In the Weeds: Ramping up for the Summer Rush

by | Jun 11, 2019 | Better Bartending, Business of the Bar | 0 comments

The sun is out and so is school! This time of year people are traveling and out enjoying the warm weather, which usually means they are also in a good mood and happy to open their wallets. Summer can be a great time to be in the hospitality industry, but the increase in the volume can also be difficult for some businesses to adapt to. This week we thought we’d take a quick look at some things you can do to make sure you and your bar are ready for the summer rush.

Here’s a few things to consider if your bar or restaurant is about to go into your busy season:

Hiring

In order to handle the extra volume that some restaurants and bars experience, you’ll probably have to hire and train new staff members. It takes time to get the new staff hired, trained and efficient and being late to the party can cost your establishment money. The key to getting your staff trained properly for the busy season is to work backwards from the beginning of your busy season.

First, figure out your peak time. Then work backwards:

  • Time for staff to get up to speed – (2-6 weeks, depending on your bar.)
  • Formal Training (1-2 weeks)
  • Interviewing, selecting a candidate (3-7 days or much more, depending on your market)

In this example, you would need 3 weeks (at a bare minimum, but very likely more.) Plus, every additional week that each new employee gets under their belt increases their sales, decreases their mistakes and allows them to get in the groove of service.

Think back on last year’s peak time and plan ahead, or mention it to your manager if you feel you may be under-staffed.

Training

While you are training the new staff members, you can also focus on further training for your established staff members. Focus on ideas that will help to increase check averages. Great topics can include suggestive selling and upselling, for example following up for additional cocktails/wine/beer, coffee/tea service and / or appetizers, and desserts if you are selling food as well.

On the support side, it’s a great idea to revisit table maintenance and how your staff can stay ahead of it. (For example, clearing empty glasses, plates, silverware, etc). This is a great thing to highlight because it typically reduces the time required to reset a table for service, increasing the number of tables and guests served and increasing overall revenue. This has a direct impact on the bar’s bottom line and (even more motivational) your staff’s tips.

Sales Contests for High Profit Margin Items

Your most expensive items on your menu are not always your highest profit margin items. Take a look at your numbers to see what your highest profit margin items are, and hold a sales contest items focusing on selling those items.

Logistics

Get your processes dialed in, not only for your staff, but for you as well! While always good practice, this becomes even more crucial as business begins to ramp up. Spending a few days to nail down a few processes before it gets busy will make everyone’s life a little easier. Here’s a few ideas on processes to develop or refine.

Opening/Closing Sheets

If everyone knows what is expected of them then less will fall between the cracks. Make sure that the closing shift sets up the opening shift for success and vice versa. You know you are going to have a bad day when you walk into the bar to begin to set up and find that you first have to clean up from the closing shift!

Running Side Work Checklists

As any bar or restaurant goes through their day, each department will need to replenish supplies. Plates, roll ups, glasses, ice and garnishes might need to be polished before service or replenished half way through the shift. Instead of being reactive to these scenarios when they arise, consider assigning side work to specific departments/people. Here are some great tips for implementing sidework checklists.

The actual floor space of the bar will also need to be cleaned or checked up on from time to time. Bathrooms can go from pristine to a truck stop in a matter of minutes and may need to be visited at least every hour. Same can be applied to walking the perimeter of the bar as well, cleaning up cigarette butts, trash and any other debris that can accumulate throughout the day.

Make sure you have checklists in place and that your staff knows how to use them to keep up with all of the day-to-day side work.

Par Sheets

If you are a manager consider taking another look at your ordering sheets. Do they need to be adjusted before the busy season? What about the the par sheets behind the bar for each shift? The less time that you spend running around ordering and replenishing bars with stock, the more time you can support your staff.

Streamline for Service

Another easy win is to identify and streamline your most frequently ordered items. If your most popular cocktails or food items have multiple steps, that’s a great opportunity to look at ways to decrease the number of steps involved. Batching ingredients is a great way to stream line, but you can also look at bottling or canning cocktails, incorporating a slushy machine for the hot months or even adding kegged cocktails to your lineup.

The Hand Off

One of the most common time periods that can cause confusion (not only for the staff, but for customers as well) is when there is a transition between meal periods, or anytime a staff hands off customers. The most common is if your bar/restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner and you do not close between each period.

During this time, the closing person from lunch is wrapping up their side work and looking to get home or to their next job and the opening person for the next shift is focused on getting set up for their busy shift. Meanwhile neither of their attention is on the customer, but on their respective side work instead. This can create a mediocre or bad guest experience and is definitely something to be avoided. Make sure that the details about the hand off are very clear and each shift knows their responsibilities.

If you are looking at this list and thinking that you’ve already late to the party, it’s never too late to improve your processes or get up to speed. Your new processes might take a little longer to implement, but they are still worth the investment. The key thing to remember during the busy season is that you don’t want to make drastic changes unless there is no choice.