Bar Operations

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

This Design Prediction has Our Attention

This Restaurant Design Prediction has Our Attention

by David Klemt

All of Hospitality Design‘s recently revealed 2024 restaurant design predictions are compelling but one in particular really stood out to us.

That’s not to imply that the other predictions are “less than,” of course. Each trend prediction, put forth by highly regarded designers and architects, provides insight into the direction of restaurant design.

As an example, the image atop this article references one of the trend predictions Dala Al-Fuwaires. Per the House of Form owner and principal, retro design is experiencing “a fresh transformation.” In particular, according to Al-Fuwaires, designers are giving materials such as glass brick or block and dark wood tones a modern spin.

Another trend prediction comes from Larry Traxler, the senior vice president of global design at Hilton Hotels & Resorts. Traxler has said in the past that hotels aren’t “just hotels” anymore.

For 2024, he foresees foodie tourism driving significant changes to restaurant and hotel design. Speaking with Hospitality Design, Traxler points to “connection to the outdoors, farm-to-table concepts, biodynamic farming features, biophilia, and bold uses of color and art to create a memorable environment to connect with the food and culture where these hotels are located” as growing trends.

Another trend prediction involves restaurants and kitchens. Specifically, Gulla Jónsdóttir, the owner and principal of Atelier Gulla Jónsdóttir, believes we’ll see more open kitchens in 2024. As Jónsdóttir explains, this design feature creates a more engaging dining experience.

Ed Ng, the founder of AB Concept, has a simple but exciting trend prediction: more concepts embracing secret menus.

But there’s another 2024 prediction that really captured our attention.

Pop-up Collaborations

Operators who put in the time, energy, and strategy to develop buzz around their restaurant experience several benefits.

The most obvious, of course, are increases in traffic, revenue, and profits.

There’s also the recruitment benefit. A restaurant generating local and regional buzz will likely find it much easier to recruit new team members. That is, of course, if ownership and leadership are also generating positive word of mouth in the area.

However, there’s another perhaps lesser-known benefit of developing and operating a cool concept: opportunities to collaborate.

According to Dan Mazzarini, creative director and principal at BHDM Design, hotel groups will seek to partner with local restaurants (and bars, I assume) for pop-ups. These will be on hotel property and will help to provide guests a deeper sense of place during their visits. Another benefit will be locals viewing hotels that partner with independents in the area as respectful of the community.

Most KRG Hospitality clients are indies, regional concepts, and boutique hotels. Consequently, we find Mazzarini’s prediction to be the most captivating. However, each of these trend predictions seem likely to come to fruition.

Image: Ekaterina Astakhova on Pexels

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Update Your Margs with Mezcal and Sotol

Update Your Margaritas with Mezcal, Sotol, and More!

by David Klemt

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal bottle on a drinks tray

We all know how to make a classic Margarita, so for this National Margarita Day we want to put some new recipes and ingredients on your radar.

The cocktail recipes below swap out the tequila for mezcal and sotol.

For a quick refresher, all tequila is mezcal in a technical sense. Mezcal is made with agave plants. Tequila producers use a specific agave plant, Blue Weber. Further, tequila must be produced in one of five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas.

Then we have sotol. You may have seen sotol thrown in with agave spirits on cocktail or spirits roundups. To clarify, however, sotol is a typo of shrub known as the desert spoon, and it’s not an agave plant.

So, all tequila is mezcal, mezcal is agave, and sotol is…sotol.

Swap Out the Tequila

Being National Margarita Day, you certainly need to have a classic Margarita on your menu. It’s all the better if your bar team makes them so well and so consistently that really, your top-selling Marg is one of your signature cocktails.

That said, it’s also a good idea to play with classics to give your guests new drinks to discover. The two recipes below are two great examples of riffs on the classic Margarita that should get your and your bar team’s creative wheels turning.

Allow me to introduce you to Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal and Nocheluna Sotol, if you’re not already acquainted.

Contraluz lays claim to the title of “world’s first cristalino mezcal.” Made from 100 percent espadín agave, this is a crystal-clear, small-batch reposado mezcal. On the nose, expect aromas of agave, along with citrus and floral notes. You may also detect smoke, cedar, and honey. In terms of flavor, Contraluz delivers notes of vanilla, clove, cacao, and cooked agave, with a sweet, long finish.

The second cocktail below is made with Nocheluna Sotol, which is crafted using 100-percent wild sotol from Chihuahuan desert. This particular sotol is the result of a collaboration between a fourth-generation master vintner, and a master distiller.

A unique spirit, Nocheluna delivers a delicate balance of sweet, herbal, dried fruit, and mineral notes. These notes come through via both the aroma and taste, although you may detect oak and smoke as well. Interestingly, Nocheluna says the finish may include a taste of pecan wood, along with wet earth.


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A post shared by Nocheluna Sotol (@nochelunasotol)

But Wait, There’s More!

Along with Contraluz and Nocheluna, you’ll see three bottles that may be new to you below. The Light and Soul cocktail calls for Alma Finca Orange Liqueur, Nixta Licor de Elote, and HAGAVE Spiced Nectar.

The first is an orange liqueur produced by the same company that makes Montelobos Mezcal. The second liqueur, Nixta Elote, is essentially liquid elote seasoning, and it comes in a fantastic corn-shaped bottle. Finally, HAGAVE is exactly what it says on the label: a premium, spiced agave mixer.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely plan to get my hands on each of these bottles. Just imagine what you can do to engage with your guests by introducing them to a crystal-clear, artisanal mezcal, an expertly crafted sotol, and liquid elote in a corn bottle.


Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal, Light and Soul cocktail

Light and Soul

  • 2.0 oz. Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal
  • 0.5 oz. Alma Finca Orange Liqueur (or a triple sec or different orange liqueur if unavailable)
  • 0.5 oz. Nixta Licor de Elote
  • 1 oz. Lime cordial
  • 0.5 oz. HAGAVE Spiced Nectar

Place a large ice cube or sphere in a rocks glass. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared rocks glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.

Nocheluna Sotol cocktail, the Sotolita


  • 1.5 oz. Nocheluna Sotol
  • 1.0 oz. Triple sec
  • 1.0 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. Apple juice
  • Apple slices to garnish
  • Chiltepin salt for rim (sea salt blend with chiltepin peppers)

Prepare a rocks glass by adding quality ice and rimming it with chiltepin salt. Add ice to a shaker, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake well, then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an apple-slice fan.

Images provided by LaFORCE

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Did This Beer Win Super Bowl LVIII?

Did This Beer Win Super Bowl LVIII?

by David Klemt

A pint glass overflowing with beer

Now that the Super Bowl is over, behavioral insight platform Veylinx is revealing the impact on brands that advertised during this year’s big game.

If Veylinx sounds familiar to you, you may be a regular KRG Hospitality news reader. Last month we looked at their dive into alcohol-free canned cocktails. Last year, we shared a Veylinx report with a focus on whether Super Bowl ads really work on consumers. And in 2022, Veylinx wondered if the interest in zero-proof drinks was all hype or worth leveraging.

This month, Veylinx is at it again. This time, however, they’re revealing which brands—those that advertised during Super Bowl LVIII—saw the biggest ROI. For context, a 30-second spot during the big game cost approximately $7 million this year.

That’s a ton of cash to shell out in the hopes of seeing a sales increase on- and off-premise.

Speaking of on-premise, Veylinx’s findings should be of interest to operators. The beer that Veylinx says “won” the Super Bowl will likely be top of mind among your guests who watched the game and the accompanying ads.

So, it stands to reason that they’ll either expect to find that beer on a menu. Likewise, they may be swayed to order the beer if they see it when scanning a bar’s taps, menu, or fridges.

With that in mind, operators may want to watch their sales of Michelob Ultra.

Study Methodology

For their latest report, Veylinx used similar methodology to their Elixir non-alcoholic canned cocktail study.

A mix of 50 percent men and fifty percent women participated in the study. All 1,604 participants were US residents aged 21 or older. Looking deeper into the participants, the age breakdown is as follows:

  • 21 to 27: 30 percent
  • 28 to 43: 25 percent
  • 44 to 59: 25 percent
  • 60 and older: 20 percent

Like the Elixir (a fake brand invented by Veylinx) study, participants bid on products with their own money. The auction mix consisted of products that advertised during Super Bowl LVIII and those that did not advertise during the game.

Study Results

Among all viewers of Super Bowl LVIII, brands that advertised during the game saw an average lift of 16 percent.

However, those brands saw the biggest boost in demand—24 percent—among men. Gen Z followed, with demand in advertised brands growing by 11 percent. Among women, brands that advertised saw just a nine-percent boost in demand.

While Doritos Dinamita was the number-one brand among all viewers in general, and men and Gen Z in particular, Michelob Ultra is a close second. Interestingly, the beer brand was the top-performer among women in terms of demand growth.

For those wondering, no alcohol brands were among the top three performers for Gen Z.

So, operators who have noticed in uptick in Michelob Ultra sales may have Super Bowl LVIII to thank. If that’s the case, if sales of Michelob Ultra have increased in bars and restaurants since this year’s big game, it appears that yes, Super Bowl ads still work on consumers.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Bar Hacks Celebrates World Bartender Day

35 Bar Hacks Podcast Episodes for World Bartender Day

by David Klemt

Black microphone and pop filter with purple light

This Saturday, February 24, we celebrate World Bartender Day, so here are 35 Bar Hacks episodes featuring some of our favorite people in the bar business.

We’ve had the honor of speaking with incredibly talented, humble, and generous bartenders. Below you’ll find the Spotify and Apple Podcasts links to nearly three-dozen of these informative and entertainment conversations.

Please join us in thanking your bartenders on Saturday. And if you’re an operator, we encourage you to come up with a way to celebrate your bar team to show them your appreciation.


Episode 109 with Colin Asare-Appiah

Host David Klemt had the opportunity to chat with Colin Asare-Appiah, an industry icon he’s wanted to talk to for many years. Colin is Bacardí’s trade director of multiculture and lifestyle, and the brand’s LGBTQIA+ advocate. Not only does he spread the message of diversity, equity, and inclusion, he believes (as does KRG Hospitality and Bar Hacks) that diversity is necessary for our industry to thrive.

In this episode you’ll learn about Colin Asare-Appiah’s journey through hospitality, which includes saying he’d never be a bartender to becoming a bartender and creating a bartending school; his thoughts on what makes a successful operator and team; cocktail and spirits trends for 2024; the AJABU cocktail festival coming to South Africa in March of this year, spearheaded by Colin and his partner Mark Talbot Holmes; and more.

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Episode 107 with Anne Becerra

Anne Becerra is the first female Certified Cicerone in New York City and has been working in beer for more than a decade. More importantly, however, she’s as passionate as she is educated about beer. Anne’s also passionate about hospitality, which comes across in this conversation. Truly, she loves hospitality, the beverage world, and how the two pair to make people feel amazing.

On this episode Anne talks introducing guests to beer; serving beer aficionados, beer neophytes, and the beer wary; how to make guests feel comfortable in a beer-centric concept; what she’s excited about in the beer world; tips for operators who want to succeed with a beer-forward venue; and much, much more. Cheers!

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Apple Podcasts link

Episode 106 with Matthias Ingelmann

Since opening their doors, KOL Restaurant has found its way onto the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and Kol Mezcaleria can be found on the World’s 50 Best Disovery tool. The upscale Mexican restaurant and bar, co-owned by Chef Santiago Lastra, celebrates Mexican culture and traditions hand in hand with British ingredients. They’re also currently participating in the 14th annual London Cocktail Week.

KOL bar manager Matthias Ingelmann dropped by the Bar Hacks podcast while he and the team prepared for service. On this episode, Matthias talks agave spirits; introducing guests to artisanal and ancestral agave spirits along with Mexican rum, gin, and whiskey; planning for seasonality and menu changes; maintaining the familiar while offering new menu items; honoring Mexican culture with this fusion concept; what he looks for in team members; and more.

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Episode 104 with Simone Caporale

Simone Caporale, an internationally renowned bartender and operator, swings by the Bar Hacks podcast to talk spirits, branding, the guest experience, and operations.

Noticing a gap in the industry and seeing a way to lend his expertise to help grow spirits brands, Simone and Luca Missagli founded Cocktail Concierge, a brand-building agency focusing on craft spirits brands. One of the most recent brands Cocktail Concierge has helped introduce to the world is Amaro Santoni.

Of course, Simone is also one of forces behind SIPS Drinkery House, number three on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, and the World’s Best Bar according to Tales of the Cocktail. Simone shares his thoughts on what he thinks makes SIPS so successful, why he views service as a privilege, three tips operators can implement today to plant the seeds for long-term success, and more!

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Episode 103 with Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan, part 2

Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr. Lyan, returns to the Bar Hacks podcast! Ten years ago, Ryan opened the first bar in what would become the Mr. Lyan empire, White Lyan. This innovative venue set the tone for Ryan and the team’s approach to creating bars.

On this episode of the Bar Hacks podcast, Ryan shares details of the ten-year celebrations; what it means to him to have reached the ten-year operator milestone; lessons learned over the course of more than ten years running bars; what people can expect from the re-release of his book Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan and Friends, now with brand-new content and a new title, Mr Lyan’s Cocktails at Home: Good Things to Drink with Friends; and more!

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Episode 102 with Jordan Bushell

Global Hennessy brand ambassador Jordan Bushell returns to the Bar Hacks podcast. While Jordan may know people with more Cognac knowledge, we don’t know anyone who knows more about this spirit category. More importantly, he’s as generous with his time as he is knowledgeable about Cognac. If you have a question about the spirit of Hennessy you can reach out to him and he’ll answer you.

On this episode of Bar Hacks, Jordan talks about special Hennessy releases, initiatives, collaborations, and what sets the maison apart from others in the Cognac region of France. He also talks about how operators can introduce guests to Cognac and Hennessy, including paying attention how they price their menus. Cheers!

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Episode 101 with Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan

Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr. Lyan, is one of the bar world’s true visionaries. He opened his first bar, White Lyan, in 2013 and the venue immediately achieved its intended purpose. Beyond being an award-winning bar and one of London’s best places to grab a drink, White Lyan started a much-needed conversation about sustainability in the industry.

Dandelyan, Lyaness, Super Lyan, Cub, and Silver Lyan would follow shortly after, making an even bigger splash not only in London but also Amsterdam and Washington, DC. All Mr. Lyan venues, while showcasing incredible innovation, accomplish something just as important: each bar is a place people to want to spend their time and money, and where professionals want to work.

During this fantastic conversation, Ryan shares insights into the menu programming processes at each venue; discusses seasonality; provides a look into hiring and engaging each team; the reissue of his book and his foray into the RTD cocktail space; and much more.

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Episode 99 with Michele Mariotti

Bartender Michele Mariotti leads an illustrious career. He has worked behind the bars at some of the best hotels around the world, including the Savoy in London and Mandarin Oriental in Singapore.

As of 2020, Michele has held the title head of bars at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. In this role, he heads the programs at 11 F&B venues on the property, overseeing dozens of bar professionals.

On this episode, Michele and Bar Hacks podcast host David Klemt talk about mentorship, interviewing potential bartenders, menu development, using a flavor map when assigning new cocktail builds to bar team members, finding inspiration, interesting hotel guests, bespoke glassware, investing in platforms and programs that boost staff retention, and more.

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Episode 96 with Lynnette Marrero

You know about RTDs, but what about RTEs? Lynnette Marrero returns to the Bar Hacks podcast, dialing in from a very cool hybrid restaurant-work concept in Cincinnati to talk about Delola, the recently launched premium ready-to-enjoy cocktail brand.

The House of Delola was founded by Jennifer Lopez with the mission of launching premium, sophisticated RTE cocktails. The core lineup consists of three spritzes crafted in collaboration with bartending, mixology, and hospitality icon Lynnette Marrero. A truly collaborative effort, Lynnette created bold yet refreshing spritzes that resonate with JLo’s party personality, Lola.

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Episode 95 with Bob Peters

Bob Peters has big news to share, and you can hear in his voice how excited he is to share it with everyone. He’s taking on the perfect role. In fact, he calls it his dream job during this episode. Cocktails and cuisine are about to get even better in North Carolina and South Carolina…

But it doesn’t stop there! Bob also shares his approach to bar training to make sure everyone is engaged; his assessment of the Charlotte dining and drinking scene; a simple step all restaurants and bars can take today to improve operations, team engagement, and the guest experience; a very cool project he’s taking on; and more.

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Episode 93 with Adrián Michalčík

Adrián Michalčík is the director of mixology at the award-winning Pier 42 inside the Amerikalinjen hotel in Oslo, Norway. The bar has been recognized by the World’s 50 Best and has won Best Bar of Norway twice. In addition to taking home the title of 2022 Diageo World Class Global Bartender of the Year, Adrián has won several bartending competitions throughout the years.

He popped by the Bar Hacks podcast to chat with host David Klemt about his bartender journey. Adrián has worked in several types of bars and each helped him develop the skills that allowed him to elevate his skills behind the bar. Mentors, his endless quest for knowledge, his passion for hosting others, and his focus on empathy have informed his approach to team building, delivering top-level hospitality, and tapping into his creativity to develop Pier 42’s cocktail menus.

Adrián shares the three pillars he believes great bars are built upon, what he looks for in bar team members, transforming people from guests to friends, the importance of storytelling, and much more.

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Episode 91 with Charles Joly

Industry icon, bar educator, entrepreneur, and bartender Charles Joly drops by the Bar Hacks podcast to chat with host David Klemt. The two discuss Charles’ start and his journey from the trenches to opening Chicago’s Drawing Room, and also his role at the city’s legendary Aviary. Charles also talks about Crafthouse Cocktails, the premium ready-to-serve brand, and his barware label Crafthouse by Fortessa. Interestingly, his love of bar history and vintage barware design not only informs his own designs, it manifests in Telltail Vintage, his Instagram shop. Not one to sit still for long, Charles is also involved in craft ice startup Abstract Ice.

The conversation also touches on spirits categories that appear to be dominating or otherwise seeing a big lift; advice for aspiring career bartenders; and advice for operators who want to succeed in today’s restaurant and bar world.

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Episode 84 with Roberta Mariani

Bar Hacks host David Klemt sits down with Roberta Mariani, Global Brand Ambassador for MARTINI. The two discuss a range of topics, including Roberta’s journey through hospitality, lessons learned working at some of the best hotels in London and opening Bar Tremini in Soho, the guest experience, aperitivo culture, and more. Roberta and David also discuss why now might be the best time to introduce guests to Aperitivo Hour as an alternative to Happy Hour, the Negroni Sbagliato “controversy,” MARTINI’s Non-Alcoholic range, and the cocktails need to put on their menus to bring aperitivo culture into their restaurants, bars, and hotels.

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Episode 81 with Paul Mathew

Paul Mathew, bartender, bar owner, and founder of Everleaf, sits down with Bar Hacks podcast co-host David Klemt. In this fun and informative episode, Paul shares his journey through bartending and bar ownership, and his entry into the drinks business. Non-alcoholic aperitif brand Everleaf is the culmination of Paul’s many years as a conservationist botanist, knowledge of plants, and nearly 30 years in the bar business.

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Episode 59 with Theo Rutherford

Whiskey expert, spirits judge, and sommelier Theo Rutherford stops by the Bar Hacks podcast to talk about Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon, a prominent addition to the Deutsch Family of wine and spirits. Theo shares the Bib & Tucker brand story, what sets the brand apart from other bourbons, and why the 6 Year expression appeals to all categories of whiskey drinkers. He also shares tips for tasting bourbon, including how easily Bib & Tucker wins over non-whiskey drinkers. Listen now to learn why Theo wants you to smell everything and stop swirling your whiskey at tastings.

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Episode 58 with Ivy Mix and Conor McKee

Ivy Mix returns to the Bar Hacks podcast with Conor McKee, a partner in her off-premise endeavor FIASCO Wine and Spirits. Mix, McKee and third partner Piper Kristensen signed FIASCO’s lease a month before the pandemic halted life as we knew it in its tracks. So, they spent the next several months doing demolition and renovation. This conversation highlights the importance of partnering with the right people, even if that means having different partners for different projects; setting aside ego to ask partners who may know more about your new business than you; and leveraging your shared experience to deliver the best service possible to your clientele. If you’ve wondered about taking your on-premise experience to the off-premise space, this is a can’t-miss episode!

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Episode 57 with Collin De Laval

Código 1530 not only has an intriguing story, the brand values authenticity and heritage. Company mixologist Collin De Laval stops by the Bar Hacks podcast to share the Código 1530 story with co-host David Klemt. The two discuss Código’s notable past, handmade approach to their entire production process, innovative products, unique foray into mezcal, shooting high-end spirits, and more.

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Episode 54 with Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero

Speed Rack co-founders Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero come on the podcast to talk about breast cancer awareness and the role the all-female high-speed bartending competition plays in raising money for breast cancer research. Mix and Marrero also share their thoughts on nurturing work cultures that promote women, creating venues that are safe for female guests and staff, how to approach mentorship, their favorite spirits, and more.

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Episode 52 with Lynn House

Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill, drops by Bar Hacks to speak with host David Klemt about the second annual Old Fashioned Week. Elijah Craig is seeking to raise at least $100,000 for the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy and action nonprofit created by and for restaurant workers.

Lynn and David also discuss bourbon, rye, hospitality, building balanced cocktails, and how trust plays a role in educating guests so you and your team can introduce them to new drinks and experiences.

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Episode 50 with Travis Tober

Episode 50! The only way to celebrate such a big milestone is with an incredible guest. We’re excited to bring you Travis Tober of Nickel City and Old Pal. Travis and his partners opened the first Nickel City in Austin in 2017. The Forth Worth location opened its doors during the pandemic in October 2020. Travis then opened Old Pal in Lockhart, TX, just a few months ago.

In our 50th episode, Travis explains the difference between a dive bar and a neighborhood bar, and notes that both Nickel City locations are “anytime bars” that welcome everyone. He also shares his hospitality journey, which saw him go from Buffalo, NY, to Florida, Las Vegas, and ultimately Texas; tips for staying on brand; hiring and retaining team members; how the hospitality industry is the entertainment industry; supporting the community during a crazy winter storm; location scouting; how there’s no better time to open a bar or restaurant than right now; and much more.

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Episode 47 with Tony Abou-Ganim

The legend, the icon, the one and only Tony Abou-Ganim stops by Bar Hacks to chat with co-host David Klemt. The two discuss this year’s Helen David Relief Fund at the USBG Foundation fundraising events, Helen David and the Brass Rail’s legacy, current drink trends, and more.

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Episode 45 with Bob Peters

Revered bar pro Bob Peters swings by the Bar Hacks podcast to chat with co-host David Klemt about a wide array of topics: his love-hate relationship with the words “pivot” and “layered”; lessons learned over more than two decades behind the bar; hiring and training bar staff; how he always seems to have the coolest new bar equipment, including the new Ripples 2.0 and Stündenglass gravity smoker; Bob’s current go-to cocktail, spirit, beer and wine; and so much more. You’ll also learn about Bob’s exciting new endeavor, You don’t want to miss this episode. Strap in—this is a fun one!

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Episode 40 with Trevor Schneider

We’re excited to present episode 40! For the big four-oh we speak with Trevor Schneider, the United States Reyka Vodka brand ambassador. Trevor shares what sets Reyka apart from other vodkas and brands, lessons learned during a career in which he worked at several types of bars throughout New York City, surviving the weeds with the Bartender Ballet, his preferred Espresso Martini recipe, vodka infusions, and more!

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Episode 39 with Anthony “Terry” Bohlinger

Anthony “Terry” Bohlinger, national brand ambassador for new William Grant & Sons whiskey brand Fistful of Bourbon, drops by Bar Hacks. Terry talks with podcast co-host David Klemt about launching a brand during a pandemic, representing an irreverent brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the hilarious videos Fistful of Bourbon created to introduce the brand, lessons learned during his journey in hospitality, and more.

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Episode 36 with Jordan Bushell

Global Ambassador and engaging educator for storied brand Hennessy, Jordan Bushell, swings by Bar Hacks to chat with host David Klemt. When he attended a bartending class with a buddy he had no idea it would lead to celebrating three major Hennessy milestones over the course of a decade. The two talk about Master Blender’s Selection No. 4, how to share Cognac knowledge with bar teams and consumers, menu tricks, and much, much more.

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Episode 32 with Michael Toscano

Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Michael Toscano stops by to talk about the Kentucky Derby, crafting the perfect Mint Julep, maximizing the operator-brand-rep relationship, and more.

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Episode 28 with Tim Rita

Lyre’s Spirits crafts alcohol-free spirits that masterfully mimic their full-proof counterparts. Host David Klemt sits down with Lyre’s brand ambassador, bartender and buddy Tim Rita to chat about the brand. In this episode you’ll learn about one of the fastest-growing brands in one of the fastest-growing beverage categories.

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Episode 27 with Armon Noori

It’s tax season and hospitality industry professionals have unique needs. Luckily, we have unique industry friends! Host David Klemt speaks with Armon Noori, an incredible Las Vegas bartender who also has a finance degree and an entrepreneurial spirit. Armon opened a tax preparation and financial services company called Industry Financial Services this with the mission of helping his fellow industry peers.

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Episode 26 with Katie Stryjewski a.k.a. Garnish Girl

The Garnish Girl herself, Katie Stryjewski, dropped by the Bar Hacks podcast to talk with host David Klemt. Katie talks about her new book Cocktails, Mocktails, and Garnishes from the Garden, available today! This book is loaded with delicious recipes along with helpful information to elevate your drinks and grow your own ingredients and garnishes. Katie shares some of her favorite drinks, photography and social media tips, edible flowers, and more!

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Episode 25 with Megan Breier

Happy International Women’s Day! One of our favorite people in the industry—and in life in general—popped by to speak with Bar Hacks host David Klemt. Megan Breier is one of the most engaging, entertaining and knowledgeable educators in the hospitality and spirits industries. In this episode, Megan explains what sets Maker’s Mark apart from other bourbons, some of the amazing activations she’s executed, Private Selection, Maker’s 101, Margie Samuels’ contributions to the brand and industry, and more.

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Episode 20 with Vance Henderson

Host David Klemt kicks back and talks with Vance Henderson, national brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin. Before joining William Grant & Sons, Vance tended, managed and operated bars for several years. He proved himself at WG&S with Drambuie and then moved to Monkey Shoulder before taking on his role at Hendrick’s. He shares details of the brand-new Hendrick’s Lunar, his thoughts on branding, his best tips for hiring, and much more.

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Episode 17 with 86 Politicians, part 2

Part two of host David Klemt’s talk with bar operator Yan Agaev and bartender Holly Tripp, founders of 86 Politicians.

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Episode 16 with 86 Politicians, part 1

Part one of host David Klemt’s conversation with bar operator Yan Agaev and bartender Holly Tripp. Yan, fed up with how elected officials have continually damaged the hospitality industry throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, posted a video shot and edited by Holly that spread across social media like wildfire. The duo founded 86 Politicians, a peaceful grassroots movement intended to hold politicians accountable for the harm they’ve caused the industry and their inaction on targeted financial relief.

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Episode 14 with Joann Spiegel

In this episode, host David Klemt speaks with Joann Spiegel to dive deep into the global phenomenon that is Miracle, the annual Christmas-themed cocktail pop-up event. Back in 2014, nobody predicted how successful or expansive this event would become. Miracle has transformed into a juggernaut that involves months of careful planning, cocktail creation, logistics, partner liaisons, and much more behind-the-scenes preparation. The end result is a profitable and memorable pop-up that runs for 35 to 40 days.

Spotify link

Apple Podcasts link

Episode 12 with Jared Boller

The new host of the Bar Hacks podcast chats with Jared Boller, Canadian National Whiskey Ambassador at Proximo Spirits. Tending bar gave him the opportunity to live, work and travel around the world. Currently, he represents brands like Bushmills and Proper No. Twelve at Proximo Spirits in Canada. Jared discusses his journey through the world of hospitality and how operators can benefit more from working with brand ambassadors.

Spotify link

Apple Podcasts link

Cheers to the bartenders across the world!

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The Batching Superpower of Sūpāsawā

The Batching Superpower of Sūpāsawā

by David Klemt

A bunch of limes and lemons

One of our favorite products from WSWA’s Access LIVE 2024 event in Las Vegas can save operators and bar teams time and money.

Access LIVE, the annual Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA) event is always chock full of notable items. However, this one in particular stood out to me and my colleagues.

Coming out of Deluxe Distillery in Belgium, Sūpāsawā Seriously Sour Cocktail Mixer is here to make lives easier.

Of course, it’s not surprising that this mixer is so impressive. Sūpāsawā is produced alongside high-quality stablemates, after all: Blind Tiger Handcrafted Gin, Mary White Premium Vodka, and Yusibi Honey Based Aperitif.


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In short, this innovative mixer can replace citrus. Importantly, it’s also widely available around the world. Speaking to the core of our audience and clients, it’s available in Canada and the US. When I asked about availability in the US, I was told it’s in 30 states currently.

Operators in the UK, Europe, Australia, and many more regions should also be able to get their hands on Sūpāsawā.

So, what is this magical mixer, exactly? It’s a simple and clean stand-in for expensive and time-consuming citrus.

Deluxe’s super sour mixer is distilled water, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, phosphoric acid, and succinic acid. The liquid is crystal clear, aroma-free, and an incredibly convenient substitute for lemons and limes.

Real-life Scenario

Consider the following real-life hypothetical that shines a light on Sūpāsawā’s real-life benefits.

Let’s say someone hires an operator for a catered event. Included in this event is bar service, and involves more than pouring wine and beer.

Along with a handful of calls, the client and their guests expect a signature cocktail. Well, batching a cocktail or two ahead of the event would be a smart move.

However, we all know what that means: purchasing and juicing citrus. And we also all know what else that means: labor costs for all that prep.

What if one bartender or bar back could batch a cocktail in less than five minutes? Yes, I’m talking under five minutes for the entire batching process.

That scenario is nearly identical to Deluxe Distillery’s Access LIVE 2024 situation.

Deluxe showed the convenience and superpower of Sūpāsawā at their booth via batching. According to the bartender and ambassador who prepared the standout cocktail, he added all the ingredients—including the super sour mixer—to a jug, shook it, and it was ready to go in less than five minutes.

Real-life Benefits

Does this mean you’ll never have to buy lemons and/or limes again? For the vast majority of bars, no. However, the more drinks you can make with Sūpāsawā, the more you can plan for and control the cost of citrus.

Per Deluxe, operators can expect to save 15 minutes per liter of citrus juiced. The distillery also says each bottle of Sūpāsawā represents 35 pieces of fruit an operator won’t have to purchase. On average, a single cocktail requires just 20 ml of Sūpāsawā, or 2/3 of an ounce. With each bottle coming in at 700 ml, that’s 35 individual cocktails per.

When I asked about unit cost at their Access Live 2024 booth, Deluxe said operators can expect a price of $9 per unit. People who do the math can see the benefit of getting their hands on Sūpāsawā for individual, kegged, and batched cocktails.

In terms of storage, the slim bottle can last for about two years unopened. After it’s opened, Sūpāsawā should last for up to a year. Compare that to the two- to three-day shelf life of lemon or lime juice.

Notably, using Sūpāsawā leads to consistency. Because it always tastes the same, drink consistency is improved. And, of course, using this super sour mixer leads to producing less food waste.

Click here to learn more about Sūpāsawā and what it can do for an operator’s bar program, catering, and bottom line. Oh, and click here for recipes. Cheers!

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor KRG Hospitality received compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Deluxe Distillery, WSWA, or any other entity in exchange for this post.

Image: Irina on Unsplash

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WSWA Access LIVE 2024: Product Roundup

A Few of Our Favorite WSWA Access LIVE Things

by David Klemt

Sepulto Mezcal bottle

We attended WSWA’s Access LIVE 2024 event in Las Vegas, Nevada, and found quite a few products we think will pique the interest of restaurant and bar operators.

Agave spirits, perhaps unsurprisingly, seemed to dominate the floor. In particular, tequila was very well represented.

However, we also found notable vodkas, gins, whiskeys, sake, liqueurs, zero-proof beverages, and more. Below, several portfolios and items that really stood out to us.



Deluxe Distillery

This distillery, operating out of Belgium, has some of the most striking packaging I’ve seen in a while. I’m confident in saying that guests scanning a back bar would find Deluxe Distillery‘s bottles intriguing.

More importantly, of course, the liquid is just as outstanding. Deluxe produces three gins under the Blind Tiger label: Piper Cubeba, Imperial Secrets, and barrel-aged Liquid Gold. Their vodka, Mary White, pays homage to a famous bootlegger. And then there’s Yusibi, a honey-based aperitif in a unique bottle.

However, it’s Deluxe’s Sūpāsawā that really grabbed my attention at Access LIVE. This product, available in 30 states in the US already, makes batching not just a breeze but a more budget-friendly proposition. Cost per bottle should run around $9. The prebatched cocktail Deluxe Distillery was serving at their booth took less than five minutes to make.

As far as entire portfolios, Deluxe stood out the most to me.


Inspiro Tequila

This is clean tequila brand needs to be on your radar. There are currently two Inspiro Tequila expressions, Luna Blanco and Rosa Reposado. Both premium tequilas can be enjoyed neat, and Rosa is rested in rosé wine barrels sourced from France.

Inspiro is woman-owned, confirmed additive-free, certified Kosher, gluten-free, sugar-free, and zero carb. Oh, and the bottles are eye-catching.

Sepulto Mezcal Artesanal

This artisanal mezcal launched at this year’s Access Live event. And yes, this is another case of the bottle catching my eye and drawing me in.

Sepulto is aged for one year in glass, underground. As a result of the distiller’s cooking process, the complex notes of espadín, sahuayo, and papalote agaves come through with each sip. This is definitely a mezcal you’ll want to add to your super-premium agave spirits. In fact, it will be right at home on your back bar and menu next to your Don Julio 1942.


Tenjaku Japanese Vodka

Don’t let the clean label fool you: Tenjaku is as fun a brand as it is a premium vodka. Click here to check out their packaging, which drives home my point.

Speaking of premium quality, Tenjaku Vodka is made from Yamada Nishiki rice, which is also used to make some of the best sake in the world. Further, the liquid is filtered not just through birch charcoal but also bamboo charcoal. The result is a vodka that tastes fresh and is delicate on the palate.

Herbesco Pepper Vodka

Looking for a great vodka that can serve as a spicy base for Bloody Marys and other hot cocktails straight from the bottle?

Herbesco Pepper Vodka is made with jalapeño, japones, chile de árbol, and bell pepper. Along with heat, expect herbal, fruity, and even chocolatey notes.


The Illusionist Dry Gin

Those familiar with Empress are familiar with what gives the gin its hue and color-shifting capability: butterfly pea flower. That botanical is also present in The Illusionist, which comes in a stylish, black Art Nouveau bottle.

Certified organic, The Illusionist delivers more than just visual impact. On the nose, licorice and citrus. Those notes are also present on the palate, along with fruity and floral flavors.


Yame Whisky

This Japanese whisky was introduced to me by Wine of Japan, an incredible portfolio of ultra-premium sake, beer, and spirits. Anyone who wants to add the highest quality sake from Japan need look no further. (In fact, I’ve been looking for a specific sake for over a decade. The VP or Wine of Japan knew exactly what I was talking about and had a sample at the booth. Amazing.)

Two expressions were available to try at Access LIVE, the 10 Year and 15 Year. The 10 Year features a 100-percent barley mashbill and is very easy to drink, delivering notes of vanilla and citrus. Think an easy-sipping bourbon. I found the 15 Year to a bit more complex, delivering dried fruit and grain on the palate. However, I had also sampled quite a few sake before trying this whisky.

In other words, you’re going to have to reach out to Wine of Japan and get tasted on both Yame expressions.

Tenjaku Whisky

There are two Tenjaku Whisky expressions currently: Blended and Pure Malt.

The former is sweet on the nose, with a touch of smoke. On the palate, Tenjaku Blended delivers grain, dried fruit, and a bit of spice.

The latter, Pure Malt, has nutty aroma with herbal notes. Expect wood and vanilla on the palate.


Wheyward Spirit

I could include woman-owned, operated, and distilled Wheyward in the whiskey category, but it’s too unique for that. The two available expressions are produced by upcycling whey.

Wheyward Spirit, the original expression, can stand in for vodka, gin, rum, sake, and even blanco tequila. The brand itself explains this innovative spirit quite succinctly: “Wheyward Spirit is one of a kind and was designed to take the best elements of vodka, sake, gin, and rum to be both a versatile and sippable clear spirit.”

There’s also Wheyward Spirit Wheyskey. Now that you’re familiar with the original, you can probably guess that this is a whey-based alternative to whiskey. This expression is barrel-aged Wheyward Spirit, and, like the original, is additive-, grain-, gluten-, and lactose-free. When I tasted Wheyskey, it most closely resembled a rye whiskey to me.


De Soi

“Savor the flavor, lose the booze, put the ‘fun’ in ‘functionality,’ and embrace the pleasure of restraint,” says non-alcohol brand De Soi.

This range of zero-proof apéritifs is loaded with interesting flavors, such as sparkling Très Rosé, citrusy and herbaceous Golden Hour, and jammy and bitter Champignon Dreams.

Operators looking to add sophisticated and unique non-alcohol beverage options should definitely look into De Soi.

Sparkling Wine

Rozoy Picot

If the production of this French sparkling wine didn’t involve a unique twist, I’m told Rozoy Picot would legally be Champagne.

However, these sparkling wines are blended with terpenes, the aromatic elements of cannabis. (Remember, terpenes don’t contain psychoactive elements, so this product doesn’t get you high.)

There’s a white varietal, Rozoy Picot OG Kush, and a red, Punch Rosé. I can only say that these must be smelled and tasted to be understood fully. Additionally, I can see these performing well at nightclubs as a unique bottle service option.

Image provided by author.

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TOTCF Unveils National Policy Initiative

TOTCF Unveils National Policy Initiative

by David Klemt

Tales of the Cocktail 2023 Singapore x Tales Residency

Yesterday, the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation announced the launch of their Policy Initiative, intended to update outdated labor standards and pay.

Along with advocating for both bartenders and servers, the initiative seeks to raise the subminimum wage to $2.13.

This news comes on the heels of the completion of an in-depth survey. The TOTCF surveyed more than 510 bartenders and other hospitality industry professionals about pay and other compensation.

In particular, more than half of bar workers want employers to provide health insurance. On the restaurant side, servers want to say increases in pay.

There’s much more, of course. Please visit this link to discover the finer details of the TOTCF Policy Initiative. Additionally, you’ll find TOTCF’s press release in its entirety below.


TOTCF introduces a national initiative aimed at policy change in support of the hospitality community with first priority centered on improving labor standards for bar professionals

NEW ORLEANS, LA (February 13, 2024) — Tales of the Cocktail Foundation® (TOTCF) is pleased to announce the launch of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Policy Initiative, a multi-faceted effort designed to amplify and advocate for improved benefits and resources for hospitality professionals in the United States. The TOTCF Policy Initiative – which includes a robust nationwide survey and research project, coupled with support from the initiative’s advocacy committee members and partners – will catalyze an extensive campaign to create policy reform and positive change within the food and beverage community.

“Supporting an industry that has been historically underserved – from lack of industry research, common resources to educate and inform, and funding for coalitions – is crucial in breaking the cycles that have made it difficult to build a lifelong career in hospitality,” said Tales of the Cocktail Foundation CEO Eileen Wayner.

Intended to shift antiquated and subpar labor standards through industry support of positive policy action, the TOTCF Policy Initiative’s objectives include providing resources for employees and employers on labor standards and protections, conducting research and supporting efforts toward effective policy changes, information on healthcare access and benefits, sexual harassment training, and youth worker engagement – all with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The TOTCF Policy Initiative, along with its Bar Professional Policy Network Hub, will assist with the organization of grassroots development and advocacy efforts in industry professionals’ local communities, providing opportunities for advocates to be directly involved in policy and reform in their own communities.

“Given our unique position within the industry, we want to offer platforms and resources for productive conversations between policymakers, industry executives, bar owners and operators, and bar professionals, to ensure existing and future policy changes are reflective and inclusive,” said Tammera Catchings, Government Affairs Manager for Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. “For TOTCF, the process begins with supportive research data and intricate data analysis of bar industry professionals and their work.”

The Policy Initiative is centered around improving labor standards for hospitality professionals around the country and supporting increased protections that will help ensure bartending and serving are viable, long-term careers. One of the first priorities of the TOTCF Policy Initiative is to support efforts to increase the subminimum wage of $2.13 for bartenders and servers. Since 1990, employment in the hospitality industry has grown over 85%, while overall private-sector employment grew by only 24%. With more than one in ten U.S. workers employed in the hospitality industry, increasing the wage floor and improving labor standards would significantly improve the well-being of millions of Americans and their families and help reduce long-standing race and gender-based wage inequities.

Launched in spring 2022, Phase One of the Policy Initiative consisted of a robust research project, which culminated with an industry-specific data collection completed by more than 500 bartenders and servers nationwide, targeting topics such as job quality, compensation, tip culture, health benefits, and more. This research, which was analyzed by Dynata, the nation’s largest first-party data company, resulted in a compilation of data that highlights key trends in the hospitality community. By effectively utilizing the survey data to start a progressive dialog amongst hospitality executives, politicians, and advocates, the TOTCF Policy Initiative will encourage significant changes in the economic and labor standards for all bartenders and servers in the country. Research results will be published as analyzed on the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Policy website in April 2024. In Phase Two of the initiative to support positive policy reform, TOTCF is partnering with Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management to conduct further research and analysis into industry labor standards, culminating in research publication at the end of 2024.

TOTCF Policy Initiative Committee Members

TOTCF is pleased to share the collective of industry professionals who are dedicated to advancing and overseeing the Policy Initiative: 
  • Zen Castro: New Orleans, LA – Espiritu Mezcaleria Restaurant, Bartender; BeachBum Berry’s Latitude 29, Bar Back
  • Jayanthi Daniel: Los Angeles, CA – Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, Executive Director 
  • Lauren Darnell: New Orleans, LA – Made IN New Orleans, Executive Director
  • Amanda Gunderson: Los Angeles, CA – Another Round Another Rally, Co-Founder
  • Kaiden Hope: New York, NY – Beam Suntory, Multicultural Portfolio Associate
  • Alex Jump: Denver, CO – Focus on Health, Co-Founder and Director of Operations
  • Jesse Maguire: New York, NY – Beam Suntory, U.S. Trade Engagement Manager 
  • Lynnette Marrero: New York, NY – American Bartender, Mixologist, and Philanthropist 
  • Robin Nance: Albany, IN – Strategic Branding Expert
  • John Reyna: Dallas, TX – Texas Hospitality and Non-profit Law Center, Managing Attorney

Government Affairs Manager

  • Tammera Catchings, J.D., M.S.: Ridgeland, MS – Tales of the Cocktail Foundation
To learn more about the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Policy Initiative and get involved, join the Bar Professional Policy Network. You can learn more about The Foundation via the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

About Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is a non-profit organization that educates, advances, and supports the global hospitality industry and creates lasting impact in our host communities. Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is the global leader in spirits education and a platform to tackle issues facing the industry. The pillars of the Foundation are to Educate, Advance, and Support the hospitality industry through programs that benefit individuals and organizations in the community and to make a lasting impact in communities that host our events. This year, TOTCF hosts its 22nd Tales of the Cocktail® (TOTC) conference in New Orleans from July 21-26, 2024, and celebrates the theme Inspire.

Image: Cory Fontenot

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Taco Bell Reveals 2024 Marketing Calendar

“Thank You for Coming to My Taco Bell Talk”

by David Klemt

2024 Taco Bell menu item lineup

The showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers isn’t the only big news coming out of Las Vegas from Super Bowl LVIII weekend.

Of course, the game’s result is also big news. Congratulations to the Chiefs on their back-to-back world champion wins!

However, Super Bowl weekend kicked off with a unique event. On Friday, February 9, Taco Bell hosted their first-ever Live Más LIVE event.

As the event’s title suggests, Live Más LIVE was a livestream. And during that livestream, the undisputed Kings of the LTO did something they and their competitors simply don’t do. At Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell revealed their 2024 menu lineup.

Another way of putting this to illustrate the event’s significance is that Taco Bell just gave away their marketing calendar for the year.

Apparently, the inspiration for Live Más LIVE comes from Apple. The tech colossus has been hosting their annual Worldwide Developers Conference in earnest for more than 20 years. For the unfamiliar, Apple uses WDC to announce product news.

“I watch Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and I just had this moment,” said Taylor Montgomery, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer. So, I have to wonder if Live Más LIVE will become an annual or semi-annual event.

I’ll get to the items and opportunities Taco Bell unveiled in a moment. There’s a bigger point I believe operators should take away from Live Más LIVE.

A restaurant or bar’s menu is not just a list of items for sale. A menu is a powerful marketing tool. It’s a billboard. Arguably, the menu is the most powerful tool in an operator’s marketing toolbox.

QSR Innovation


While Taco Bell’s 2024 menu items are huge news, they’re not the only important revelation.

During Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell announced three emerging chefs who will launch the QSR giant’s TBX culinary program. Chefs Reuben Asaram, Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, and Lawrence Smith will first be tasked with reinvigorating the Crunchwrap Supreme.

The announcement that these three chefs will bring their unique styles to Taco Bell speaks to the overall theme of the Super Bowl weekend event: Innovation.

This year, Taco Bell is going hard with new menu items, and they’re entering into compelling new collaborations to do so. These partnerships include:

  • Beekeeper Coffee for Horchata Cold Brew Latte;
  • Cheez-It for the Cheez-It Crunchwrap, which features a Cheez-It cracker that’s 16 times (!) the size of a standard one;
  • Disha Hot for an exclusive sauce packet;
  • Salt & Straw for Ice Cream Chocolate Taco (think upscale Choco Taco), featuring cinnamon ancho ice cream;
  • Secret Aardvark for their Serrabanero sauce, which will accompany Nacho Fries; and
  • Tajín for an exclusive Taco Bell menu that will reportedly consist of a Tajín Crunchy Taco, Tajín Twists, and a Tajín Strawberry Freeze.

Having attended the Salt & Straw opening in Las Vegas (well, Spring Valley, but I won’t get into that further) I can say that I’m eager to sink my teeth into an Ice Cream Chocolate Taco.

On its own, these collaborations and menu testings are big news. However, Taco Bell’s event went bigger.

Menu Expansion

We all remember the Great Chicken Wars of the past several years. Well, Taco Bell has put their competitors on notice: They’re finally leaping into the fray.

According to Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s chief food innovation officer, the company is lacking when it comes to having their “fair share of chicken.” The planned Cantina Chicken menu aims to fix this oversight.

2024 Live Mas Live Taco Bell event

Along with oven-roasted and shredded chicken seasoned with pasilla, other chilies, and spices, come a number of ingredients appearing at Taco Bell restaurants for the first time. Among them are purple cabbage, an Avocado Verde Salsa sauce packet, and white corn taco shells.

Debuting soon (hopefully) are are the Cantina Chicken Burrito, Cantina Chicken Taco (available in soft or crispy varieties), Cantina Chicken Quesadilla, and Cantina Chicken Bowl.

Those aren’t the only new chicken-centric items coming to the Taco Bell menu. There’s also the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada, featuring marinated and slow-cooked chicken.

Oh, and chicken nugget lovers, rejoice! Crispy Chicken Nuggets, made by marinating all-white chicken in spiced jalapeño buttermilk and frying them in a tortilla coating, are on their way.

This year, Taco Bell will also offer the Cheesy Enchilada Dipping Taco (slow-roasted chicken), and Cheesy Street Chalupa, which is available with slow-roasted chicken or grilled steak.

On the sweet side, Taco Bell is launching MTN DEW BAJA BLAST Gelato, and Dulce de Leche Cinnabon Delights.

As one might suspect, some of these items will be permanent, some will come in the form of LTOs. And if my suspicions prove correct, I think we’ll see a secret, unannounced menu item at least once in 2024.

Image: Taco Bell

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Want Cinematic F&B Posts? Get Messy

Want Cinematic F&B Posts? Get Messy by David Klemt

Cocktail splashing out of a cocktail coupe

Note: Photo not taken by Beautiful Booze or Little Lane Media.

Unsurprisingly, many people think that their social media and marketing photos and videos must be perfect. However, that’s not necessarily true.

The pressure to be “perfect” can lead people to stress out over posting F&B content to their social channels. Surely, composition must be flawless. If it’s not, why bother even posting?

After all, the century-plus-old phrase is “picture perfect,” not “picture imperfect.”

Well, you can stop fretting over every detail of your photos and vids. Two experts in social media marketing and content creation encourage you to be less than perfect.

During this year’s WSWA Access Live event in Las Vegas, Nevada, Natalie Migliarini and James Stevenson presented “Cinematic Cocktails: Mastering the Art of Visual Mixology.”

If you’re an avid consumer of social media content, you know Migliarini and Stevenson by the brands they’ve developed over a decade. Beautiful Booze, approaching 200,000 followers on Instagram, is run by Migliarini. Little Lane Media is a media agency operated by Stevenson.

Last week, I shared their tips for working with micro- (and nano-) influencers. Click here to learn why such collaborations can pay dividends for your business.

Today, I’m going to share a few of their tips for creating and posting your own engaging pics and vids.

Perfection is an Illusion

Throughout history, people have explained that perfection is an illusion. Worse, the self-imposed pursuit of perfection when during tasks can discourage a person from even trying.

So, don’t worry about being perfect. Instead, remove the pressure of perfection and just do your best. With that out of the way, Migliarini and Stevenson have a compelling argument against perfection.

In their experiencebear in mind that Beautiful Booze is a pioneer in the cocktail influencer spacethe general consumers of content are put off by content that appears too professional and heavily edited. Rather, people seem drawn to more casual content.

Let’s say you want to promote a new cocktail on your menu. So, you’re going to create a video of yourself or a bartender creating the drink.

If you make a mistake, it can be tempting to scrap the video of edit out the error. Well, you can relax.

According to Migliarini and Stevenson, being messy during some build steps can look better than a “flawless” video. In fact, the duo say a messy video can be “fantastic.” Why? Their reasoning is simple: the mistakes show that you’re not perfect.

You know who else isn’t perfect? The people watching your video. This makes you (or your bartender) more relatable. It also takes the pressure of them if they want to try to make the drink at home.

There’s also the fact that many people are cynical about content. Too professional equals “trying to sell me something.” They know even a casual video is trying to get them to visit your bar or restaurant, but it’s more acceptable.

So, liquid splashing out of the glass? Leave it. Did some booze spill from the jigger and miss the glass? Leave it in.

Tips and Tricks

Of course, you should still create content with some guidelines in place.

  • If you sell alcohol, you should probably keep cocktail, beer, wine, and spirits content to Instagram. TikTok may be a dominant video platform but you can’t be sure what ages are consuming your content. Best to err on the side of caution.
  • Migliarini and Stevenson have learned that people like transparent cocktail shakers when watching cocktail videos.
  • Get a tripod. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, professional one; a decent one from Amazon will do.
  • Any light is better than no light.
  • You can fill “dead space” in your photos with garnishes, coasters, etc.
  • Shoot in slow motion. If you want a truly cinematic post, this works wonders.
  • Aim to create 20-second videos.
  • Finally, and this one is very valuable, edit your video so your “hook” is up first. (Speaking of editing, try Final Cut Pro if editing via laptop or desktop, and InShot to edit on your phone.) You have to grab people’s attention, and Instagram counts the first three seconds as a view. Since it will be a loop, put your hook at the front and the build after that. This may seem odd to you at first but people watching won’t notice the “strange” cut.

Bonus tip: You don’t have to be perfect when performing a task for video. However, make sure your background is cleaned up (and consider blurring it). There are people who’ll pause and try to zoom to pick apart backgrounds; it happens.

With these tips in mind, it’s time to try your hand at some new video content.

Image: Isabella Kara on Unsplash

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Working with Local Influencers

Community Collaboration: Working with Local Influencers

by David Klemt

Photographer's hand holding DSLR camera by neon sign

One of the standout educational sessions from WSWA Access Live 2024 focused on finding and working with local influencers.

Natalie Migliarini, a.k.a. Beautiful Booze, and James Stevenson, a.k.a. Little Lane Media, presented “Successfully Engaging with Influential Content Creators in Your Community” in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week. The duo made the case for seeking to collaborate with influencers in your community.

“Local influencer” may give the impression of less popularity and less reach. After all, another designation for these people is “micro-influencer.”

However, there are several reasons why working with local or micro-influencers is a smart move for your bar, restaurant, nightclub, cafe, or hotel.

It helps to understand that some marketing experts categorize influencers by follower count:

  • Nano: 1,000 to 10,000 followers
  • Micro: 10,000 to 100,000 followers
  • Macro: 100,000 to 1,000,000 followers
  • Mega: 1,000,000-plus followers

I don’t know about you, but I think reaching a potential 10,000 followers local to my area of operation is an excellent value proposition. If you’re curious, Migliarini’s Beautiful Booze Instagram account falls into the macro category.

Of course, there are other appealing benefits as well.

Effective Marketing

What do You Want?

What are your goals when marketing your business? I’m willing to wager there are at least three:

  • To be discovered by new people.
  • Boosting traffic.
  • Increasing revenue.

And what’s one of your greatest concerns when it comes to your marketing efforts? I’ll bet that it’s budget.

Well, Migliarini and Stevenson believe local or micro-influencers (and I’d say nano-influencers, as well) can tick all of those boxes.

What do You Want to Spend?

Local influencers will likely be much more affordable than their macro or mega counterparts. There are celebrities—part of the mega-influencer category—that can make millions of dollars for a single promotional post. Macro-influencers can command five figures for just one post.

Now, think about social media. Depending on the platform (Migliarini and Stevenson favor Instagram), these pricey posts can have a lifespan as short as 15 minutes. That’s a lot of money to spend on marketing for just minutes or hours of relevancy.

Then consider engagement. According to Migliarini and Stevenson, engagement is more important than reach.

Who do You Want to Reach?

I’m sure the thought of people across the globe knowing your restaurant or bar is appealing. But would that really translate to more traffic and greater revenue?

Eventually, sure. But in the here and now, when building your brand and getting discovered, your local community is more important.

If you’re operating in the Chicago suburbs, will your revenue and margins improve because some social media users in Vancouver found your venue online? Or, would your business be better served by locals and people in the surrounding area visiting your spot on a regular basis?

I think you know the answer.

Well, this is where nano- and micro-influencers come into play. You want support from locals. Garnering that support via social media means you want influencers who are engaged with your community.

The partners you’re after are local influencers, not global (or national, until you’ve become a must-visit destination for tourists).

As Migliarini and Stevenson say, an influencer may be “micro” by follower count but “macro” in terms for their effectiveness in a particular market.

Effective Partnerships

How to Find Collaborators

The great news is that it’s not difficult to find local influencers. Let’s use Instagram as an example for finding collaborators.

When you pop open the app, you’ll see the search icon at the bottom of the screen. To make this very simple, it’s the magnifying glass to the right of the house icon.

Once you tap the magnifying glass icon, you’ll be able to search for basically anything in the search field. From this point, you’ll see several tabs to scroll through: For you, Accounts, Audio, Tags, Places, and Reels.

Of those fields, Tags will likely deliver some of the best results. Migliarini and Stevenson suggest following hashtags relevant to you and your business. From there, you’ll come across influencers local to your area of operation.

How to Select Collaborators

All engagement is not the same.

It’s going to be tempting to look for huge follower counts and tons of likes on posts. Well, Migliarini and Stevenson find a different metric far more effective in gauging an account’s engagement.

Instead of likes, look at comments. An influencer may have hundreds or thousands of posts. And those posts may have hundreds or thousands of likes.

Does that really mean much? If you use Instagram, think about your behavior on the app.

It’s likely that you scroll dozens of posts whenever you open Instagram. You probably hit the heart icon, liking a number of posts as you scroll.

Do you remember every post that you like? After liking posts, do you think about the account that posted it? Probably not.

Now, let’s say you liked a post so much that you felt compelled to take the extra steps of commenting on it. If that was a post about a dish or drink from a bar or restaurant, that comment may convert into a visit or delivery order.

When you’re looking for a local influencer and going through posts, look at the number of comments. Hundreds or thousands of likes with just a handful of comments may indicate there’s not much engagement. But dozens or hundreds of comments? That’s a great sign.

Of course, you should also sift through the comments. Doing so can show you if the posts are mostly attracting bots. Further, you want to make sure the comments are positive.

How to Engage Collaborators

It’s important to remember that this is going to be a professional relationship.

Stevenson says there’s nothing wrong with sliding into a potential marketing partner’s DMs. However, it’s wise to share your business email address when reaching out. This way, the conversation moves to a more professional platform, and important messages likely won’t get lost.

Once the conversation has turned to the business at hand, both sides need to be crystal clear regarding expectations. How many posts are expected? When will the influencer post them? What’s the budget? What will working on site look like?

Be as detailed as possible to avoid confusion, frustration, and disappointment; both sides will benefit when every expectation is understood.

There’s another key to these collaborations that Stevenson wants operators to understand. Social media influencers aren’t salespeople, they’re marketers. This is a marketing exercise; you’re paying them to communicate and help people discover your business.

Going deeper, there’s another difference. There are influencers, and there are content creators. An influencer is paid to influence, and a content creator is paid to create content for others.

Another way to look at it: Influencers are in front of the camera, content creators are behind the camera. The distinction is very important.

In their partnership, Migliarini is in front of the camera, operating Beautiful Booze. Stevenson is behind the camera, running Little Lane Media. Both partner with restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, and brands. However, they do so in different ways.

Now that you know what to consider, go forth and find your local influencers.

Image: Max Bender on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality marketing support. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort.