Bar Operations

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Top Kitchen Design Trends of 2024

Top Commercial Kitchen Design Trends of 2024

by Nathen Dubé

A young male chef preparing a dish in a clean, modern commercial kitchen

Commercial kitchen design continues to evolve, driven by advancements in technology, an emphasis on sustainability, and the need for efficiency and flexibility.

The latest trends reflect these priorities, offering solutions that enhance both functionality and aesthetics in professional kitchens.

This article explores the top commercial kitchen design trends of 2024, highlighting their benefits and offering practical implementation tips. Going further, I also include real-world examples of successful trend adoption.

1. Sustainability and Eco-friendly Practices

Sustainability is at the forefront of commercial kitchen design in 2024.

Restaurants and foodservice operators are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices. Key reasons include reducing their environmental footprint, and meeting consumer demand for responsible business practices.

Key Trends

  • Energy-efficient appliances: The use of ENERGY STAR-rated appliances that consume less energy, and reduce operational costs.
  • Sustainable materials: Incorporating materials like recycled steel, reclaimed wood, and eco-friendly countertops.
  • Waste reduction systems: Implementation of composting and recycling systems to manage waste more effectively.

Benefits

  • Reduce operational costs through lower energy consumption.
  • Enhance brand reputation by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability.
  • Meet regulatory requirements and green certification standards.

Implementation Tips

  • Choose ENERGY STAR appliances: Invest in appliances that are certified for energy efficiency to cut down on utility costs, and reduce environmental impact.
  • Incorporate sustainable materials: Opt for materials that are durable and have a lower environmental impact, such as recycled or reclaimed materials.
  • Implement waste management systems: Set up composting and recycling systems to manage kitchen waste efficiently.

Client Story

A farm-to-table restaurant I worked with revamped their kitchen to include energy-efficient appliances, reclaimed wood decor, and a comprehensive waste management system.

These changes not only reduce their operational costs but also enhance their brand’s commitment to sustainability, attracting environmentally-conscious customers.

2. Smart Kitchens and Technology Integration

Technology is transforming commercial kitchens, making them more efficient, safer, and easier to manage.

Smart kitchens equipped with advanced technology are becoming the norm in 2024.

Key Trends

  • Smart appliances: Ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers that can be monitored and controlled remotely.
  • Automated inventory systems: Systems that track inventory levels in real-time, reducing waste and ensuring timely reordering.
  • Kitchen management software: Software that integrates scheduling, task management, and equipment maintenance.

Benefits

  • Enhance operational efficiency, and reduces labor costs.
  • Improve food safety, and quality control.
  • Streamline inventory management, and reduces waste.

Implementation Tips

  • Invest in smart appliances: Choose appliances that offer remote monitoring and control capabilities for better efficiency and oversight.
  • Use automated inventory systems: Implement inventory management software to keep track of stock levels, and reduce food waste.
  • Adopt kitchen management software: Integrate software solutions that help manage kitchen tasks, staff schedules, and maintenance routines.

Client Story

A high-volume catering QSR company integrated smart kitchen technology, including smart ovens and automated inventory systems.

The approach allows them to monitor cooking processes remotely, optimize their inventory management, and streamline operations. The result is significant cost savings, and improvements to service quality.

3. Flexible and Modular Kitchen Designs

Flexibility and adaptability are key considerations in modern commercial kitchen design.

Modular kitchens that can be easily reconfigured to meet changing needs are becoming increasingly popular.

Key Trends

  • Modular equipment: Equipment that can be moved and reconfigured as needed.
  • Multi-functional spaces: Areas that can serve multiple purposes, such as prep stations that double as serving counters.
  • Open kitchen concepts: Designs that promote transparency and interaction with customers.

Benefits

  • Adapt to changing menu requirements and operational needs.
  • Maximize space utilization and efficiency.
  • Enhance the dining experience by promoting transparency.

Implementation Tips

  • Choose modular equipment: Invest in equipment that can be moved and reconfigured easily to suit different needs.
  • Design multi-functional spaces: Create areas that can serve multiple purposes to maximize space efficiency.
  • Consider open kitchen designs: Implement open kitchen concepts to enhance customer interaction and experience.

Client Story

A fast-casual restaurant redesigned their kitchen to incorporate modular equipment and multi-functional spaces. This flexibility allows the operator and their team to adapt to menu changes easily.

In addition, the change increases functional space, and streamlines their operations, leading increases in efficiency and customer satisfaction.

4. Enhanced Food Safety and Sanitation

Food safety and sanitation are paramount in commercial kitchens.

In 2024, new design trends are focusing on creating hygienic environments that minimize contamination risks.

Key Trends

  • Touchless technology: Faucets, dispensers, and doors that operate without physical contact.
  • Sanitization stations: Dedicated areas for handwashing, and sanitizing equipment.
  • Antimicrobial surfaces: Use of materials that resist bacteria, and are easy to clean.

Benefits

  • Reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Meet health and safety regulations.
  • Enhance the overall cleanliness of the kitchen.

Implementation Tips

  • Install touchless technology: Implement touchless faucets, dispensers, and entry systems to reduce contamination risks.
  • Create sanitization stations: Designate areas specifically for handwashing, and sanitizing tools and equipment.
  • Use antimicrobial surfaces: Choose materials that are resistant to bacteria, and easy to clean for work surfaces and high-touch areas.

5. Ergonomic and Worker-friendly Designs

Ergonomic designs that prioritize the well-being and efficiency of kitchen staff are gaining traction.

These designs focus on reducing physical strain, and improving workflow.

Key Trends

  • Ergonomic workstations: Adjustable workstations that reduce strain and fatigue.
  • Improved ventilation systems: Systems that provide better air quality, and reduce heat stress.
  • Ample lighting: Sufficient and well-placed lighting to reduce eye strain and enhance visibility.

Benefits

  • Increase staff productivity, and job satisfaction.
  • Reduce the risk of workplace injuries.
  • Enhance the overall efficiency of kitchen operations.

Implementation Tips

  • Design ergonomic workstations: Invest in adjustable workstations that can be tailored to individual needs.
  • Improve ventilation: Ensure your kitchen has effective ventilation to maintain air quality, and reduce heat.
  • Enhance lighting: Use ample and strategically placed lighting to improve visibility, and reduce strain.

Client Story

A large-scale restaurant redesigned their kitchen to include ergonomic workstations and improved ventilation.

These changes have resulted in a more comfortable and efficient working environment, leading to higher staff morale and productivity.

Address Your Kitchen’s Design

The commercial kitchen design trends of 2024 reflect a focus on sustainability, technology integration, flexibility, food safety, and ergonomics.

These trends not only enhance the functionality and efficiency of commercial kitchens but also address the growing demands for environmentally responsible and worker-friendly environments.

Are you ready to transform your commercial kitchen with these cutting-edge trends? Contact us today to learn how we can help you implement these designs and create a kitchen that meets the demands of modern culinary operations.

Image: Rene Terp via Pexels

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Difference Between a Plan and Playbook

The Difference Between a Plan and a Playbook

by Doug Radkey

An AI-generated image of a business plan on one side, versus a playbook on the other side

Sometimes AI comes up with impressive images. This is one of them.

You’ve likely heard that 80 percent of hospitality businesses fail within the first five years.

When you ask those in the industry the question of why there is such a high rate of failure, they reply with a fairly predictable list of factors. These tend to be location, concept or brand confusion, lack of service standards, toxic workplace culture, sub-par marketing efforts, and mismanaged funds.

Many operators who fail try to quickly blame external factors, such as the economy.

When you ask the next questionwhat are the other 20 percent of operators doing differently to surpass five years in businessyou get one simple answer. The difference between those who drive a sustainable profit of 12, 15 or 20 percent (or more) and those who don’t boils down to one thing and one thing only: they have strategic clarity.

It’s not that the successful 20 percent did not battle challenges or the same tough economy or labor struggles. What they had was clarity, and a playbook detailing how to overcome a multitude of challenges.

So how do you achieve strategic clarity? Well, it’s much more than just writingor filling out a template fora business plan.

What is Strategic Clarity?

Strategic clarity is the comprehensive understanding and alignment within your hospitality business regarding its identity, direction, purpose, and the means to achieve its goals.

It involves clear communication and consensus on key aspects of the business, ensuring that everyone is working towards the same objectives. Below, the key components that define strategic clarity.

1. Understanding Who We Are

  • Core Identity: This includes the mission, vision, and core values of your business. It defines what the business stands for, and its fundamental purpose.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses: Recognizing the business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) aids in identifying the core competencies and areas for improvement.
  • Culture: The shared beliefs and practices that characterize the business’ internal environment, and how it interacts with both staff and guest perceptions.

2. Knowing Where We are Going

  • Vision: A clear and compelling picture of what the business aspires to become in the future. It serves as a guide for choosing current and future courses of action.
  • Long-term Goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that outline the desired outcomes over an extended period.
  • Milestones: Intermediate targets that mark progress towards the long-term goals.

3. Understanding Why We are Doing This

  • Purpose: The fundamental reason for the business’ existence beyond making a profit. It encompasses the broader impact the business aims to have on its community.
  • Motivation: The driving force behind the business’ actions and strategies. This includes the values and principles that guide decision-making, as well as behavior.
  • Stakeholder Alignment: Ensuring that the goals and activities of the business align with the interests and needs of its stakeholders: guests, employees, investors, and the community.

4. How We are Going to Get There

  • Strategy: The overarching plan that outlines how the business will achieve its vision and long-term goals. It includes the allocation of resources and the selection of strategic initiatives.
  • Tactics: The specific actions and steps that will be taken to implement the strategy. This involves detailed planning, delegation, resources, and execution.
  • Performance Metrics: The criteria and tools used to measure progress and success. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other metrics help track the effectiveness of strategies and tactics.
  • Continuous Improvement: The process of regularly reviewing and refining strategies and tactics based on performance data and changing circumstances.

Strategic clarity is essential for the cohesive and effective functionality of your bar, restaurant, or hotel business. This leadership approach ensures that all members understand and are aligned with the business’ identity, direction, purpose, and methods.

By achieving strategic clarity, organizations can navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and build upon sustainable long-term success. What we have found over the years that attributes to long-term clarity and success is a series of playbooks.

Understanding Plans and Playbooks

Let’s first dive into the critical distinction between a plan and a playbook, and why this matters for your bar, restaurant, or hotel. Understanding and utilizing both can significantly impact your business’ ability to start strong, stabilize effectively, and ultimately position you to scale successfully.

A traditional business plan, as you may know it, is a document that outlines your goals, and the steps you will take to achieve them. It’s often the number one consideration to secure funding and to set strategic direction.

However, it is, more often than not, missing plenty of crucial information, strategies, and guidance that end up planting a false sense of security.

A playbook, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive guide filled with detailed processes, best practices, and adaptable strategies tailored to your specific operations. Within this dynamic industry, you need more than a standard business plan if you want to be successful.

In fact, you should have eight different playbooks in place to position yourself within the top echelon of this industry.

The Power of Playbooks in Hospitality

While plans are often static or rigid (and often forgotten about shortly after they’re written), playbooks are designed to be flexible and adaptable.

Playbooks provide a step-by-step guide, ensure consistency and efficiency, and offer adaptable strategies and best practices to start, manage, and grow effectively.

Playbooks go into more granular details, and provide actionable steps. In this way, they’re notably different from a singular business plan.

The Eight Playbooks

No matter if you are operating a coffee shop, bar, restaurant or hotel (or any other concept within the hospitality industry), the following eight playbooks should be looked at as non-negotiables.

  1. Feasibility Study/Playbook: The foundational guide for assessing the viability of your hospitality business idea. It involves a comprehensive analysis of the market, competitive landscape, financial projections, and operational requirements. This playbook helps you determine whether your concept is realistic and profitable before committing significant resources.
  2. Concept Playbook: Focuses on refining your hospitality business idea into a clear and compelling concept. This playbook guides you through creating a unique value proposition, defining your target market, and outlining the core elements of your business, including service style, interior design, and internal programming.
  3. Prototype Playbook: A step-by-step guide to developing a tangible representation of your hospitality concept. This playbook helps you create a prototype that can be tested and refined before a full-scale launch. This playbook covers design specifications, operational workflows, fixtures/furniture/equipment, and detailed budgets.
  4. Brand Strategy & Identity Playbook: Defines the strategic approach to building and maintaining a strong brand. This playbook covers the creation of your brand identity, messaging, and positioning to ensure consistent and impactful brand communication. It involves color psychology, core values, mission statements, brand experiences, and more.
  5. Marketing Playbook: Outlines the strategies and tactics to attract, build, and retain your target guests. This playbook provides a roadmap for creating and executing effective marketing campaigns across various channels. It provides a step-by-step guide on content, social media management, database building, email marketing, partnerships, and community activations, along with detailed guest journey maps.
  6. Tech-stack Playbook: Provides guidance on selecting and implementing the correct technology solutions to enhance your hospitality operations. This playbook ensures that your technology infrastructure supports your business goals and improves efficiency. This playbook identifies technology gaps, software solutions, hardware requirements, and integration plans, plus training and support on technology.
  7. Financial Playbook: A comprehensive guide to manage your hospitality business’ finances. This playbook covers budgeting, financial forecasting, accounting practices, and financial performance analysis. It should highlight financial contingency plans, mock labor schedules, daily/weekly/monthly/seasonal traffic reports that align with the business, and financial objectives.
  8. Operational Playbook (a.k.a. Business Plan): Outlines the day-to-day operations in great detail, along with long-term strategies. This playbook ensures that all aspects of your operations are well-coordinated and aligned with your overall business goals, and the other seven playbooks. It should highlight standard operating procedures, labor plans, supply chain management, guest services, and measurable operational metrics.

You’ll notice there are seven other playbooks written before the business plan. Far too often, this is where people start. Without the other seven playbooks, it will be nearly impossible to craft a winning playbook for your day-to-day operations.

When Should You Use Playbooks

  • To Start: These eight playbooks are crucial to craft your success story right from the beginning. Build the foundations before signing a lease or purchasing a property.
  • To Stabilize: If you’re currently underperforming (profit margins under 12 percent for bars and restaurants, and under 15 percent for hotels), use playbooks to generate impactful results.
  • To Scale: These playbooks will help ensure that both your first locationand the next locationare prepared for consistent operations without diminishing your brand equity.

Strategic planning within detailed playbooks is essential for your hospitality business’ success.

Regardless of your current position, evaluate your use of business plans, and consider developing comprehensive playbooks instead. Make the time and commitment to achieving true clarity in your business, and position yourself to be on the correct side of this industry’s statistics.

AI image generator: DALL-E

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Cien Años Después: Michelin Hits Mexico

Cien Años Después: Michelin Guide Hits Mexico

by David Klemt

In news that may come as a shock to many, the Michelin Guide is covering Mexico for the first time in its 124-year history.

If, like me, you’re surprised, I think that’s justifiable. I raised an eyebrow when I learned that the Michelin Guide didn’t cover the US with an American edition until 2005.

Should you be curious about what cities were featured in that first American guide…it was only New York. From what I’ve gathered, 500 restaurants throughout the city’s boroughs received coverage. Of the 50 hotels included in that guide, all were in Manhattan.

And when it comes to Canada, Toronto and Vancouver guides didn’t exist until 2022. So, to learn that the Michelin Guide has just now arrived in Mexico was mind blowing.

However, the country is certainly attempting to make up for lost time (a total of 124 years of lost time). Coming out swinging for their first guide, more than 150 restaurants throughout Mexico earned recognition.

In 2024, 97 restaurants earned Michelin recommendations. A total of 42 Bib Gourmands were awarded. Six restaurants in Mexico earned Michelin Green Stars. Five restaurants received Michelin Special Awards, such as the Exceptional Cocktail Award, and the Mentor Chef Award.

Now, on to the “big” awards: Michelin Stars. Sixteen restaurants in Mexico now have one Michelin Star. Just two, both in Mexico City, earned two Michelin Stars: Quintonil, and Pujol.

Interestingly, both restaurants also earned placement on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024 rankings. Pujol grabbed 33 on the list, while Quintonil is number seven.

Unfortunately, not a single restaurant in Mexico has been awarded three Mexican Stars. But, I think it’s only a matter of time.

But wait…

Finding out that the Michelin Guide hadn’t come to Mexico until 2024 piqued my interest. So, I did some digging and found myself sliding down a rabbit hole.

It may be difficult to believe at first glance, but the entirety of France was home to less than 3,000 cars in the year 1900. That’s not great if you happen to be in a few businesses: automobile manufacturing, tire manufacturing, and hospitality.

The demand for privately owned automobiles would need to increase if manufacturers were to succeed. This includes tire manufacturers. New vehicles coming off assembly lines would mean more tire sales. More drivingmore miles driven, specifically—would mean more tire repairs and replacements. And with more people driving across an entire country, tourism would increase. That, of course, is great for hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and taverns.

So, to increase the demand for automobiles, and therefore tires and tourism (but mostly the tires), two brothers hatched a plan.

Édouard and André Michelin published the first Michelin Guide. Or, more accurately, the first Guide Michelin. Around 35,000 copies of the guide were distributed throughout France. 1900’s Guide Michelinwhich was free—contained maps; locations of hotels; locations of gas stations and repair shops; and instructions for repairing and replacing tires.

I haven’t read it, but I feel like the main instruction is, “Buy another Michelin tire. In fact, buy four more. No, five more—get yourself a spare. Or, hey, get eight so you have four spares, as long as they’re Michelin.”

…there’s more…

The iconic (or infamous) Star system was first introduced in 1926, with only one Star awarded. Five years later, the full Star system was developed (none, one, two, three). Yet another five years later, the meaning of each Star rating was revealed to the public.

As far as other countries not receiving Michelin Guide coverage, Italy first got a guide in 1956…and zero stars. Great Britain has received coverage off and on, but the Michelin Guide as we know itnarrowing its focus strictly to restaurants and hotelscame out in 1974. This edition also featured Ireland.

Okay, now it’s time for what’s truly astonishing: countries, cities, and city-states, apparently via their tourism boards, pay for Michelin Guide coverage.

I’ve heard “accusations” of corrupt lists, and payment in exchange for coverage of a certain city or country. However, I didn’t pay much heed to these claims.

But, apparently it’s confirmed that countries and cities do see the Michelin Guide as a worthwhile investment in their tourism industries.

While I’m not certain that I’d go so far as to label this exchange corruption, I do agree that it’s eyebrow-raising.

…and more.

For example, Atlanta, Georgia, became the seventh American city to receive a Michelin Guide. And according to an interview between travel news and research site Skift and Discover Atlanta CEO and President William Pate, the city invested $1 million in the Michelin Guide for three years of coverage.

Per Pate, restaurants featured in the Atlanta Michelin Guide saw growth of 30 percent. Further, restaurants not even featured saw a bump of about ten percent.

South Korea reportedly paid about $1 million in 2016 for a Michelin Guide, and it’s said that the government was unhappy with the coverage. I suppose that’s where some of the accusations of corruption or “scandal” could stem from. It’s reported that Thailand paid well over $4 million for Bangkok to receive five years of coverage, starting in 2017.

Turning our attention to Canada, the UAE, Malaysia, and Vietnam, sources claim they paid for coverage. However, in each case, the sum is described as “an undisclosed amount.”

A Smart Investment?

I can certainly understand why a country or city may choose to invest in Michelin Guide coverage. If it’s true that restaurants in Atlanta that weren’t even featured saw increased sales and traffic, that’s a commendable ROI.

According to several sources, restaurants that receive a recommendation or up to three Stars can see increases in business of anywhere from ten to 30 percent. In some cases, their business doubles. So, again, it may be wise for tourism boards to make these investments and put their restaurants scenes on the map. Or, in the case of known scenes, give them a significant boost.

I should note that, from what I’ve found, the Michelin Guide doesn’t hide their financial relationships. They appear to be open about payments (investments, contributions…choose your favorite term) received from government agencies or tourism boards.

At this time, I can’t state with any certainty if Mexico invested in the Michelin Guide to receive coverage. Therefore, I can’t say how much they invested to have their first guide published.

What I can say is that it’s about time that Mexico’s rich, vibrant, and sophisticated dining scene received this recognition.

Image: Raul Angel on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Restaurant Business Plan. Feasibility Study. Concept. Branding. Consultant. Start-Up.

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Entrepreneurship with Purpose

Entrepreneurship with Purpose: Your Why, How & What

by David Klemt

Black-and-gray, AI-generated image of a ram's skull covered partially by a shroud, with the word "death" underneath it

Don’t freak out! This is subtext, and a nod to the Death & Co. brand and their Big Horn Sheep cocktail mug.

Not every operator can transform their vision for owning a bar into building a hotel, so when someone who does just that wants to talk, it’s wise to listen.

I can’t be sure if the Death & Co. team knew they were building an empire when they opened their first cocktail bar. After listening to David Kaplan’s keynote at the 2024 Flyover Conference, I do believe the team laid the foundation to ensure their success before ever greeting their first guests.

Further, I like to think that opening in NYC on NYE and ushering in 2007 with a brand-new concept embodies the Death & Co. ethos. Literally, the bar and its first patrons marked the passage of time from one year to the next. Figuratively, death symbolizes change, and Death & Co. as a brand is certainly a metaphor for revolution and metamorphosis.

As a bar, Death & Co. is noteworthy for the significant contributions it made to the modern Cocktail Revival. Among the craft cocktail bar’s New York scene peers were Pegu Club, Milk & Honey, and Employees Only.

According to Kaplan, six years went by before the team even considered taking on a new location. In 2018, Death & Co. Denver opened inside The Ramble Hotel. A year later came Death & Co. Los Angeles. Four years after opening in LA, in 2023, the craft cocktail brand entered the Washington, DC, market. Announced a couple of weeks ago, there will be a fifth outpost in Seattle.

And those are just the Death & Co. locations.

Why, How & What

The type of unrelenting success achieved by the Death & Co. team doesn’t happen overnight. It takes drive and clarity, and a ruthless dedication to understanding purpose, process, and outcome.

Expanding on the point of clarity, Death & Co. falls under the Gin & Luck umbrella, of which Kaplan is the CEO.

During his keynote, titled “Crafting Success: The Journey of Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurship,” he shared his personal and professional approaches to business. Along with being engaging and informative, Kaplan is also transparent.

For example, he shared his personal core values and those of the Death & Co. brand. Kaplan’s are the pursuit of excellence, meaningful work, relationships, challenges, and creativity. As a brand, Death & Co. core values are curiosity, pursuit of excellence, Always Be Knowing (ABK), contagious joy, and connection.

But, I get ahead of myself. To start his keynote, Kaplan explained a few key terms and how they relate to one another. A person’s why, personal or professional, is their purpose for doing something. On a grander scale, their why can be the purpose that drives their entire life.

How is process, the systems and procedures that will move one forward. What, in this context, is outcome, or the result that a person is working to achieve.

As Kaplan explained, when one comes to understand their purpose, that leads them down the path of understanding and developing their process. Ultimately, understanding the why and how leads to an understanding of their what.

Do the Work

Among the excellent points made by Kaplan was this: None of us are born with an understanding of entrepreneurship (including those who make being an entrepreneur look so easy).

Rather, in Kaplan’s opinion, we’re all faking it until we make it. This goes for business partners and investors, as well. Basically, people who are faking it until they make it are walking into rooms with people who are doing the same, or have done so to get into a particular room themselves.

That doesn’t mean that every new business owner is being disingenuous. Nor does it mean that every partner is being deceitful about what they bring to the table.

In my interpretation of what Kaplan shared during his keynote, every entrepreneuruntil they’ve achieved their desired outcomeis an unknown quantity. They need to develop the confidence to share their vision clearly to their future leadership team, front- and back-of-house teams, partners, investors, and guests.

So, how does an entrepreneur develop an optimistic view of the challenges they’re about to face? And how do they gain the confidence to inspire others to buy into their ideas?

There are a number of exercises that will help a person understand their identity, path, and another “why.” Another way to state this is that one can find their true calling, take psychological ownership of their journey, and develop the entrepreneurial passion to make their dream a reality.

However, to gain this understanding, people need to put in the work.

Effective Exercises

If one works hard now, they can develop the psychological capital necessary to take on difficult challenges in the future.

In the context of Kaplan’s keynote, this means if a person works toward self-awareness today, they’ll put themselves in a better position to be a successful operator before they open their doors for the first time.

There are all manner of self-defining activities and questions that can help a person understand who they are. As importantly, they can give a person an idea of their true aspirations. A few examples are completing the University of Pennsylvania’s Values in Action Strength Test, practicing mindfulness (being present in the moment), journaling, and meditation.

As far as self-defining questions, here are a few examples:

  • What are my dreams and goals?
  • What’s my biggest strength?
  • What’s my biggest weakness?
  • Am I the type of person who makes decisions based on intuition or logic?

Again, that’s barely a handful of the questions one can ask themselves to gain self-awareness.

Another important exercise is to identify personal and professional core values. Kaplan recommends people do this in a setting outside of their normal routine. So, not at home, their current workplace, a cafe one frequents regularly, etc.

Core Values

When a client signs on with KRG Hospitality, part of the process includes identifying core values, as well as creating a mission statement. This important exercise is known as Napkinomics.

Questions and prompts include:

  • How important is growth to you, professionally and personally?
  • Where do you want to see the brand within the next five years?
  • Describe a similar brand, and why you’re drawn to it.

Helpfully, Kaplan shared his approach to identifying core values during his Flyover keynote.

First, he considers peak experiences. Then, crucially, he flips that on its head and recalls negative experiences. Another key step is considering important aspects to experiencing fulfillment. Ask yourself what feels essential, adding context to each answer. At the end of this exercise, one should have a list of personal core values. (As a reminder, Kaplan’s and Death & Co.’s core values are shared at the top of this article.)

There is, however, another step that Kaplan shared during his presentation: Revisiting core values.

As he said, a person canand I’ll add absolutely shouldrevisit their personal core values. They’ll likely change throughout the years. So, a person should update them from time to time.

Also, Kaplan advises people to give themselves grace; one should realize that they may not live their core values every day of the week. That’s perfectly acceptable. However, if someone finds that they’re routinely not living their core values, it’s time to revisit and update them.

The Mission

During his keynote Kaplan explained that a mission statement should encompass several key components. These are one’s skills and abilities, personality traits (a.k.a. how they operate), values, dreams, and passions.

A mission statement is a declaration of purpose, which is why it’s such a powerful tool. Again, we walk KRG Hospitality clients through this process utilizing Napkinomics.

During his keynote, Kaplan shared the following fill-in-the blanks-style sentence. It should provide someone with an idea of how to identify a personal or brand mission statement.

“I will [action] for [audience] by [skills] to [desired result].”

From there, one can polish and restructure the sentence to craft a non-negotiable declaration of purpose that fits them or their brand. For example, Kaplan shared Death & Co.’s mission statement:

“Creating experiences and connecting people through cocktail-anchored hospitality.”

Providing context, Kaplan shared a long-form version of the above: “We create experiences to foster and allow for deeper human connection through cocktail anchored hospitality.”

With the mission statement in place, Kaplan, his partners, and the Death & Co. team have been able to identify and work toward a key goal:

“To become the most established cocktail-anchored hospitality company in the world by December 31, 2028.” For the eagle-eyed, that’s a deadline of 20 years after the NYC bar’s grand opening.

Now, “most established” can be seen as somewhat nebulous. So, the Death & Co. team has identified metrics to ensure their lofty goal is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound):

  • A great place to work.
  • The thought leader in the space (being part of the overall hospitality conversation, and helping lead others).
  • A healthy, profitable business.
  • Regionally and globally recognized.

Tie it Together

Considering the symbolism of death as change, you and your team are undergoing a metamorphosis.

Taking the steps to pull your concept out of your imagination and bring it to life involves change. Changing your personal relationships, your position within the hospitality industry, your relationship with risk… Changing your life, and significantly so.

Furtherno pressureyou’re also transforming the lives of everyone who buys into your dream and decides to work with you. You’re asking people to bet on you as a leader, and buy into your vision. Whoever accepts that challenge is risking a lot, and this cannot be overstated.

Keeping your business alive and moving forward also requires change. It will have to evolve with the times and guest expectations. And should you scale your business you’ll once again face significant changes.

Becoming an entrepreneur requires the “death” of your previous life. In the infancy of this process, you’re going to feel discomfort. You may feel fear, and you’ll feel uncertainty. A deep understanding of why, how, and what are crucial to navigate the process and work through those feelings.

After all, if you don’t know what you’re working toward, why would you endure this challenge? How will you achieve your “what” if you haven’t developed the process to get there? And without a “why,” no entrepreneur’s vision becomes reality.

There’s no reason to fear the death of your life prior to the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur and operator. The only things to fear are never taking the first step, and not starting off in the strongest position possible.

Sit down today to identify your why, your how, and your what. If you need help, we’re here for you.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 Reveals #1

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 Reveals 1 to 50

by David Klemt

The interior of Virtù bar in Tokyo, Japan

Virtù in Tokyo, Japan. Number 11 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 list, and the winner of the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award.

Cheers to the Best Bar in Asia, which also happens to be the Best Bar in Hong Kong, and the winner of the 2024 Disaronno Highest New Entry Award.

Connecting the dots, that means the bar that has earned the number one spot has achieved something stunning. Looking back at the previous eight editions of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, no other bar has taken the top spot on its first appearance on this list.

The top bar in Asia is taking home three awards, plus a record.

Now, let’s look back at last week’s list. In revealing the expanded rankingbars number 51 to 100—I identified three cities that appeared to be on the rise. These are Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Nara, Japan; and Tainan City, Taiwan.

I was curious as to whether any (or all) of these cities would be home to bars on the one to 50 list. While they weren’t, I think it’s only a matter of time before a bar in at least one of the cities breaks into the main list. On the topic of keeping an eye out, Dry Wave Cocktail Studio in Bangkok, Thailand, earned this year’s Campari One to Watch Award.

In perhaps unsurprising news, Singapore boasts the most bars on this year’s list, claiming 11 spots. If we were to combine all of mainland China plus special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, there are 15 bars to Singapore’s eleven. Seoul, South Korea, is home to five bars that earned placement this year, including Zest at number two. Bangkok, Thailand, claims four bars, with BKK Social Club landing at number seven.

Take a look at the list below to find out which bar is the best in Asia. Cheers!

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024: 50 to 11

  1. Pine & Co (Seoul, South Korea)
  2. Atlas (Singapore)(Rémy Martin Legend of the List Award 2024; Bareksten Best Bar Design Award 2024)
  3. Le Chamber (Seoul, South Korea)
  4. The Haflington (Hanoi, Vietnam)
  5. Alice (Seoul, South Korea)
  6. Mostly Harmless (Hong Kong, China)
  7. The Public House (Taipei, Taiwan)
  8. CMYK (Changsha, China)
  9. Fura (Singapore)(Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award 2024)
  10. Reka (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  11. ZLB23 (Bengaluru, India)(The Best Bar in India)
  12. Barc (Kathmandu, Nepal)(The Best Bar in Nepal)
  13. Employees Only (Singapore)
  14. Bar Mood (Taipei, Taiwan)
  15. Bar Trigona (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  16. Analogue Initiative (Singapore)
  17. The Bellwood (Tokyo, Japan)
  18. The Curator (Manila, Philippines)(The Best Bar in Philippines)
  19. Origin Bar (Singapore)
  20. Native (Singapore)
  21. Vender (Taichung, Taiwan)(The Best Bar in Taiwan)
  22. Smoke & Bitters (Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka)(The Best Bar in Sri Lanka)
  23. Craftroom (Osaka, Japan)
  24. Pantja (Jakarta, Indonesia)
  25. Quinary (Hong Kong, China)
  26. Offtrack (Singapore)
  27. Penicillin (Hong Kong, China)
  28. The SG Club (Tokyo, Japan)
  29. The St. Regis Club (Macau) (Macau, China)(The Best Bar in Macau)
  30. Bar Us (Bangkok, Thailand)
  31. Bar Cham (Seoul, South Korea)
  32. The Savory Project (Hong Kong, China)
  33. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar (Bangkok, Thailand)
  34. Darkside (Hong Kong, China)
  35. Night Hawk (Singapore)
  36. Sago House (Singapore)
  37. Hope & Sesame (Guangzhou, China)(The Best Bar in Mainland China)
  38. Vesper (Bangkok, Thailand)
  39. The Cocktail Club (Jakarta, Indonesia)(The Best Bar in Indonesia)
  40. Virtù (Tokyo, Japan)(Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award 2024)

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024: 10 to 1

  1. The Aubrey (Hong Kong, China)
  2. Argo (Hong Kong, China)
  3. Penrose (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)(The Best Bar in Malaysia; Nikka Highest Climber Award 2024)
  4. BKK Social Club (Bangkok, Thailand)(The Best Bar in Thailand)
  5. Nutmeg & Clover (Singapore)
  6. Bar Benfiddich (Tokyo, Japan)(The Best Bar in Japan)
  7. Coa (Hong Kong, China)
  8. Jigger & Pony (Singapore)(The Best Bar in Singapore)
  9. Zest (Seoul, South Korea)(The Best Bar in Korea; Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2024: Dohyung “Demie” Kim)
  10. Bar Leone (Hong Kong, China)(The Best Bar in Asia; The Best Bar in Hong Kong; Disaronno Highest New Entry Award 2024)

Cheers to Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024! For more information, please review the official press release below.

The Bar Leone team from Hong Kong

Cheers to Bar Leone!

BAR LEONE IN HONG KONG NAMED THE BEST BAR IN ASIA, SPONSORED BY PERRIER, AS THE ASIA’S 50 BEST BARS 2024 LIST IS REVEALED

The prestigious list and several special awards were announced at a live ceremony in Hong Kong, featuring bars from 18 destinations across the region

  • Bar Leone ranks 1 and is named The Best Bar in Asia, sponsored by Perrier, and The Best Bar in Hong Kong
  • Bar Leone also wins the Disaronno Highest New Entry Award
  • The list features 15 new entries spanning 11 destinations
  • Singapore leads with 11 bars on the list, as Jigger & Pony ranks No.3 and is named The Best Bar in Singapore for the fifth consecutive year
  • Singapore’s Atlas wins the inaugural Bareksten Best Bar Design Award in Asia, as well as theRémy Martin Legend of the List Award
  • The Savory Project in Hong Kong is the recipient of the London Essence Best New Opening Award
  • Bar veteran Yangdup Lama of New Delhi’s Sidecar is awarded the Roku Industry Icon Award
  • Penrose, Kuala Lumpur, is named winner of the Nikka Highest Climber Award after rising 42 places in the rankings
  • New entrant Fura in Singapore takes the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award
  • Dry Wave Cocktail Studio from Bangkok receives the Campari One To Watch Award
  • Nest by Pun, Taipei, takes the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award
For the full 1-50 list, please scroll to the top of this article.

16 July 2024 – The list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024, sponsored by Perrier, was announced at a live awards ceremony this evening in Hong Kong. The ceremony, hosted in collaboration with destination partner Hong Kong Tourism Board, featured bars from 18 cities across Asia, including 15 new entries, culminating in Bar Leone in Hong Kong being named The Best Bar in Asia.

Bar Leone has achieved the remarkable feat of debuting at the coveted No.1 spot, clinching The Best Bar in Hong Kong title, as well as the Disaronno Highest New Entry Award. This marks the first time in 50 Best Bars history that The Best Bar in Asia has been a new entry on the list. The one-year-old neighbourhood bar in Central, Hong Kong, founded by bartender Lorenzo Antinori, embodies the Italian ethos of ‘cocktail popolari’ or ‘cocktails for the people’. With behind-the-bar experience at Argo in Hong Kong and top bars in Seoul and London, Antinori brings expertise to a beverage programme focused on classic, approachable cocktails that are inspired by the traditional Roman bars of his home country.

The bar programme focuses on revived classics made with a low-intervention, seasonal approach, and is complemented by minimalist garnishes, like manicured citrus peels and quality olives. The relaxed and fun vibe mirrors Lorenzo’s playful personality, with decor featuring burnt orange banquettes, a mahogany bar, church candles, Italy-themed posters, a 70s-80s Italian pop soundtrack and personal knick-knacks – all of which combine to create a space that feels both homely and high end.

Emma Sleight, Head of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Bars, says: “We are thrilled to be back in Hong Kong celebrating Asia’s vibrant bar community. The region’s bars continuously redefine exceptional drinking experiences, showcased by the talent and creativity at this year’s winning establishments. With 15 new entries, the list is bound to entice and excite even seasoned cocktail enthusiasts. Huge congratulations to the tour de force that is Lorenzo Antinori and the whole team at Bar Leone for the impressive – and previously unheard of – feat of entering the ranking at No.1. This is undoubtedly a strong testament to the bar’s irreverent and casual approach to cocktails, design, service and hospitality.”

At No.2 is the intimate low-waste bar, Zest in Seoul, which has ascended three spots, making it The Best Bar in Korea. A consistent presence in the top five is Jigger & Pony in Singapore at No.3, making it The Best Bar in Singapore for the fifth year running. Last year’s top spot holder, Coa, comes in at No.4, and No.5 is Tokyo’s Bar Benfiddich, which takes the title of The Best Bar in Japan.

Destination Success Stories

A total of 15 bars from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan made the list this year, while Hong Kong leads the region with nine spots, with Coa at No.4 and Argo at No.9. The 25th-floor izakaya with sweeping views of Victoria Harbour, The Aubrey, has risen seven spots to No.10. Darkside comes in at No.17 and new entrant The Savory Project debuts at No.19. Penicillin rises two places to No.24, while Quinary climbs five spots to No.26 and Mostly Harmless rounds off Hong Kong’s showing at No.45.

From Taichung, the vending machine-themed craft cocktail den, Vender, climbs 11 places to No.30, earning the title of The Best Bar in Taiwan. In Taipei, Bar Mood re-enters the rankings at No.37, while The Public House is at No.44. Guangzhou’s Hope & Sesame, a technique-driven speakeasy, is now at No.14, ascending 25 spots and holding onto The Best Bar in Mainland China title. CMYK from Changsha debuts at No.43, where award-winning bartender Ethan Liu has created a high-energy, multi-room drinking den inside an old residential building. This also marks Changsha’s first appearance in the rankings. Additionally, The St. Regis Bar at No.22 is Macau’s sole representative and is named The Best Bar in Macau.

Singapore tops the rankings with 11 coveted spots: alongside Jigger & Pony (No.3), Nutmeg & Clove, founded by bar veteran and former Roku Industry Icon winner Colin Chia, rises to No.6. Sago House follows at No.15, while new entrant Night Hawk debuts at No.16. Offtrack, another new entry at No.25, offers a music-focused drinks experience with local DJs and lesser-known classic cocktails.

Native climbs 11 places to No.31, and Origin, another new entrant at No.32, features interiors resembling an old-school train station with cocktails themed around the city’s five districts. Analogue Initiative is at No.35, followed by Employees Only at No.38. Newcomer Fura comes in at No.42, while Atlas rounds-off Singapore’s showing at No.49.

Bars from Seoul secured five positions on the list, led by Zest at No.2, making it The Best Bar in Korea. Sustainability-forward Zest is helmed by Dohyung ‘Demie’ Kim alongside Korean bartending stalwarts Sean Woo, Jisu Park and Noah Kwon. Bar Cham is at No.20, followed by Alice at No.46 and Le Chamber at No.48. Closing the list at No.50 is new entrant Pine & Co, a bar resembling a scientist’s R&D lab, known for its future-forward cocktails.

In Japan, Tokyo’s Bar Benfiddich secures the No.5 spot, maintaining its title as The Best Bar in Japan for the third consecutive year. Following closely is Virtù which climbs nine places to No.11, The SG Club takes No.23, while The Bellwood has surged 15 places to No.34. Hailing from Osaka, newcomer Craftroom debuts at No.28. This petite, six-seater bar, led by revered bartender Ryu Fujii, offers classic cocktails within a seasonally changing menu.

Bangkok also holds five spots on the list, with BKK Social Club leading the pack at No.7, also earning the title of The Best Bar in Thailand. Vesper follows at No.13, while the funky, fun and immersive Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar climbs four spots to No.18. Finally, new entrant Bar Us debuts impressively at No.21, offering a high-concept ‘drinking room’ with all-black interiors and bartenders sporting freshly-pressed white lab coats.

Penrose in Kuala Lumpur makes an impressive climb of 42 places to reach No.8, earning the title of The Best Bar in Malaysia and earning the Nikka Highest Climber Award 2024. Also hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Bar Trigona maintains its position at No.36 while newcomer Reka, a self-proclaimed ‘post- modern flavour lab’, enters the list at No.41. Indonesia is represented by two bars from Jakarta: The Cocktail Club ascends seven spots to claim No.12 and secures the title of The Best Bar in Indonesia, followed by Pantja, which enjoys a two-spot hike to No.27.

India is represented on the list by Bengaluru’s ZLB23 at No.40. This newcomer claims the title of The Best Bar in India, serving prohibition-style cocktails in a venue accessed through a secret entrance hidden within a working kitchen. Hiriketiya’s Smoke & Bitters climbs 11 places to No.29 and is crowned The Best Bar in Sri Lanka. From Kathmandu, Barc debuts at No.39 as The Best Bar in Nepal, offering an upmarket, elegant space accompanied by a sophisticated selection of cocktails. Manila’s The Curator ascends one spot to No.33, earning the title of The Best Bar in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Hanoi’s The Haflington enters the list at No.47 – this immersive, vintage-themed space offers an adventurous cocktail menu inspired by The Jungle Book, securing the title of The Best Bar in Vietnam.

Special Awards

Dry Wave Cocktail Studio, Bangkok (No.73 on the 51-100 list), has won the Campari One To Watch Award, hand-picked by the 50 Best team as a bar that it feels has the potential to break into the 1-50 list in the future. Dry Wave Cocktail Studio runs a stellar beverage programme of classic and creative libations, led by veteran bartender-owner Supawit ‘Palm’ Muttarattana, who formerly helmed Vesper (No.12 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 and No.55 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023).

Bartender, entrepreneur and author Yangdup Lama has been crowned the Roku Industry Icon 2024.

Owner of New Delhi’s Sidecar, Lama is a legendary figure in the industry and the subcontinent’s leading mixologist. Under his leadership, Sidecar has earned several placements in Asia’s and The World’s 50 Best Bars rankings. Lama inspires with his creative cocktails and advocacy for regional ingredients, and as a mentor and trainer, he proudly showcases India’s bartending talent on the global stage.

Singapore’s Atlas (No.49), a jazz-age-inspired gin bar, has been honoured with the Rémy Martin Legend of the List Award, recognising an establishment that has consistently performed well in the rankings since the list’s inception in 2016. It is a double win for Atlas this year, as it also receives the inaugural Bareksten Best Bar Design Award in Asia for its spectacular art deco style and a 15-metre-tall gin tower housing around 900 labels. This new accolade celebrates bars with thoughtful designs emphasising accessibility, sustainability and market appropriateness.

The Savory Project, Hong Kong, is awarded the London Essence Best New Opening Award and enters the list at No.19. Founded by the award-winning team behind former top spot holder Coa, this newcomer spotlights craft cocktails with savoury and umami notes made with unorthodox ingredients.

Fura (No.42) in Singapore wins the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award for its groundbreaking, low-carbon footprint cocktails, circular ethos and commitment to low-waste practices. Fura exclusively uses local ingredients in its drinks, highlighting its dedication to a sustainable beverage programme.

The Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu award goes to Nest by Pun in Taipei. This reservations-only speakeasy features a thematic menu reflecting its bee and honeycomb design elements, enhancing its mysterious charm. The menu is thoughtfully crafted to help patrons narrow down their drink choices based on preferred ingredients and flavour profiles. Guests can expect not only cocktail mastery, but also a captivating storytelling experience.

Pre-announced special award winners that accepted their accolades at the live awards ceremony include Virtù in Tokyo, winner of the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award, and Dohyung ‘Demie’ Kim from Seoul, winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award.

The Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 awards ceremony was streamed live and is available to view on The

World’s 50 Best Bars Facebook and 50 Best Bars TV YouTube Channel.

Voting Process

50 Best works with professional services consultancy Deloitte as its official independent adjudication partner to help protect the integrity and authenticity of the voting process and the resulting list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024. See more details on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars voting process here.

About Asia’s 50 Best Bars

Asia’s 50 Best Bars is the first regional event of The World’s 50 Best Bars brand, created in 2016 with the purpose of showcasing the best and most innovative talent in the drinks industry in this region. The annual ranking is based on the votes of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy, comprising the most knowledgeable and travelled members of the bar industry, drinks media and mixology experts from across Asia. The Academy spans dozens of cities across the continent, reflecting the relative development and importance of bar scenes in different locations and the diversity of the drinking scene in Asia. Asia’s 50 Best Bars, The World’s 50 Best Bars and North America’s 50 Best Bars are owned and organised by William Reed, the group behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and The World’s 50 Best Hotels.

About the host destination partner: Hong Kong Tourism Board

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is a Government-subvented body. Operating 15 offices around the world and representative offices in seven different markets, its primary mission is to maximise the social and economic contribution that tourism makes to the community of Hong Kong, and consolidate the city’s position as a world- class destination. The HKTB works closely with the Government, travel industry and other partners to promote Hong Kong worldwide, widen the range of tourism products and elevate service standards, as well as enhance the experiences of visitors during their stay.

For more details on Asia’s 50 Best Bars and selection process, please visit:

https://www.worlds50bestbars.com/asia/

Our Partners:

  • Hong Kong Tourism Board – Official Host Partner
  • Perrier – Official Water Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Asia
  • Michter’s – Official American Whiskey Partner; sponsor of Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award
  • Nikka Whisky – Official Whisky of the World Partner; sponsor of Nikka Highest Climber Award and The Best Bar in Malaysia
  • Ketel One – Official Vodka Partner; sponsor of Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award
  • Siete Misterios – Official Mezcal Partner; sponsor of Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award
  • The London Essence – Official Mixers Partner; sponsor of London Essence Best New Opening Award
  • Disaronno – Official Italian Liqueur Partner; sponsor of Disaronno Highest New Entry Award
  • Roku Gin – Official Gin Partner; sponsor of Roku Industry Icon Award
  • Altos Tequila – Official Tequila Partner; sponsor of Altos Bartenders’ Bartender
  • Matusalem – Official Rum Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Mainland China and ceremonial scarves
  • Naked Malt – Official Scotch Whisky Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Korea
  • Rémy Martin – Official Cognac Partner; sponsor of Rémy Martin Legend of the List
  • Campari – Official Bitters Partner; sponsor of Campari One To Watch Award
  • Mancino Vermouth – Official Vermouth Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Taiwan and ceremonial shakers
  • Amaro Lucano – Official Amaro Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Indonesia and ceremonial shakers
  • Tia Maria – Official Coffee Liqueur Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Singapore
  • Torres Brandy – Official Brandy Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Japan
  • Scrappy’s Bitters – Official Cocktail Bitters Partner; sponsor of The Best Bar in Thailand
  • Bareksten – Official Aquavit Partner; sponsor of Bareksten Best Bar Design Award
  • Rosewood Hong Kong – Official Hotel and Venue Partner
  • The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong – Official Hotel and Venue Partner
  • Aqua Hong Kong – Official Venue Partner

Images courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Bars/The World’s 50 Best

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

French Cocktail Culture: More than Champs

French Cocktail Culture: More than Champagne

by David Klemt

An AI-generated, street-style image of a red and a blue cocktail crossed at the glass stems, against a blue, white, and red graffiti background

That’s some interesting stemware…and the cocktail on the right is an interesting color.

The French have contributed more than Champagne, Cognac, Armagnac, Grand Marnier, and Cointreau to global cocktail culture.

There at least a dozen cocktails that originate from France. And, of course, there are even more from one of the most French-influenced cities in the US, New Orleans.

Since Bastille Day is almost upon us I want to share ten cocktail recipes with origin stories we can trace back to France. Now, if celebrating Bastille Day isn’t your thing, you can celebrate National Grand Marnier Day instead.

Basically, if a cocktail below calls for orange liqueur, you and your bar team can use Grand Marnier. But…allow me to nerd out for a moment about orange liqueur and France.

Orange Liqueur vs. Triple Sec vs. Orange Curaçao

As we’re taught early on, all squares are rectangles (and rhombuses). However, not all rectangles (or rhombuses) are squares. Why am I bringing up geometric shapes in an article about cocktails?

Think of orange liqueur as a rectangle or rhombus. All orange curaçaos and triple secs can be considered orange liqueurs, but not all orange liqueurs are triple secs or orange curaçaos, if we want to be pedantic.

Generally speaking, triple sec is French orange liqueur. Cointreau, as an example, is a triple sec. It’s also an orange liqueur, and one can argue it’s an orange curaçao, although it isn’t made with Lahara orange. Grand Marnier is French but is not a triple sec. Why not? Because Grand Marnier is triple sec blended with Cognac. Pedantry strikes again!

Why does this matter? When choosing your orange liqueur, keep in mind that they don’t all taste the same. Their unique flavors will have an impact on a given cocktail. So, if you were to build a Sidecar with Grand Marnier rather than Cointreau, they’d taste noticeably different. This is, in part, due to the fact that the Sidecar is a Cognac recipe, and Grand Marnier is made with Cognac.

Thank you for indulging me there. Feel free to share that knowledge with your guests, but stop if their eyes start glazing over.

Consider featuring any of the cocktail recipes below this weekend. Sunday, July 14, is Bastille Day, or National Grand Marnier Day, if you prefer. Cheers!

French 75

This classic’s original form can be tracked to the 1910s and the famous New York Bar, located in Paris. Eventually, the venue would become Harry’s New York Bar, named for proprietor, bartender, and writer Harry MacElhone.

By the 1920s, the “final form” of the French 75 we all know and love would come into existence. However, people are still tweaking this classic’s build.

For the traditionalists out there, the French 75 is easy to make: one part gin, and a half-part each of lemon juice and simple syrup, topped with three parts sparkling wine. Don’t forget the lemon twist to garnish!

Boulevardier

As was the case with so many others during the modern Cocktail Revivaland the subsequent Negroni crazethe Boulevardier was my go-to cocktail for quite some time. Interestingly, this cocktail supposedly never “took” until the 2000s.

Like the French 75, the Boulevardier can be traced to Harry’s New York Bar and 1920s Paris. However, the credit for this one goes to a magazine publisher, according to Harry himself.

For this recipe, pretend you’re making a Negroni…but swap out the gin for bourbon or rye. Oh, and forget the 1:1:1 Negroni ratio; this isn’t an equal parts situation. Instead, combine one part Campari with one part sweet vermouth, but bump up the whiskey to one-and-one-quarter parts.

Old Pal

The Old Pal is thought to be a spin on the Boulevardier by that cocktail’s creator, Harry MacElhone, at his bar in Paris.

Whereas the Boulevardier is considered by someone a whiskey-based riff on the Negroni, that’s not an equal-parts build. This, however, is.

Stir equal parts rye whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Then, strain it into a chilled coupe. Some modern recipes call for doubling the rye, so experimentation is in order.

Sidecar

Okay, let’s start a fight: the Sidecar was created at the Ritz Paris, in Paris, in the 1920s. Why should that cause a kerfuffle? Well, the drink could also be a Pat MacGarry creation, invented in London.

Making this even more contentious is that Harry (yes, of Harry’s New York Bar) went from crediting MacGarry to claiming credit himself. Oh, and sources in both Paris and London claim the same story to be true: a guest arrived at their bar on a motorcycle, and the bartender at the time came up with this drink for said guest.

But wait, il y a plus! Living legend Dale DeGroff has stated that he believes the name references a bonus shot. This is the amount of cocktail left over after shaking and straining the drink, and served on the side in a shot glass.

Regardless of the true story, add three-quarters of an ounce each orange liqueur and lemon juice, then double that amount of Cognac. Prep a coupe with a sugar rim, shake the mixture, strain it into the glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

Between the Sheets

Are you getting the impression that we should just credit with Harry MacElhone with the creation of every drink originating from Paris? I won’t blame you if you are, since he’s credited with Between the Sheets as well. Is he actually the creator? Maybe I’ll address that in a future Drink Donnybrook.

To build this cocktail, pretend you’re making a Sidecar. Then, pick up a bottle of rum. This is an equal parts cocktail, calling for three-quarters of a part of Cognac, rum, and orange liqueur, and a quarter-part of lemon juice.

White Lady

This MacElhone creation has an interesting history. As the story goes, he created the original version in London in the late 1910s. He served it in its precursor form, then overhauled the recipe in Paris. At his bar. In the 1920s. Déjà vu, anyone?

And what an overhaul the recipe underwent. The original White Lady was a blend of crème de menthe, triple sec, and lemon juice. However, MacElhone eschewed crème de menthe in Paris, replacing it with gin. Additionally, he added an egg white and a dry shake.

Mimosa

Surely, the simple two-ingredient Mimosa must have a clear origin, right? Well…maybe.

Some say the Mimosa was created at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in the mid-1920s. Others believe it was invented in the 1930s. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the drink was first crafted in the 1910s or earlier by someone who simply wanted to toss some sparkling wine into their orange juice.

Ritz bartender Frank Meier may be the drink’s creator. However, people who dispute this point to his 1936 book The Artistry of Mixing Drinks. Recipes with Meier’s initials inside of a diamond next to recipes marked this as his creations. No such symbol appears next to the Mimosa.

If you need this complex recipe, it’s two ounces of chilled orange juice, topped with sparkling wine. I prefer Crémant to Champagne, but do whatever works best. In fact, operators can upsell the bubbles for their signature Mimosas.

Death in the Afternoon

I’m hesitant to include this cocktail, for a couple of reasons. One, I’m not sure it was created in France. There’s reason to believe it was invented as an homage to France, but outside of the country.

Second, Ernest Hemingway is given the credit as its creator. However, Hemingway historians have been dubious of claims involving the author and his relationship to certain drinks and bars.

That said, Hemingway purportedly came up with this drink while spending time in France in the 1920s. Add one-and-a-half parts absinthe to a coupe, then add three times that amount of chilled Champagne until the mixture is “milky” in appearance. Next, I assume, comes a nap.

Yellow

How about a modern classic? Yellow is a signature cocktail at Cravan, owned by restaurateur, bartender, and historian Franck Audoux.

If you’re visiting Paris, the original Cravan location is in the 16th arrondissement of the capital city. However, a second location, the result of a partnership between Audoux and Moët Hennessy, is in the 6th arrondissement. If you’re curious, there are 20 arrondissements in Paris.

Audoux, again, a historian, created the Yellow as an homage to a cocktail said to have been popular in the Côte d’Azur, or French Riviera: gin, Suze and Yellow Chartreuse. To make Audoux’s Yellow, add ice to a shaker, along with equal parts London Dry gin, Suze, Yellow Chartreuse, and lemon juice. Shake, then double strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.

L’Expérience 1

Hey, speaking of modern classics… Back in 2007, Experimental Group opened its first venue in Paris, Experimental Cocktail Club. Seventeen years later, the group has built an empire spanning eleven cities all over the world.

Moreover, Experimental Group operates not just bars but restaurants, clubs, and hotels. That said, while the group has grown, they haven’t forgotten their roots. L’Experience 1 appeared on the menu at their first-ever venue, and it remains their signature cocktail.

To make this modern drink, chill a Martini glass. Add three-quarters of a part each of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and elderflower liqueur, plus one-and-three-quarter parts of premium or super-premium vodka to a cocktail shaker. Before adding ice, add a basil leaf and one hand-crushed blade of lemongrass to the shaker as well. Shake, strain into the prepared glass, and garnish with a lemongrass leaf.

Santé!

AI image generator: Microsoft Designer

Bar, Pub, Nightclub, Nightlife, Feasibility Study

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 Reveals 51 to 100

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 Reveals 51 to 100

by David Klemt

The Zest bar team, led by Dohyung "Demie" Kim, in Seoul, South Korea

The bar team at Zest (No. 5, Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023) in Seoul, South Korea, led by Dohyung “Demie” Kim.

As we near the ceremony for the ninth edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, taking place in Hong Kong on July 16, we can congratulate numbers 51 to 100.

Clearly one of the hottest bar markets in the world, Singapore dominates the 51 to 100 list this year. Unsurprisingly, the city-state also featured the most bars on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 51 to 100 list. Interestingly, Singapore boasted eight bars on the list last year, and the same in 2024.

In second place on the expanded list in terms of number of bars is Bangkok. The legendary nightlife city claims six spots on the 2024 51 to 100 ranking.

Seoul, South Korea, is not only home to three barsincluding number 51the city is also the home to Zest. This is noteworthy in part because Dohyung “Demie” Kim is the winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2024, one of two awards announced ahead of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024 ceremony.

Kim is the co-founder of Zest, which took home the fifth spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list. With that ranking, the bar also claimed the title of the Best Bar in Korea. Further, Zest earned number 18 on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list.

On another note, it appears that the we should keep an eye on Tainan City, Taiwan; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Nara, Japan. Each of these cities holds two spots on the 2024 expanded list, a 100-percent increase over 2023. Last year, Lamp Bar, located in Nara, earned spot number 23 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. It’ll be interesting to see if these cities are represented on the one to 50 list for this year.

On that note, we’ll find out which bars are ranked one to 50 on July 16. Mark your calendars. Cheers!

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024: 100 to 51

  1. Moonrock (Tainan City, Taiwan)
  2. Drinking & Healing (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  3. Dry Wave Cocktail Studio (Bangkok, Thailand)
  4. Tell Camellia (Hong Kong, China)
  5. Home (New Delhi, India)
  6. Charles H (Seoul, South Korea)
  7. Wu (Nothingness) (Taipei, Taiwan)
  8. Last Word (Singapore)
  9. Sober Company (Shanghai, China)
  10. The Bamboo Bar (Bangkok, Thailand)
  11. Asia Today (Bangkok, Thailand)
  12. Gong Gan (Seoul, South Korea)
  13. The St. Regis Bar (Jakarta) (Jakarta, Indonesia)
  14. High Five (Tokyo, Japan)
  15. Bulgari Ginza Bar (Tokyo, Japan)
  16. The Sailing Bar (Nara, Japan)
  17. Sidecar (New Delhi, India)
  18. Firefly (Bangkok, Thailand)
  19. Southbank Cafe + Lounge (Muntinlupa City, Philippines)
  20. The Hudson Rooms (Hanoi, Vietnam)
  21. Junglebird (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  22. The Han-jia (Tainan City, Taiwan)
  23. 28 HongKong Street (Singapore)
  24. Cat Bite Club (Singapore)
  25. Gold Bar (Tokyo, Japan)
  26. Bee’s Knees (Kyoto, Japan)
  27. Folklore (Tokyo, Japan)
  28. Opium (Bangkok, Thailand)
  29. Under Lab (Taipei, Taiwan)
  30. The Old Man (Hong Kong, China)
  31. Coley (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  32. Manhattan (Singapore)
  33. Lair (New Delhi, India)
  34. Honky Tonks Tavern (Hong Kong, China)
  35. Mizunara: The Library (Honh Kong, China)
  36. The Elephant Room (Singapore)
  37. Yakoboku (Kumamoto, Japan)
  38. Stay Gold Flamingo (Singapore)
  39. Tropic City (Bangkok, Thailand)
  40. To Infinity & Beyond (Taipei, Taiwan)
  41. No Sleep Club (Singapore)
  42. The Bombay Canteen (Mumbai, India)
  43. Stir (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  44. Republic (Singapore)
  45. Three X Co (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  46. Lamp Bar (Nara, Japan)
  47. Epic (Shanghai, China)
  48. Tokyo Confidential (Tokyo, Japan)
  49. Backdoor Bodega (Penang, Malaysia)
  50. Soko (Seoul, South Korea)

ASIA’S 50 BEST BARS UNVEILS THE ESTABLISHMENTS VOTED ONTO THE EXTENDED 51-100 LIST FOR 2024

The fourth edition of this prestigious list announces 15 new entries across Asia, with bars from Singapore, Bangkok and Tokyo leading the region

9 July 2024 – Shining the spotlight on an extended collection of bars across the region, Asia’s 50 Best Bars, sponsored by Perrier, releases the prestigious 51st to 100th list for the fourth year running. The ranking is revealed one week ahead of its live awards ceremony in Hong Kong and is created from the overall Asia’s 50 Best Bars voting process, which sees its 265-member strong Academy – consisting of a gender-balanced group of bartenders, bar owners, drinks writers and cocktail aficionados – place independent and anonymous votes for what they believe constitutes a “best bar experience”.

The 51-100 list: A Snapshot

  • This year’s 51-100 list includes 15 new entries from across the region
  • The list comprises bars spanning 19 different cities across Asia
  • Singapore leads with 8 bars on the extended list, among which Cat Bite Club at No.77 is a new entrant
  • Bangkok is represented by 6 bars, while Tokyo follows with 5 places on the list
  • A bar from Muntinlupa City debuts on the list with Southbank Cafe + Lounge at82

For the full 51-100 list, please refer to the accompanying graphic or scroll to the bottom of this release.

Bars from Singapore command eight places on the 51-100 list, with Republic leading the pack at No.57. This ultra-luxe drinking den at the Ritz-Carlton is inspired by the swinging sixties, with a cocktail menu focused on art, cinema, fashion and music. It is followed by No Sleep Club at No.60, which has moved up fourteen places from last year, Stay Gold Flamingo (No.63), The Elephant Room (No.65), and Manhattan (No.69). At No.77, specialising in rice and agave spirits, Cat Bite Club, is a new entrant, while 28 HongKong Street at No.78 and Last Word at No.93 round off Singapore’s showing.

Bangkok follows with six spots on the list, led by Tropic City at No.62 and Opium at No.73. New entrant Firefly, at No.83, is the Sindhorn Kempinski’s lavish lobby bar where whimsical cocktails and live jazz are complemented by a cigar parlour, followed by Asia Today at No.90 and The Bamboo Bar at No.91. Closing Bangkok’s showing at No.98 is another new entrant, Dry Wave Cocktail Studio, which runs a stellar beverage programme of classic and creative libations led by veteran bartender-owner Supawit ‘Palm’ Muttarattana, who formerly helmed Vesper (No.12 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 and No.55 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023).

Tokyo maintains a strong showing with five bars on the extended list, starting with new entrants Tokyo Confidential (No.53) and Folklore (No.74). The former is an edgy rooftop craft cocktail bar, while Folklore, a modern minimalist space, spotlights avant-garde sake and shochu cocktails. Gold Bar comes in at No.76, followed by another new entrant, Bulgari Ginza Bar at No.86, which promises an Italian aperitivo experience within Tokyo’s iconic Ginza Tower. High Five (No.87) rounds off Tokyo’s representation on the list.

In Hong Kong, Mizunara: The Library has moved up twenty places to No.66, alongside three other bars on the list: Honky Tonks Tavern, which climbs thirty-one places to No.67; The Old Man at No.71; and Tell Camellia at No.97. Topping the 51-100 list is Seoul’s Soko at No.51, followed by new entrant Gong Gan at No.89, a bar housed in a traditional Korean home reimagined with modern design elements and a focus on upcycling. At No.95, Charles H from Seoul rounds off the city’s representation.

Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Taipei boast three spots each on the list. From Kuala Lumpur, Three X Co ascends twenty-one places to No.56 and is followed by Coley (No.70) and Junglebird (No.80). While in New Delhi, the modern speakeasy Lair (No.68) is a new entrant, followed by regulars on the list Sidecar (No.84) and Home (No.96). To Infinity & Beyond leads Taipei’s representation at No.61, followed by two new entries, the laboratory-like cocktail den, Under Lab at No.72 and the offbeat, ‘classic cocktails only’ Wu (Nothingness) at No.94.

Ho Chi Minh City, Nara, Shanghai, and Tainan each occupy two spots on the extended list. From the Vietnamese capital, Stir rises twenty-four places to No.58, followed by Drinking & Healing at No.99, a new entrant boasting ‘industrial chic’ interiors and cocktails with local ingredients. Nara is represented by Lamp Bar (No.55) and The Sailing Bar (No.85), which has ascended three places. In Shanghai, Epic moves up sixteen places to No.54, followed by Sober Company, re-entering the rankings at No.92. The Han-jia from Tainan is a new entrant at No.79, offering a luxurious space with industrial design elements, a global whisky selection, and inventive cocktails; and Moonrock rounds off the list at No.100.

Several destinations are represented on the extended list with one bar each. From Penang, Backdoor Bodega re-enters the rankings at No.52, while The Bombay Canteen from Mumbai comes in at No.59. Kumamoto’s Yakoboku ascends twenty places to No.64; Kyoto’s Bee’s Knees is at No.75, and The Hudson Rooms – the 1920s-inspired oyster and cocktail den on the rooftop of The Capella in Hanoi – is a new addition at No.81. In Indonesia, a new entrant from Jakarta, The St. Regis Bar (No.88) enters the list for its New York-inspired signature cocktails paired with a live jazz band and ultra-luxe interiors.

Marking its debut on the rankings is Muntinlupa City in the Philippines, with Southbank Cafe + Lounge (No.82) – a self-proclaimed ‘drinking room’ that focuses on technique-heavy cocktails within a Melbourne-inspired space.

Emma Sleight, Head of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Bars, says: “We are thrilled to welcome this diverse cohort of bars on the 51-100 list as part of this year’s 50 Best rankings. Since introducing the extended list in 2021, we have been consistently impressed by the innovative drinking experiences Asia has to offer, and it is beyond exciting to see the large number of new entries and new destinations that have made the list this year. With this recognition, we are hopeful that more bar talent will step forward annually, creating fresh and dynamic cocktail experiences for enthusiasts across the region.”

50 Best works with professional services consultancy Deloitte as its official independent adjudication partner to help protect the integrity and authenticity of the voting process and the resulting list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2024. See more details on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars voting process here.

The ninth edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, sponsored by Perrier, will be announced at a live awards ceremony in Hong Kong on 16 July 2024 and is hosted in collaboration with destination partner Hong Kong Tourism Board. The awards ceremony will also be streamed live on the 50 Best Facebook channel via the link here and the YouTube channel via the link here. The announcement of the list and individual awards can be followed via the 50 Best social media channels, with the livestream beginning at 20:25 Hong Kong time/13:25 UK time.

Asia's 50 Best Bars 2024, 51 to 100 chart

About Asia’s 50 Best Bars

Asia’s 50 Best Bars is the first regional event of The World’s 50 Best Bars brand, created in 2016 with the purpose of showcasing the best and most innovative talent in the drinks industry in this region. The annual ranking is based on the votes of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy, comprising the most knowledgeable and well-travelled members of the bar industry, drinks media and mixology experts from across Asia. The Academy spans dozens of cities across the continent, reflecting the relative development and importance of bar scenes in different locations and the diversity of the drinking scene in Asia. Asia’s 50 Best Bars, The World’s 50 Best Bars and North America’s 50 Best Bars are owned and organised by William Reed, the group behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and The World’s 50 Best Hotels.

About the host destination partner: Hong Kong Tourism Board

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is a Government-subvented body. Operating 15 offices around the world and representative offices in seven different markets, its primary mission is to maximise the social and economic contribution that tourism makes to the community of Hong Kong, and consolidate the city’s position as a world- class destination. The HKTB works closely with the Government, travel industry and other partners to promote Hong Kong worldwide, widen the range of tourism products and elevate service standards, as well as enhance the experiences of visitors during their stay.

For more details on Asia’s 50 Best Bars and selection process, please visit: https://www.worlds50bestbars.com/asia/

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Relationship Advice: Your Food Purveyors

Relationship Advice: Your Food Purveyors

by David Klemt

An AI-generated image of a restaurant receiving their food delivery through the front

“When visiting City, stop by Food Comipany for a food.”

Operators are facing challenges when it comes to their food purveyors, and as Chef Brian Duffy says, the issues don’t all boil down to rising costs.

By now, Chef Duffy needs no introduction. However, he contributes so much to the hospitality industry that I’m going to boast a bit on his behalf.

As the founder and principal of Duffified Experience Group, Chef Duffy has opened more than 100 restaurants. In fact, I believe he passed the 110-restaurant mark this year during the National Restaurant Association show.

Speaking of that show, he has presented multiple sessions at industry events over the past several years. Further, Chef Duffy leads the F&B Innovation Center at the annual Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas.

On the topic of presentations and education, he recently spoke at the inaugural Flyover Conference. You can check out more of our coverage of this brand-new show here and here.

This is all, of course, to say nothing of his television appearances.

Now, if you’re a regular consumer of KRG Hospitality articles, you know I love a Chef Duffy live menu read. I firmly believe that the asides he throws out while addressing even a single menu offer more value than most dedicated menu webinars or menu-engineering conference sessions.

Chef Duffy’s Flyover session, however, represented a departure from his menu reads. Due in part to the frustration he, operators, and kitchen teams across North America are facing in terms of inventory, Chef Duffy addressed the relationship between operators and their food purveyors.

Repairing a Toxic Relationship

Allow me a couple caveats before we jump in. If you’re happy with your food purveyors, awesome. Should you truly feel you’re getting the most out of the relationships with your food supplier partners, not all of this advice is for you. Additionally, Chef Duffy’s Flyover session wasn’t an attack on national food suppliers. At risk of speaking for him, it appears his issues have arisen from specific reps, not the major companies themselves.

That said, I have a suspicion that if you really sit down and review your supplier relationshipsencouraging feedback from your leadership and kitchen teamsyou’ll find that things could be better.

Chef Duffy reviews a lot of menus. Whether reviewing one for a client or performing a live reads, he’s seen some things. And one of those things is that it appears national food purveyors have been handed too much control.

This is unfortunate, because this relationship should be a partnership, not a dictatorship. Further, if every operator is buying the same ingredients, it makes sense that most menus will be similar.

“If we’re all being sold the same products, we’re being told what to put on our menus,” said Chef Duffy at Flyover. “And we’re all doing the same thing.”

So, how do we turn this situation around? We stop being dependent or co-dependent, and we start developing reciprocal relationships.

Your food purveyor reps need to come into your restaurant on your schedule. Too many operators are only seeing reps when something has gone wrong with an order.

In other words, if your rep expects to earn your business, they need to meet your expectations: that they’ll actually work with you in a mutually beneficial way.

Let the Healing Begin

Okay, I’m being a bit cheeky with this topic. That doesn’t mean I’m not serious about helping operators improve their relationships with their food purveyors.

To that end, here’s how Chef Duffy works with his reps. He has a rep who comes into one of his venues every Tuesday from 2 to 2:30 pm. This arrangement is, again, mutually beneficial: the rep comes in at noon for lunch, completes his other work, then meets with Duffy at the arranged time.

During the scheduled weekly meeting, Chef Duffy tells this rep what he’s thinking of doing that week. He asks what the rep can do for him, then asks what the rep what he needs to sell. It’s important that you make your rep work for you, but also that you talk to them and see where you can be helpful.

Of course, you’d think this would be the approach every rep prefers. Well, in Chef Duffy’s experience, this just isn’t the case.

Recently, he asked a different rep from a different food purveyor to find him a specific product. Put simply, Chef Duffy didn’t want the products this rep was trying to unload on him. This was apparently too much work because this rep has gone radio silent ever since. Because of this, this food supplier no longer has this account.

Had the rep been interested in an actual professional relationship rather than just focusing on what he “needed” to sell, he’d still be servicing the restaurant.

Be the Change

If that anecdote feels familiar, it’s time to find new partners. Luckily, Chef Duffy has a suggestion you can use today.

Look at the smaller, regional purveyors who service your market. See what they can offer you, and compare their prices to those of your current, national suppliers.

You’ll likely find an impressive portfolio with appealing pricing. Moreover, these smaller companies want to land new accounts and work with you.

Remember, it’s your restaurant. You brought your concept into the real world. You’ve done the work to build your business, and it’s your menu.

Review your food purveyor relationship today, schedule time to sit down with your reps this week (or month), and develop the relationships your business needs.

Image generator: Microsoft Designer

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Welcome: Start the Experience Right

Welcome: How to Begin the Guest Experience Like a Pro

by David Klemt

Restaurant host or manager holding menus and leading guests to their table

When you think about the guest experience you and your team deliver, how much consideration do you give the welcome?

I don’t mean just the greeting your front-of-house team gives guests. That’s an important part of the equation, but it’s only one element.

Rather, I’m talking about developing SOPs for welcoming guests into your venue. As importantly, I’m also suggesting that you develop specific onboarding and training for anyone who will greet guests and lead them to their seats.

Luckily, one of the best front-of-house trainers in hospitality spoke at the 2024 Flyover Conference in Cincinnati about this topic. Bethany Lucas, director of operations for Maverick Theory, shared her best tips for startingand endingthe guest experience in a memorable way.

The tips Lucas shared during her Flyover session “Untapped Potential: How to Transform Your Front of House” will indeed transform your business and guest experience.

Now, a word of warning before I begin. Once you read these tips, you’ll likely find yourself analyzing your next few restaurant visits. Ever since sitting in on Lucas’ session, I’ve been unable to avoid paying more attention to how my restaurant visits have begun.

This has included sharing what I’ve noticed with the people in my group. Some of these friends will also pay more attention to the greeting they receive when walking into a restaurant now.

If you’re an operator or front-of-house leader, you’ll probably benefit from checking out restaurants in your area for their welcome procedures.

Invest in Your Door

Operators need to invest in their doors, because “it really is the brain of your restaurant,” says Lucas.

Therefore, it’s crucial that owners and operators understand what’s going on at their doors. Assuming your front-of-house team knows how to greet guests rather than training them on a procedure is a mistake.

Most operators know that hiring the right leaders, kitchen team, servers, and bartenders is imperative to the success of their business. However, the same attention must be paid to finding the right hosts and hostesses.

As Lucas says, “There is no ‘just a hostess.'” Bluntly put, the person running the door is the gatekeeper of the business. They’ll interact with just about every single guest since they serve as the first touchpoint.

So, Lucas encourages operators to ask a number of questions before initiating the hiring process:

  • Are the ideal candidates formal and proper, or friendly and casual? (Or something else entirely.)
  • Will the ideal hosts and hostesses need to be thick-skinned?
  • When considering the appearance of the host team, what does that look like to you? Lucas seeks out people who are polished and professional when building her teams.

These questions should inspire even more considerations, helping an operator identify who they want to run their door.

Welcome

During her presentation, Lucas provided an example of a less-than-ideal welcome. I think we’ve all experienced what she described.

How often have each of us walked into a restaurant, been greeted, and then led to a table by someone who just takes off? The host or hostess grabs menus, starts walking away toward a table, doesn’t speak to you, and doesn’t even look over their shoulder to see if you’re still following them closely.

I know it’s happened to me more times than I can count. Although, I’m happy to report that this hasn’t happened to me since attending Flyover. Maybe what Lucas put out into the world has had a greater impact than she expected.

A polished and professional host or hostess, per Lucas, will not take off when leading guests to their seats. Additionally, they won’t be silent, failing to engage with the guest verbally. Further, a polished, professional host or hostess doesn’t drop menus on a table and rush back to the door.

In fact, Lucas requires each member of her host teams to ask at least one question of guests being led to their seats. This can be as simple, she explained at Flyover, as the host or hostess turning and asking “How are you today?”

It’s important to note that this attention to the door team isn’t reserved for upscale or fine-dining venues. The beginning and end of a guest’s visit are too important to fail to plan them properly. Regardless of concept and category of venue, guests must feel welcome and valued.

Farewell

According to Lucas, the farewell can absolutely impact how a guest perceives their visit, and the brand overall. While the server or bartender who served the guest should thank them at the end of their visit, so should the person who first welcomed them.

A simple “thank you for visiting us” can go a long way and serve as a cherry on top of the entire experience.

However, there’s another tip Lucas shared that has really stuck with me. A truly a savvy host team will add a question after they thank a guest for their visit: “Can I make a reservation for you for your next visit?”

Doing so requires the ability to read a guest and their satisfaction with their visit. However, if executed well this is a brilliant way to increase your guest retention rate and convert a first-time guest into a repeat guest, and eventually a regular.

If you’ve read this far, I encourage you to consider your welcome SOPs and door team today. You and leadership team should observe the door and note how guests are being welcomed.

If the procedure doesn’t impress you, it’s not impressing your guests. And if it isn’t impressing your guests, ask yourself why they’d return.

Your door isn’t “just a door,” and your hosts aren’t “just hosts.” Remember that, and plan accordingly.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

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Cheers to the Flyover Conference!

Cheers to the Flyover Conference and Cincy!

by David Klemt

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River, heading toward Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio

Just pretend the temporary SkyStar Wheel isn’t in this picture.

The successful and exciting launch of the Flyover Conference makes it clear that co-founders Sarah Engstrand and Greg Newman are onto something big.

Big, yet intimate. There’s a real feeling of community when a small-but-driven group gathers with purpose. That’s exactly what Flyover embodies.

Now, I know some people who live between the east and west coasts in the US find the term “flyover” irritating, if not outright offensive. As someone born and raised in the Midwest, I understand the frustration. However, I can assure anyone raising a skeptical eyebrow or frowning at the name of the conference that it isn’t meant as a pejorative.

Rather, Engstrand and Newman are giving a cheeky middle finger (likely two, really) to those who dismiss “secondary” and “tertiary” markets. In fact, their intention is to shine a spotlight onand servecities that don’t receive the same attention as “primary” markets.

By primary, I think you know main culprits: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Miami. In contrast, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Cincinnati, and Detroit carry the “secondary” label (as do many other cities).

So, a core element of the conference is featuring speakers who have, up until now, mostly spoken at highly visible trade shows that take place in major host cities. For example, the National Restaurant Association in Chicago.

For the inaugural Flyover, the co-founders put in the work to provide Cincinnati with a powerhouse lineup of hospitality industry speakers. Additionally, this year’s F&B sponsors delivered an awesome array of sips and bites.

Killer Kickoff Keynote

Truly, Flyover’s mission is to deliver maximum impact over the course of just two days. The 2024 speaker lineup serves as a testament to their dedication.

So, too, is how the 2024 show utilized the two speaker stages, provided by Rhinegeist Brewery. Flyover attendees and speakers were close to one another, not separated by the vast expanse of a ballroom or elevation of a platform.

David Kaplan, CEO of Gin & Luck, the parent company of the world’s first cocktail bar chain (for lack of a better term, really) kicked off the event. Perhaps multi-location craft concept is a better phrase to explain Death & Co. in five words or less.

During his informative and inspiring keynote, he detailed he and his team’s approach to entrepreneurship. As Kaplan explains, when someone understands their purpose (why), they come to an understanding that helps develop their process (how). In turn, that gives an entrepreneur an understanding of the outcome they’re working toward, or their “what.”

I’ll dive much deeper into his keynote in a future article, because Kaplan’s approach goes much further than why, how, and what. In fact, in keeping with his status as one of the most transparent people in hospitality, Kaplan shares his personal core values, along with those of Death & Co.

Engaging Education

Bartender-cum-licensed psychotherapist (and soon-to-be organizational psychologist) Laura Louise Green took on a topic afflicting all of hospitality: burnout. The founder of Healthy Pour, Green explained that burnout is not only different than stress, it’s certainly not a sign of weakness to take the time to address it.

One of my favorites, Chef Brian Duffy, took a different approach to the topic of menus. Instead of reviewing a handful of submissions, Duffy took questions and addressed issues with food purveyors directly in a frank and open discussion.

Encouraging operators to take greater risks, Michael Tipps, co-founder of Maverick Theory, drove home a compelling point. Oftentimes, operators are fearless when developing their concepts. However, something curious often happens when it’s time to welcome the public into the space: second guessing, and blunting the sharpness of the original vision.

Oh, and I shared the KRG Hospitality approach to systems, starting, stabilizing, and scaling, my second time every presenting at a conference. Most people assume that because I host a podcast I’m comfortable talking to anyone, anywhere. That’s mostly true. However, I, like millions of other people, find public speaking anxiety-inducing. So, a huge thanks to the Flyover team, fellow speakers, and mostly the attendees for setting me at ease.

The above are but a handful of the education sessions that Flyover provided for attendees. Other topics ranged from the need for fully realized non-alcohol bar programs, building events in house, and operators handling their own PR campaigns, to leadership skills and leveraging the power of an effective door team.

Bang for Buck

Anyone who has attended one of the big hospitality industry conferences has probably been subjected to the experience below.

You file into a session featuring a topic of particular interest to you and your business. Even better, the speaker is someone you’re excited to see and hear. The presentation ends and…awkward silence. Almost everyone is too afraid to ask a question that they feel may make them look “stupid,” or like they’re not a good operator. Finally, someone asks a question, and that leads to a few more questions.

Unfortunately, the presentation was 45 to 50 minutes long, and with the awkward pause after its conclusion, there are barely ten minutes left for the speaker to answer questions. When they’re shooed off the stage, they’re swarmed in the hallway. You think they may be overwhelmed, you don’t want to add to that or inconvenience someone you admire, and you never get to meet them, ask them an important question, and exchange business cards.

That’s not an indictment of the large, more mainstream conferences. It’s just how it is when you pack dozens upon dozens of speakers, and thousands of attendees, into a conference hall. Further, schedules tend to be so loaded in order to attract attendees and boost ticket sales that people are forced to make difficult choices and miss out on some awesome sessions.

In contrast, Flyover intends to limit their ticket sales. And while there will always be a choice to make at a conference, they seek to mitigate that prevalent issue. Was this year’s show perfect? No, there were growing pains, as expected. Will this team learn and improve the show to maximize the impact for attendees? I have every confidence that the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Future Flyovers

I have to say, I’m deeply interested in the future of Flyover Conference. In fact, schedule permitting, I would attend even if I weren’t asked to speak at future shows.

It was an honor to be part of something of so impactful.

The entire point of this industryhospitalitycan sometimes fall to the wayside at conferences, trade shows, and expos. Another way of saying that is that while we all speak the same language, we often forget to take the time to connect with one another.

While there’s work to do, Flyover addresses this issue. The show is set up so that attendees, speakers, and sponsors are sharing the same spaces; there’s an actual sense of community. When it comes the host city, there’s a real sense of place, and that’s important.

Speaking of the host city…the next Flyover will take place in a city I mentioned at the top of this article. The most populous city in Michigan, DetroitMotor City itself—will host the second Flyover Conference. Looking forward to it, Hockeytown.

Be sure to connect with Flyover for updates and announcements.

Cheers!

Image: Jake Blucker on Unsplash

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