Such a cliché, but so true. I say it often but do my bar team understand why as the manager I’m constantly driving cleanliness home? I hope they do and I hope they know why I value the cleanliness of my bar as much as the sales in the till. The best designed bar with designer furniture and studio lighting is still going to give awful impressions when the bar top is filthy and the drains smell like dead vermin. Declare war on dirty bars now…

1. Ticket to the game.

A clean bar is the absolute essential standard – we shouldn’t even be playing in this industry if we can’t perform this very simple first step. You can make the best drinks in the world and flair like a demi-god – but do it standing in a pile of bottle caps and used bevnaps or with contaminated ice and dirty soda guns and you’re going to drive those guests away in droves…or poison them!

2. The impression you give.

People make an immediate assumption on your bar, your drinks, your team, your back of house cleanliness – everything, on the way your bar looks.  Every guest passes the bar top and bar area to get their drinks. If it’s cluttered or dirty or they lean into a puddle of beer this impression is not likely to be favourable. Keep it clean, organised and dry. Use a clean dry bevnap for every new guest and every drink. Not only are they great to use as signals to your guests, but they catch spills and are easily used as disposable cloths to collect spills and other debris.

3. Around the bar.

Don’t forget about the exterior of the bar – a dirty floor sends the same signals as a dirty bar or bar table. Get out there, send your bar back onto the bar floor. Make it a regular routine in your evening that the exterior of your bar is spot swept and maintained.

4. Can you fix it…?

Vandalised chairs and tables, light bulbs out on the back bar, damaged floor tiles – report them and repair them quickly. Vandalism attracts more vandalism, deal with it promptly before it becomes acceptable. Damaged furniture and decor makes you look cheap – not the signal you want to send. And are you replacing your menu’s and POS regularly? A menu is like your business card – you wouldn’t hand someone a business card that was anything other than pristine. Why hand them a dog eared soggy poorly laminated piece of tat to pick a drink from?

5. That includes you tiger!

Personal cleanliness and hygiene is just as important to the guest experience as everything else. Make sure you are well presented, groomed and in a fresh uniform. Keep a can of deodorant handy for those times where you are sweating your back out serving all those guests!

Do yourself a favour – take the guest journey every day before you open. Walk from the entrance to the bar, look at the back bar, pick up a menu – visit the toilets. If it’s not right, change it, if it’s broken, fix it. Have a “guest ready” checklist and make sure you check it off every day.

– Steve Darwin

Steve is a TGI Friday’s Bartender Legend, turned Bar Manager. He’s one of the guys I looked up to (and still do) when I first started bartending at Friday’s. Thanks so much for the article!

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