine was judged ready for market it was described as "cute," and that is the origin of this adjective, so popular in American English today.

The serving of food to the ancient Roman public was discouraged by nervous emperors who thought, quite rightly, that encouraging people to sit around dinner tables might lead to sedition and revolution. Markets, held every ninth day, were also closely controlled for the same reasons. When one considers the dreadful goings-on that emerged from the unsupervised bazaars of the British Empire, one can only congratulate the caesars on their wisdom. However, they could do little about the private dining sessions where most mischief was cooked up.

At an inn, as opposed to a bar, hot food was available. Many bars frequently had all-night drinking, dancing, and singing sessions. Tradition has it that the disguised Emperor Nero was a frequent patron of such places.

In the ancient world, extensive regulations existed. A Roman 4th-century decree reads: "No wine shop shall open before 9 A.M., nobody is to heat water for the public, sellers of cooked food can operate only at fixed hours, and no respectable person is to be seen eating in public." The imperial police would have a high old time on the avenues of America today, where half the population seems to be dining on the march, pizza in one hand, soda can in the other!

At Asellina’s Thermopolium in Pompeii the stone bar is still intact; its hot water container is easily identified and behind it are a number of mugs, bowls, and amphorae (the all-purpose jar containers of the ancient world). These mundane and ordinary containers, which now qualify as "artifacts," litter classical sites and waters almost as ubiquitously as the discarded soda cans of today.

Then as now location was important. The inn of Euxinus next to the Amphitheater features a street-corner bar, hot food counter, wine racks, back rooms, and an open-air courtyard. It must have been a popular place to warrant such extensive features.

The purpose and function of these establishments were the same as today’s. Travelers and those temporarily cut off from the ordinary sustenance of the domestic hearth were served. But these places were also "watering holes" and gathering places where casual meetings might turn into deeper acquaintance. Alcohol loosened tongues, reality, truths, inhibitions, and morals.

Inn keepers made a good living and were prominent in society, though perhaps denied the full mantle of respectability that belonged to lawyers, accountants, and the like. Long before the age of Puritanism there were those who looked askance at inns and bars. Prostitution and gambling were associated with such establishments. Gambling was illegal in ancient Rome, but in practice it was tolerated.

A consideration of ancient places such as Pompeii, Leptis Magna, Cyrene, Appollonia, and Syracuse—more or less intact ruins of civilizations as vibrant as our own—can be almost unbearably poignant for those who choose to hear, among the crumbling stones, the echoes of ancient laughter, grumbles, wisdom, and foolishness. Reflection on the temporary nature of life itself will not be far behind.

As the centuries progressed the bar industry grew, in close association with the ever-expanding hotel and restaurant business. One wonders sometimes what Western humanity would have done without it, so much history and folklore derive from its rituals.

The development and improvement of the quality in wines and spirits owe much to the blessing of the Church and the sincere attentions of generations of monks. (It is worth remarking that Christian tradition has plenty of comments to make about the evils of alcohol abuse—drunkenness—but few about sensible and moderate drinking, which it appears to take for granted.)

By the 19th century things were getting out of control. The French poets Baudelaire and Verlaine waxed lyrical about the joys of absinthe. However, the French government was so worried about its effects on the poorer classes, which included blindness and death, that absinthe was banned except in the diluted form of what is now marketed as pastis—Pernod and Ricard.

Temperance became a crusade for many in England, where gin mills advertised their wares: "Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence"—with free straw thrown in for sleeping it off. To this day, all over the Yorkshire Dales, one will see prim "Temperance Hotels," dating almost invariably from the days of John Wesley. The one burning certainty in a "Temperance Hotel" is that, no matter how much you need it, you will not be able to get a good, stiff drink. Apparently, many derive comfort and succor from such certainty. Others may be less inspired.

Britain’s recently abandoned, quaint licensing hours dated only from the First World War, when it was considered desirous that workers return to their duties promptly and reasonably sober. Yet so deeply ingrained is the old routine that many pubs still observe the old restricted hours.

Other countries have had their problems, too. Both Finland and Sweden outlawed alcohol, a move that became known as "Prohibition." Finland allowed the consumption of beer only. Eventually both countries returned to the system of legal consumption of alcohol, though with fierce punishments for violators, particularly motorists who were found to have alcohol in their blood. Sweden at one time tried a system of liquor ration books, but this was so abused that it eventually broke down. Attempts to control alcohol consumption have also been recorded in the Aztec and ancient Chinese empires, feudal Japan, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Canada, and India.

In spite of the history of failure of this measure in many countries, the United States embraced it in l920—in all states except Connecticut and Rhode Island. Absurd as it may seem today, this legislation was a result of the collision of an American society, whose roots were founded in Puritanism, with the influx of immigrants from countries such as Germany, Italy, and Ireland, where alcohol was a part of life. Brewers were usually German. Nearly every street corner in America’s cities and small towns was a bar.

As might have been foreseen, the theater of Prohibition led to an absurd glamorization of the world of alcohol. Nine years after Prohibition began, there were 32,000 "speakeasies" in New York—nearly twice as many as the preProhibition number of saloons.

Fortunes were made in the smuggling and clandestine manufacture of liquor. These years gave organized crime a boost from which it has never looked back. Prohibition opened opportunities for corruption of the forces of law and order, too, as does the prohibition of gambling, prostitution, and the like. By 1933 even the "drys" had to concede that Prohibition wasn’t working, and the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st.

The failure of Prohibition underlines the fact that alcohol consumption is a part of life for many Western people. The ever-present risk of abuse mandates certain government controls. Even the happiest and most responsible drinker cannot ignore the horrors of abuse, from accidents to violence to broken homes to early death. Indeed the specter of these extremes helps keep most responsible drinkers firmly on the straight and narrow!

The Bar’s Role in Society

Alcohol consumption increased with the general affluence of the Western world. Westernization of the Orient opened up undreamed-of markets. Who, pre-World War II, would ever have dreamed that Scotch whiskey and Bordeaux wines would find markets in Japan and Korea? Who would have thought that the French with their magnificent panoply of wines, beers, spirits, and liqueurs would adopt whiskey, gin, and vodka? Or that the three-martini lunch would be replaced by designer bottled water?

Most of these changes have been brought about by clever marketing and advertising. Once you can sell upwardly mobile people the idea that what you’re selling is what the smart folks are buying, you are on your way to success.

Alcohol sales worldwide peaked in the 1980s. There has since been a downturn in consumption of all alcoholic beverages—with the exception of champagne, whose sales go on and ever upward, though at a much reduced rate.

Perhaps there are still things to celebrate in these wonderful l990s in spite of gloom in some quarters. Sales have fallen but leveled out.

The recession inevitably had some effect on this drastic market change, as did the health craze. Alcohol became a strictly forbidden no-no for health nuts, until challenged by the suggestion that a moderate intake of alcohol might inhibit the possibility of cardiovascular disease.

Except in those American families that fiercely cling to their ethnicity and the habits of their forefathers, there isn’t really a tradition of drinking alcohol daily or with meals. All Latin countries embrace the proverb, "A day without wine is like a day without sun." In America nonalcoholic drinks compete head on with wines, beers, and spirits. Water, tea, milk, coffee, and above all sodas are more likely to be consumed with the average American family meal—in those houses that still feature such occasions in the age of fixing a sandwich from whatever’s in the refrigerator and munching it in front of the TV set.

So powerful are the advertisements for nonalcoholic drinks that a majority of American consumers never enter what one might call "the drinking pool." There are just so many other wonderful things to drink! The United States may be the only country in the Western world where, if a man asks a woman to join him for "a drink," implying a casual meeting rather than a drunken bacchanal, he risks being brushed off with a terse "I don’t drink." "How about getting together for pie and coffee some time" is a much safer line!

Though home alcohol consumption in America has increased, there is still a deep-rooted prejudice against drinking alcohol in general that bar managers will do well to bear in mind as they wrestle with the problem of keeping up, and increasing, business in ever more competitive times.

A majority of families in the United States and Anglo-Saxon countries do not routinely store alcohol at home. At Christmas they may bring home a bottle or two. In such countries two-thirds of all alcohol sales occur in the final three months of the year.

In many circles a certain stigma attaches to those who make no secret of their regular consumption of alcohol. What candidate for the presidency of the United States has ever admitted to consuming more alcohol than a tiny glass of eggnog on Christmas morning? (There was one politician who intimated to voters that the legal price ceiling on the gifts he could accept from them just encompassed the price of a bottle of his favorite bourbon—but he was brave to do so. Perhaps he was a man of independent means?)

The well-known fact that the price of two martinis in the average bar will buy a whole bottle of gin or vodka at the liquor store, if you wish to drink at home, is indicative of what the bar business is all about. Some people are appalled to hear Someone confess that he or she occasionally drinks alone at home. Their thoughts Instantly register an image of lonely alcoholism, which may not be the case at all. There are some people who like alcohol but abhor conviviality. There is a kaleidoscopic range of attitudes toward alcohol. The hypocrisy frequently encountered in discussion of the subject is something the bar manager will do well to understand.

Most people who want to drink go to a bar or restaurant. The industry twists and turns to make such excursions more agreeable. To combat the rivalry of television, TV sets have been installed in many bars, and this practice has been further refined to the currently popular "sports bars," where people go to watch sports on big screens, eat, and drink at the same time. Any bar that goes out of its way to allow single women to sit without any salacious overtones will attract business from the increasing number of affluent and independent females.

Just as musicians practice diligently so that the technical complexities of a piece cease to be a problem, thus freeing their attentions for artistic rendition, so good bar managers should aim to create bars that run effortlessly, like clockwork, freeing them and their staffs to concentrate on the single most important element in the whole enterprise—the customer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2008

    good book

    this was a good book, the foundation is the same, but this book was written back in 1994 so some of it is a bit outdated. this is a great background of what to expect.

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