Author: David Klemt

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These States are Ending Federal Benefits

Which States are Ending Federal Benefits?

by David Klemt

One hundred dollar bills

So far, 22 states across America are planning to end the weekly $300-per-week federal boost to unemployment.

Some reports suggest a few states will opt out of federal unemployment benefits as early as June 12.

Obviously, that’s significantly earlier than the September 6 expiration the American Rescue Plan mandates.

Two Sides

Clearly, the impact opting out of the federal unemployment program is largely academic at this point. We won’t know if the move will lead to a boost in hiring across the country or simply plunge struggling Americans further into peril.

One side, those who support the exit, believe the move will jumpstart the economy and hiring.

In their view, the $300-per-week benefit is a disincentive for claimants to seek employment. That, in turn, is what’s fueling the current labor shortage.

“Incentives matter,” says Montana Governor Greg Gianforte. “And the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good.”

The opt-out by 15 states will impact 1-1.5 million people.

Now, the other side believes opting out is cruel and will make it even more difficult for drowning Americans to get their heads above water. As they see it, most jobless people are using state and federal unemployment programs correctly.

“Let’s not take our eye off the ball,” says President Joe Biden. “Families who are just trying to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, they aren’t the problem.”

Hospitality Industry Struggles

Obviously, the $300-per-week benefit is often cited by operators as one of the main reasons they can’t fill available positions.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation isn’t that simple. Scapegoats may be “convenient” but they’re also dangerous—they distract from real issues.

The pandemic, mass unemployment, and current labor shortage isn’t solely the product of unemployment payment enhancements. A significant portion of hospitality workers aren’t working for other reasons. Many are leaving the industry entirely due to an array of issues.

These include workplace culture, inequity, lack of diversity and inclusion, and earning a livable wage, many among others.

Sure, it’s convenient to point to and vilify one contributor to the hiring struggles operators are facing. However, it’s clear that the industry has long-term problems with which it must reckon. Things can’t continue as they were pre-pandemic if the industry is to reset, recover and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

States Ending Federal Benefits

Montana Gov. Gianforte is the first to announce a state would opt out of the federal unemployment program, causing a domino effect.

So far, the list of states exiting the program are:

  1. Alabama (June 19)
  2. Alaska (June 12)
  3. Arizona (July 10)
  4. Arkansas (June 26)
  5. Georgia (June 26)
  6. Idaho (June 19)
  7. Indiana (June 19)
  8. Iowa (June 12)
  9. Mississippi (June 12)
  10. Missouri (June 12)
  11. Montana (June 27)
  12. New Hampshire (June 19)
  13. North Dakota (June 19)
  14. Ohio (June 26)
  15. Oklahoma (June 26)
  16. South Carolina (June 30)
  17. South Dakota (June 26)
  18. Tennessee (July 3)
  19. Texas (June 26)
  20. Utah (June 26)
  21. West Virginia (June 19)
  22. Wyoming (June 19)

It’s likely that more states will join the exodus.

Update: There are 22 states opting out of the federal unemployment program as of May 20, 2021.

Image: Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

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Tell the Government to Refill the RRF

Tell the Government to Refill the RRF

by David Klemt

Piggy bank wearing a face mask

The National Restaurant Association is urging restaurant, bar and other hospitality operators to sign a Restaurant Revitalization Fund petition.

Put concisely, the NRA’s petition asks the federal government to replenish the RRF.

Grants are going out and there’s no guarantee the $28.6 billion fund is enough for every eligible business. Therefore, the NRA is calling for more funds.

The Petition

Now, there is good news regarding the RRF. Per the Small Business Administration, 21,000 applicants have received $2.7 billion in grants.

However, when one considers that well over 180,000 grant applications were submitted within the first 48 hours, the $28.6 billion will more than likely run out before every eligible business receives a grant. The first 16,000 grants alone total $2 billion.

According to one source, priority applications carry a value of approximately $29 billion. Obviously, that’s more money than is in the fund.

And that’s only the value of applications receiving priority for the first 21 days. Clearly, more funding is necessary.

As the NRA’s petition states, “We are urging policymakers in Washington—from the White House to Capitol Hill—to replenish the RRF to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Americans can’t wait to get back into their favorite restaurant with their family and friends, and the federal government can play a key role in making that a reality.”

Click here to sign the NRA’s petition. Our industry is the hardest hit by the pandemic and every eligible business deserves funding.

It’s not that this industry isn’t grateful—it’s that hundreds of thousands of businesses are fighting to stay alive. They’ve been doing so for more than a year.

The RRF

The SBA’s RRF portal link is https://restaurants.sba.gov. Alternatively, operations can use a POS that’s an SBA partner to apply. Partner systems include Clover, NCR, Square, and Toast.

According to the SBA website, certain eligible entities will be given priority.

For the first 21 days the application process is open, priority will go to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

The application process should open to every applicant on Monday, May 24. For more in-depth information, operators can follow the appropriate links to review the Small Business Administration’s RRF program guide and sample application.

Applicants do not need to register with SAM.gov (System for Award Management) or provide DUNS or CAGE identifiers.

To calculate a grant amount, an applicant subtracts 2020 gross receipts from 2019 gross receipts. Applicants must deduct first-draw PPP and second-draw PPP loans. Any economic disaster loans—Economic Injury Disaster Loans, for example—are not RRF deductions.

Again, please click here to sign the NRA’s petition today.

Image: Konstantin Evdokimov on Unsplash

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Las Vegas Ushers in Next Nightlife Era

Las Vegas Ushers in Next Nightlife Era

by David Klemt

Wynn Field Club at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas

After more than a year of shut downs and severe restrictions, Las Vegas nightlife groups are planning an epic comeback.

Between a recent nightlife group acquisition and a very Vegas approach to sports, the city is preparing to go full send for Summer 2021.

Add to that Governor Steve Sisolak’s plan to reopen Nevada on June 1 and things are finally looking up in America’s Playground.

Only in Vegas

It took more than seven decades for “modern” Las Vegas to get the city’s first major sports team.

No, I’m not counting the AFL, CFL, UFL or XFL teams as “major” in comparison to the NFL or other professional leagues.

First came the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. The Las Vegas Aces followed a year later, and last year the city became the home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Because Las Vegas can’t quite bring itself to do things like other cities, two of our arenas feature nightlife elements.

Golden (K)Nights

T-Mobile Arena, home of the Golden Knights, offers the 18,000 square-foot Hyde Lounge.

Run by SBE, the international hospitality and hotel group, Hyde sits atop the general seating area. Not only do guests get an amazing view of sports action, the venue is also open during concerts.

There are private “living rooms” and four bars inside Hyde at T-Mobile Arena. Also, being a Vegas nightlife venue, Hyde offers table service and drives the experience with DJs.

And, of course, there are views of the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

The Death Star

That brings us to Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders, also known as the Death Star among locals.

Wynn Nightlife (two points for anyone who guesses which casino group they represent) is the Official Nightlife Partner and Official Gaming Partner of the Raiders.

 

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A post shared by Wynn Nightlife (@wynnnightlife)

The Vegas nightlife group is bringing Wynn Field Club to Allegiant’s north end zone—the entirety of the length of the north end zone. Wynn Field Club is an 11,000 square-foot nightlife “venue” that features 42 TVs, a 45,000-watt sound system, two DJ booths and—what else?—exclusivity, bottle service, and Wynn Nightlife DJs.

Also, I hear a Raiders game may break out during DJ sets and bottle popping…

TAO vs. Hakkasan?

Not anymore. Moving forward, it will be TAO plus Hakkasan.

One of the biggest nightlife battles is over as one titan, TAO Group, acquires another, Hakkasan Group.

The result isn’t just news for Las Vegas, though the two nightclub, dayclub and restaurant giants are most closely associated with the city.

TAO Group’s acquisition expands their incredible portfolio to an astounding 61 venues located in nearly two-dozen markets in five continents. Nine of the venues call Las Vegas home: TAO (of course), LAVO, OMNIA, JEWEL, Hakkasan, Marquee, Wet Republic, Beauty & Essex, and Casa Calavera.

Hakkasan Group will continue to operate Hakkasan, OMNIA, JEWEL, Wet Republic and Casa Calavera under the supervision of TAO Group.

Interestingly, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, the group constructing the MSG Sphere, acquired controlling interest in TAO Group in 2017. MSGE paid a reported $181 million for a 62.5 percent stake.

Back to Normal?

If anything, these developments seem to indicate that Las Vegas is on track to come back better than ever. Normal? Las Vegas can do better than that.

Las Vegas is set to re-establish its status as the world leader in nightlife in a post-pandemic world. Hyde Lounge and Wynn Field Club are perfect examples of how Vegas nightlife innovations redefine and then become the standards.

The nation—and the world—has a long way to go to recover from the pandemic. All glimmers of light near the end of a dark and twisted tunnel are welcome. It looks like the Strip’s legendary lights are shining brighter already.

Image: Anthony Mair

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Can You Fire Staff for Refusing Vaccine?

Can You Fire Staff for Refusing Vaccine?

by David Klemt

Covid-19 vaccine vials

Can an employer terminate a staff member’s employment for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine? Current court cases seek an answer to that question.

Conversely, there are bills up for consideration in some states that aim to ban vaccine mandates.

Therefore, the current answer to the question of whether employer vaccine mandates are legal isn’t clear, yet.

It’s also important to note that this question is up for legal examination in Canada and America.

Are Employers Really Mandating Vaccines?

Of course. Well, some are. And it’s bound to continue until the question has been tested in court.

Looking at Canada, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour says employers can, in fact, make vaccines mandatory. They can also (for now, at least) demand proof of vaccination from their employees. Failing to answer the question or lying about can result in an employee losing their job.

However, the ministry acknowledges that legal and ethical issues come hand in hand with blanket vaccination mandates.

In America, the issue is no less thorny, to put it mildly.

Per a survey by Arizona State University and the Rockefeller Foundation, almost 90 percent of employers in the USA (and UK) have plans to “encourage or require vaccination for employees.”

Encouraging, of course, stands in stark contrast to requiring in a legal, ethical and moral sense.

That same survey suggests that most US employers—two-thirds—plan to use vaccination incentives rather than mandates. However, 44 percent say they’ll implement mandates if incentives don’t work. Just one-third of survey respondents say they don’t intend to require vaccinations as a term of employment.

Legal Challenges

Vaccine requirements and credentials (“vaccine passports”) have been banned in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Texas and South Dakota.

Bills have been introduced in at least half of American states that seek to “limit mandatory COVID-19 vaccines,” per the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawsuits have been filed by workers in various industries in several states, including New Mexico and California.

It’s likely just a matter of time until the Supreme Court of the United States is at least asked to settle the matter of vaccine mandates.

Currently, attorneys and agencies say that employers need to inform employees of the consequences for refusing Covid-19 vaccination, including loss of employment; put a vaccination policy in place and communicate it with all employees; and include religious and medical exemptions.

That said, this matter is a long way from settled.

Could vs. Should

One thing is clear: It’s not clear yet whether employers can terminate employees for refusing vaccination. We can expect a flurry of lawsuits either way.

However, it’s important that operators realize this isn’t solely a legal question. This is in no small part a leadership question, and it’s a tough one.

As the saying goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Operators must consider the ramifications of vaccine mandates. Moving forward, some guests may only support businesses that require vaccination for staff. Conversely, some guests may find such a requirement discriminatory and offensive, and they may boycott businesses with vaccine mandates.

It’s a difficult position for operators and staff. Our industry puts employees and the public in direct, close contact with each other. Team members are likewise in very close quarters. Close interactions for prolonged periods can spread any number of viruses, not just Covid-19.

The instinct to protect staff, their family and friends, and the public is common among operators. The past twelve-plus months have strengthened that resolve.

Incentivizing Instead

Requiring vaccination may exacerbate the current labor shortage.

Yes, there are some employees and potential new hires who will feel more comfortable knowing their coworkers have been vaccinated. However, there are also people who will refuse to work for an employer who requires vaccination. A mandate could damage recruiting severely as word gets around.

It’s reasonable to suggest that operators are best off implementing a vaccination incentive program rather than a mandate. Most people would likely agree that encouragement rather than requirement, at least regarding this topic, shows greater emotional intelligence, a cornerstone of leadership.

The CEO of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas reportedly hit their minimum goal of an 80-percent vaccination rate among staff last week. The resort’s incentive program offered bonus payments (among other incentives) for vaccinated employees set up in tiers:

  • 60 Percent Vaccination Rate: $50
  • 70 Percent Vaccination Rate: $100
  • 80 Percent Vaccination Rate: $250
  • 90 Percent Vaccination Rate: $350
  • 100 Percent Vaccination Rate: $500

That program helped the company hit their goal in just a few weeks. Operators can certainly use the Cosmo as a model for encouraging vaccinations instead of requiring them. Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual operator. It isn’t an easy one.

Disclaimer

This content is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as legal or other advice. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does any information constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law. This information is of a general nature and does not address the circumstances of a specific individual or entity. The reader of this information alone assumes the sole responsibility of evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of any information before making any decisions based on such information.

Image: Braňo on Unsplash

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Which States are Reopening this Summer?

Which States are Reopening this Summer?

by David Klemt

Grand re-opening sign

Around one-third of America’s population is vaccinated fully and some states are easing restrictions.

Per the CDC, not exactly America’s favorite agency, more than 40 percent of Americans have received one Covid-19 vaccine shot. Just over 30 percent have completed the vaccine process.

So, which states are planning to reopen fully for Summer 2021? We have a list of some of the states that have made their plans to reopen 100 percent known so far.

California

The Golden State plans to reopen fully on June 15. According to doctors at the University of California San Francisco, the state is nearing herd immunity. However, Governor Gavin Newsom’s target date relies on two criteria:

  • Vaccine supply must be sufficient enough “for Californians 16 years and older who wish to” receive inoculation.
  • Hospitalization rates must remain low and stable.

Illinois

Per Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the plan is for the city of Chicago to be open 100 percent by July 4. Of course, that means reopening fully right in time for one of the biggest celebratory holidays of the year. However, Governor J.B. Pritzker says Illinois could reopen in as early as the start or middle of June.

Nevada

Governor Steve Sisolak plans for Nevada to reopen fully on June 1. That said, casinos in the Silver State have a slightly different timeline. With the exception of nightclubs, dayclubs and live performances, casinos will open 100 percent June 4 if all requirements are met.

New York

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the plan is to reopen New York City on July 1. Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes to reopen New York State fully before that date.

Texas

Governor Greg Abbott opened the state 100 percent back in March. However, judges in the state’s 22 counties still have the authority to impose Covid-19 mitigation strategies. Hospitalization rates in a particular county rising above 15-percent hospital bed capacity for seven days would be a triggering event.

As the vaccine rollout continues, it’s likely we’ll see more states announce Summer 2021 reopening plans. Still, operators should proceed with caution and remain in compliance with state, county and local Covid-19 rules. This is, after all, a fluid situation.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel but now’s not the time to be complacent.

Image: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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5 Books to Read this Month: May

5 Books to Read this Month: May

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills.

To review last month’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from L.A.

Who doesn’t love Danny Trejo? His story is inspiring, his IMDB page is full of memorable characters, and he’s got fast-casual restaurants and a coffee shop. Trejo’s cookbook features 75 recipes and tons of insight into the man himself.

Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?

Learn how to organize and execute an awesome tasting from Peggy Noe Stevens, the first female master bourbon taster in the world and founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and Susan Reigler, a prolific bourbon correspondent and author. Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon? includes tips, recipes and more for pulling off a great bourbon-centric event.

Zero: A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Drinks

From the unique minds behind the ultra-creative Aviary cocktail bar comes Zero. If you’re looking to elevate your non-alcohol menu and approach to creating zero-proof drinks, this is the book for you. In addition to about 100 recipes, this book shares insights into Chef Grant Achatz’s culinary approach to cocktails, whether low-, zero- or full-proof.

Finding Fire: Cooking at its Most Elemental

Like Bar Hacks podcast guest Chef Brian Duffy said on episode 33, we’re fully in a comfort food zone. We’re also back to the fundamentals and simple techniques. When it comes to cooking, nothing is more fundamental than using fire. Chef Lennox Hastie dives deep into cooking with fire and provides 80 recipes in Finding Fire.

How to Listen with Intention

There’s a misconception among many business owners and managers that leadership is just delegating and issuing orders. Too many people forget that listening is a key element of leadership. Patrick King’s book How to Listen with Intention aims to change our mindset so we view listening as a superpower.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash 

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Stand Out with Weird Holidays: May

Stand Out with Weird Holidays: May

by David Klemt

Stay Weird neon sign with purple background

Want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Then commit to keeping it weird.

Several “holidays” are set against every date on the calendar, and May is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to food-centric to weird.

Focus on the latter to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, weird or otherwise. And this month’s list in no way includes every odd holiday.

Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

For last month’s list, click here.

May 5: National Totally Chipotle Day

It’s not just Cinco de Mayo today, it’s National Totally Chipotle Day! Two guesses as to what pepper this holiday celebrates…

May 6: World Password Day

This holiday exists to encourage people to consider their privacy and make sure their passwords are secure. Of course, operators can make this holiday more fun than mundane. One simple way is to come up with and share a password guests can use for food or drink specials. Speakeasy operators, today’s your day!

May 9: National Sleepover Day

What pairs well with sleepovers? Food, drinks, pajamas and movies. And what pairs well with warming weather and the comfort levels of today’s guests? Patios and other outdoor areas. Show a movie outside, encourage pajamas, create fun and comforting F&B offerings… This is a fun one.

May 20: National Pick Strawberries Day

The perfect day to feature cocktails that call for strawberry garnishes. And if there was ever a holiday practically built for featuring Snoop Dogg‘s new strawberry-flavored Indoggo Gin, this is it.

May 21: National Bike to Work Day

As the story goes, the radler was invented in the 1920s by a Bavarian tavern owner. A group of cyclists stopped by looking to quench their thirsts with beer. The tavern owner didn’t have enough, so he added sparkling lemonade to his kegs. Eurkea, the radler was born.

This is the perfect day to pay homage to the radler and reward people for biking to work.

May 22: National Craft Distillery Day

One of the best days to program promotions around local and hyper-local spirits.

May 25: National Brown-Bag It Day

Looking for a simple and fun way to celebrate this weird holiday? Offer a special featuring tall boys served in brown paper bags along with hangover-curing comfort foods.

May 30: National Creativity Day

I mean…what a blank canvas! This is the day to execute your most creative promotions. Ask your team members for their most creative ideas to boost staff engagement.

Image: Dan Parlante on Unsplash

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The Next Spirits Billionaire?

The Next Spirits Billionaire?

by David Klemt

Close-up of one hundred dollar bill

A recent deal involving a whiskey brand is set to help welcome another member to the exclusive Celebrity Spirits Billionaire’s Club.

Three-division UFC fighter. Two-division champion. Entrepreneur. Billionaire? Conor McGregor may add another comma to his bank account.

Proximo Spirits and Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey will continue their relationship long-term after agreeing to a nine-figure deal.

The terms of the Proper-Proximo agreement are confidential. However, the consensus is that Proper No. Twelve is going to make MMA star Conor McGregor a billionaire.

Money McGregor

One detail that isn’t exactly confidential is the overall value of the Proper-Proximo agreement.

McGregor and his business partners sold their majority stake in the popular Irish whiskey brand. It’s believed the deal is worth up to $600 million, or nearly €500 million.

However, how much of that $600 million is going to McGregor is unknown at this time.

To be clear, McGregor has a ways to go before he becomes a billionaire. Of course, he’s closer than most of us

Per reporting from The Irish Post, Proper No. Twelve is going to make McGregor the first billionaire Irish athlete.

“The terms of the agreement are confidential, however, the most important thing is Conor McGregor will remain a stakeholder of Proper No. Twelve, the brand that will make him a billionaire,” says Karen Kessler, a spokesperson for the former MMA champion.

Rapid Growth

It’s important to remember that Proper No. Twelve is just a few years old. That detail highlights the impressiveness of this deal.

Remember, Proper No. Twelve only launched in 2018. Since then, the brand has shipped over six million bottles. Proper No. Twelve is set to enter additional international markets moving forward.

Mike Keyes, president and CEO of Proximo Spirits, certainly seems to believe Proper No. Twelve isn’t “just another” celebrity spirits brand.

“It is rare to see a celebrity impact a brand the way Conor McGregor has Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey, and I have not seen many brands in the spirits industry catapult to this level of success in such a short period of time,” says Keyes. “This agreement is a vote of confidence in the incredible potential of this brand and a testament to the incredible work of Conor, Audie, Ken and the Proper No. Twelve team, as well as the efforts of Proximo and its distributors, who have all made this success possible.”

Celebrity Spirits Billionaire’s Club

Before proceeding, it must be mentioned that McGregor doesn’t consider himself a celebrity. According to him, “I’m not a celebrity. I break people’s faces for money and bounce.”

Regardless, the face-breaker money-maker is among an elite group of celebs with stakes in lucrative spirits brands.

We’re all well aware of George Clooney’s success with Casamigos, the brand he and his business partners sold for $700 million. There’s another $300 million in it for them if the brand hits performance goals over the next several years.

Diddy’s collaboration with Diageo, which includes CÎROC Vodka and DeLeón Tequila, is pumping up the artist and entrepreneur’s net worth. It seems quite likely that when he reaches billionaire status, it will be in no small part to the success of the Diageo brands.

Like McGregor, Ryan Reynolds got involved in spirits brand ownership in 2018. Retaining his ownership stake in Aviation Gin may catapult the actor, entrepreneur and social media slayer to billionaire status.

Jay Z is a wildly successful entrepreneur. In 2019, the empire he built made him a billionaire. Ace of Spades (Armand de Brignac) reportedly made Jay over $300 million midway through June 2019. D’USSE scored him an estimated $100 million. Jay Z launched luxury cannabis brand Monogram, sure to add much more to his net worth.

Why Should You Care?

Operators, their employees, and their friends and families continue to struggle in 2021. Our industry has fought endless battles. America’s operators just began the process of receiving specific relief yesterday.

So, it can be difficult to discuss the net worth of celebrities given what people are going through. The topic can come across as insensitive. That is by no means lost on me.

Were any of the brands in this post reliant solely on celebrity endorsement, I wouldn’t bother including them. The fact is, the success of these brands relies on consumer demand.

Celebrity endorsement only goes so far—if the product sucks, the shine will wear off and consumers will move on. And today’s consumer moves on quickly. There’s always something shinier, always a celebrity name with more gravitas.

Proper No. Twelve, Aviation, Casamigos, DeLeón, CÎROC, D’USSE, and Ace of Spades are past the honeymoon phase of brand adoption. Consumers have spoken, and these are among the brands they want and expect to see on menus. Your menus.

You certainly don’t need to stock these or any other celebrity brands. Just don’t be surprised if guests become frustrated if they can’t get them at your restaurant or bar.

That goes for any brand. Listen to your guests and what they’re asking for from you. Charge your front-of-house team with doing the same and encourage them to report back to you what they’re hearing from guests. One of the easiest ways to inspire repeat visits and refresh your menu is to simply listen.

Image: Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

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Summer Stimmy, Hot Vax Summer

Summer Stimmy, Hot Vax Summer

by David Klemt

Sunglasses and beer on table at a bar

When considering event programming, operators should consider the zeitgeist of the current era in which we find ourselves.

Big brands monitor and leverage the cultural climate of a given time.

Operators can do the same, as long as they embrace authenticity, show a sense of humor, and avoid disrespect and appropriation.

Here are a couple examples operators can use for Summer 2021.

Summer Stimmy

Bud Light is tapping into America’s federal response to the pandemic—stimulus checks, to be exact—with creativity and a sense of humor.

Is it too soon? It doesn’t seem so—the levity is a welcome respite.

For all intents and purposes, it appears Bud Light is leaning heavier into the creative and promotional aspect than just humor.

Bud Light’s Summer Stimmy is a proposal to “make Summer 2021 even awesomer for people across America.”

The brand explains each “proposal” item as though they’re components of a bill up for consideration. For example, Part I, Section 1 of the Bud Light Summer Stimmy proposal carries the subtitle “Tons of Tix.” Bud Light proposes to give away 100,000 tickets for MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NWSL and WNBA events.

Part I, Section 2, More Awesomeness, proposes the nomination of Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski as Secretary of Summer. Additionally, the section proposes May 14 as National Gronk Day, his birthday.

Of course, Bud Light owns the term Summer Stimmy now. However, clever operators can get in on the fun (and profits) through their Bud Light rep. Or, they can get creative and come up with their own Summer 2021 promotions that leverage pent-up demand.

Hot Vax Summer

Even though it seems like forever ago, who can forget 2019 and Hot Girl Summer?

Megan Thee Stallion, one half of the infamous “WAP” duo, gets the credit for coining the phrase and creating the movement.

The “rules” for Hot Summer were simple: Women and men just needed to be “unapologetically them,” make having a good time a priority, and be free.

We all know what happened in 2020. There certainly wasn’t a Hot Girl Summer, Part Two.

Meeting new people, dating, hooking up… For the most part, none of that happened without Covid-19 tests and quarantining. That is, if those activities occurred at all.

But now we have multiple vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. AstraZeneca and Novavax have yet to be authorized by the FDA.

So, what are the Hot Vax Summer rules? Pretty simple: Get vaccinated (fully), get back out there to meet, interact and hook up.

And where do people tend to go to meet others? Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and dayclubs.

Whether to confidently and comfortably meet friends they haven’t seen for several months, make new friends, or kickstart dating, our businesses are where people want to be.

Operators need to ensure their venues are ready for the initial crush of guests clamoring to finally reclaim their social and romantic lives. So, prepare your outdoor areas; make sure indoor areas meet guest expectations for comfort so they can interact freely; and ensure your staff is ready for the welcome onslaught of eager guests.

Image: Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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Reverse Cocktails for Lower ABV Sips

Reverse Cocktails for Lower ABV Sips

by David Klemt

Straining a cocktail into a rocks glass over ice cubes

A simple and creative way to add low-proof drinks to a menu is to offer reverse cocktails.

As a concept, reverse cocktails are simple to understand. However, they’re also a great way to engage the bar team.

Better still, they offer guests looking to enjoy less-spirited drinks a real cocktail experience.

What’s a Reverse Cocktail?

Essentially, a reverse cocktail is exactly what it sounds like. Let’s use the classic Martini as an example.

Say your classic recipe calls for two ounces of gin, a half-ounce of sweet vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters. To build the Reverse Martini, half the gin, quadruple the sweet vermouth, and keep the bitters the same.

That’s a quick and dirty example. You and your bar team will want to play with your recipes—different vermouths and gins will deliver differing results.

Vermouths, amaros, and low-proof aperitifs are ideal for building reverse cocktails and expanding your cocktail program.

What’s the Point?

Reverse cocktails lower the ABV in comparison to their standard, boozier counterparts.

Michael Toscano, Woodford Reserve brand ambassador and Bar Hacks podcast guest, thinks many people are looking to slow down their alcohol intake. Home bartenders, if reports are accurate, have been pouring spirits generously during the pandemic. When they get out, they may be after lower-proof sips.

A reverse cocktail is a creative solution to enjoying cocktails in a new way with less alcohol.

Of course, they also offer operators a new guest experience. A menu section with the title “Reverse Cocktails” is likely to spark some guest interest and questions. Also, such drinks are a great way to refresh drink menus and move some inventory.

There’s also the fact that reverse cocktails give guests seeking low-ABV sips the full cocktail experience—there’s no risk of alienating them.

Image: Adam Jaime on Unsplash

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