Food & Beverage

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Program for Unique Holidays: June 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: June 2023

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your June holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our May 2023 holidays list, click here.

June 3: National Repeat Day

This holiday is the perfect time to encourage guests to buy the ever-important second drink. Likewise, it’s the right day for encouraging people to order a dish or two to take home.

June 8: World Oceans Day

Leaders around the world are committed to the 30×30 initiative: protecting 30 percent of our oceans, waterways, and land by 2030. World Oceans Day is about focusing on this initiative, which people can do, in part, by filling out this short survey.

You and your guests can also support the oceans and conservation efforts by supporting brands like Gray Whale Gin. This award-winning gin is produced with sustainable, ethically, and locally-procured ingredients. Additionally, Gray Whale supports Oceana and 1% for the Planet by donating a portion of their proceeds.

June 10: National Black Cow Day

For those who may not know, a Black Cow is a float. It’s incredibly simple to make: drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a mug, add root beer.

Of course, you can also get creative with the Black Cow. One way is to make an adult version, perhaps with a vodka like Vodkow, or a cream liqueur like Vodkow Cream. Another option is to feature craft root beer and local vanilla ice cream.

June 13: National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day

Look, some people just aren’t great cooks. Some aren’t good in the kitchen. In fact, some aren’t even mediocre when it comes to cooking—they’re complete disasters.

Luckily, you probably have a kitchen inside your venue. So, give the not-so-great cooks in your area a reprieve from cooking with excellent lunch and dinner LTOs.

June 14: National Bourbon Day

Hey, do you have bourbon? At the risk of being too assumptive, I bet you do. Guess what you should do on this holiday.

June 16: National Take Back the Lunch Break Day

What a perfect day to motivate people to have lunch in your venue. It’s also a great day to motivate people to order delivery, carryout or pickup from you.

June 21: National Daylight Appreciation Day

This holiday does exactly what it says on the tin, as they say: it celebrates daylight. Venues that take advantage of sunlight—great windows, garage-style roll-up doors, amazing patios—should do what they can to entice guests to visit in the morning and afternoon. So, small-bite and lunch LTOs and promotions; sessionable beer, wine, and cocktails; and healthy, refreshing zero-proof beverages are the order of the day.

June 26: National Coconut Day

Summer and coconut go hand in hand. An LTO menu that shines a light on summery drinks and bites is the perfect way to celebrate the coconut.

Feel free to rile up guests by asking them a “simple” question: Is a coconut a fruit, a nut, a seed, or a drupe?

June 27: National Onion Day

Onion rings. Onion dip. Bacon-onion bites. Onion pinwheels… And those are just appetizers. The humble onion is, as we all know, a powerhouse in the kitchen. For some, onions are also cocktail garnishes.

I think you know what to do on National Onion Day.

June 28: Tau Day

For the most part, we’re taught in school that Pi—a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter—is rounded to 3.14. Pi Day is March 14 each year and the holiday (and mathematical constant) tends to get the meme treatment.

Well, some believe Pi is incorrect. Instead, these people use the constant Tau, which is a circle’s circumference divided by its radius. Tau, with a value of 6.28, is celebrated on June 28. One of the simplest ways to celebrate this holiday is to enjoy twice the amount of pie as one would normally. So, a smart promotion that celebrates Tau Day could be one that encourages couples to come in to enjoy two slices of pie for dessert.

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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The New Wave of Plant-based Foods

The New Wave of Plant-based Foods

by David Klemt


Chef Brian Duffy holding a plate with a plant-based shrimp po' boy sandwich on it

A key takeaway from the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show is this: a new wave of plant-based foods has made landfall.

In fact, given how many booths had plant-based items on offer, more waves will be crashing ashore. Plant-based items had a presence inside every building at McCormick Place in Chicago. For those who haven’t attended to show, McCormick Place has well more than two-million square feet in exhibit space.

There were, of course, the plant-based standards to which we’ve all grown accustomed. Burger patties, breakfast sausages, “chicken” nuggets, “pepperoni” pizzas… However, we now know there’s more innovation on the way.

Years ago, F&B experts declared seafood alternatives as the “holy grail” of plant-based foods. The race has been on to “crack the code” and offer seafood alternatives that look, cook, and taste like their animal counterparts.

One brand that appears to have reached their goal? New Wave Foods. And their staunchest culinary supporter? The revered and iconic Chef Brian Duffy.

Seismic but Sensible Shift

Those who are familiar with Chef Duffy know he’s unafraid to share his views on all things culinary, service, operations, and hospitality. The same people also know that he’s demanding when it comes to ingredients, distributors, and partners.

I say that to say this: Some people are shocked Chef Duffy is championing a plant-based food. However, I don’t share that reaction. Chef Duffy has never been anti-plant-based—he has been waiting for plant-based items to rise to his high standards.

During his 2023 NRA Show demo, the acclaimed and in-demand chef made shrimp-fried rice. Of course, he replaced shrimp with a plant-based alternative produced using mung bean and seaweed. That product is New Wave Foods Shrimp.

The demo proved so engaging that Chef Duffy was asked to repeat it on the final day of the show. I, for one, am not surprised—Chef Duffy is an incredible speaker and chef.

This seismic shift—not just in Chef Duffy’s embrace of plant-based foods but also throughout the industry—is sensible when you consider something said during the demo.

Boiling it down to the basics, Chef Duffy asked why operators wouldn’t want to offer high-quality plant-based items to their guests. It’s simple: Increasingly, this is what guests want. So…give it to them.

Succeeding with Plant-based

According to a 202o Datassential report, nearly two-thirds of operators have shrimp on their menus. Further, two-thirds of operators have at least expressed an interest in offering more plant-based alternatives.

And why wouldn’t they want to do so? It’s simple business: fulfill consumer demands and desires. If people want something and it’s feasible for a business owner to offer it, that’s good business.

However, it goes beyond just business for Chef Duffy. Taking things further, he believes that culinary professionals and operators have a responsibility to their guests.

There’s a responsibility to learn about what’s new and educate kitchen staff. A responsibility to help guests eat healthier. And absolutely a responsibility to innovate. As Chef Duffy said during his 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo live menu read, operators can only justify charging premium prices if they’re truly innovating in the kitchen.

Diving deeper, meeting guest demands for plant-based foods fulfills a financial responsibility. If an operator has partners or investors, they need to meet their expectations. Equally as important, failing to innovate or keep up with guest demands puts the business at risk, therefore risking the livelihoods and career progression of staff.

Brands like New Wave Foods are sourcing their ingredients ethically and sustainably. Another brand, Meati, is using mushroom root sustainably. Additionally, New Wave Foods Shrimp is cholesterol-free, is free from shellfish allergens, and is kosher. Meati, a complete protein, is also cholesterol-free and is also free from nine major allergens

I also came across a whole-cut steak alternative called Chunk that tasted like beef. Interestingly, there was also a plant-based egg alternative that allows for the social-media-famous yolk poke, YoEgg.

Own the Operator Responsibility

An operator doesn’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to appreciate the plant-based movement. They don’t even have to be interested in a plant-based diet.

All an operator needs to understand this shift in consumer behavior—between 60 and 70 percent of US households are having at least one plant-based meal per week—is their responsibility to their guests and teams.

If offering plant-based options is viable for an operator (in most cases, it is), it’s good business to do so. Stubbornly refusing to offer guests what they want flies in the face of hospitality and service.

Offering plant-based options doesn’t suddenly make a concept a vegetarian or vegan brand. Chef Duffy puts one or two of his famous “dippy” eggs on his plant-based shrimp fried rice. He also cooks the dish with butter. It’s decidedly not a vegan dish.

To that point, Chef Duffy doesn’t dedicate menu sections to vegetarian or vegan diets. As he explains, doing so is a self-imposed limitation, and likely a mistake.

Targeting vegans means attempting to succeed with a very small (for now) pool of consumers. Attempting to appeal to vegetarians means targeting a larger base but still, it’s limiting.

Instead, operators can simply make it known a plant-based alternative is available for a given dish. Simple, to the point, and appeals to the greatest number of guests.

Succeeding with plant-based foods has never been easier. By the time the next plant-based wave surges, it will be even easier. Operators have very few excuses remaining for refusing to participate in the movement.

Image: New Wave Foods

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The Art of the Preparation

The Art of the Preparation

by David Klemt

Overhead view of chef slicing and chopping ingredients

Chef Brian Duffy‘s take on preparation and its overall impact on the guest experience extends to every aspect of operations.

In one sentence during his 2023 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago cooking demo, Chef Duffy sums up the power of the proper mindset.

“The art of the preparation creates the experience,” says Chef Duffy.

Now, he was preparing plant-based shrimp from New Wave Foods at the time. After preparing a pan, the revered chef was readying a pound of FABI Award-winning New Wave Shrimp for Duffified Shrimp Fried Rice.


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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)

When making this dish, Chef Duffy chops roughly half the New Wave Shrimp in half. He does so to enhance the dish’s texture, and therefore the guest experience. Additionally, Chef Duffy likes to toast basmati rice before adding it to the pan with the shrimp and vegetables.

Again, Chef Duffy shared his view on the guest experience when cutting animal-alternative shrimp (the product is made with sustainable seaweed and mung bean).


Okay, so what does slicing or chopping shrimp have to do with the guest experience? It’s the attention to what others may consider a tiny detail. In fact, some may deem important details “optional.”

Whether front-of-house, back-of-house, or back office, everyone’s mindset matters. How one views their role and how they approach their responsibilities impacts every element of a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or hotel’s success.

Choosing to halve half the shrimp because it will deliver a better experience speaks volumes. It’s a commitment to perfect the “small” details so every guest walks away wanting to return.

If an operator wants to know if they have a chef or an executive chef, this is one way to tell. Is the chef teaching their brigade? Guiding them? Implementing policies around preparation? Or are they just punching the clock, making sure the rest of the team shows up, and sending out food that’s “good enough”?

Operators can apply versions of those questions to every role in the house, including their own. Is their pride in preparing every element of service and operation? Or is the team just muddling through each shift?

There are no Small Details

Interestingly, most guests likely won’t ever be aware of every detail operators and their teams get right. However, they will feel every choice each team member makes. They may not know precisely what goes right, but they take home with them that their visit was exceptional.

Pulling the threads tighter separates operators and their brands from one another. Guests can get a bite and a drink anywhere. They reward outstanding service and experiences with their time and money.

It’s a simple equation to understand: Operators want to create an army of loyal guests, guests expect exceptional experiences. The operators who deliver on guest expectations are rewarded with loyalty.

Chef Duffy isn’t “just” slicing shrimp. He’s not “just” toasting rice. Chef’s not “just” making “the world’s most perfect dippy egg.” In reality, he’s ensuring every decision he, his teams, and his clients make enhance the guest experience exponentially.

There are no small details. There are no small decisions. The art of the preparation, as Chef Duffy says, creates the experience. Indeed, preparation also separates the mediocre from the exceptional.

Image: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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Raise the Bar: The 3 Ps of Hospitality

Raise the Bar: The 3 Ps of Hospitality

by David Klemt

Three hands holding up three pineapples

No, one isn’t “pineapples.”

Nightlife, bar, and cocktail experts Mia Mastroianni, Phil Wills, and Art Sutley want operators to focus on what they call “the Three Ps.”

The engaging trio shared their trio of Ps recently in Las Vegas at the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo.

So, what are the Three Ps of hospitality? People, Place, and Product. Operators who pull the threads tighter on each of these crucial elements will be well on their way to improving operations and the guest experience.


Remember all the way back to a week ago when I shared Mastroianni, Wills, and Sutley’s thoughts on service versus hospitality? Consider the first P a deeper dive into that topic.

Operators need to focus on two categories of people who help their businesses succeed: their teams and their guests.

Addressing the former, the trio feels that operators are centering a disproportionate amount of their attention on guests in comparison to staff.

“We’re not lacking for people who want to work in the business and are outperforming other industries, but we’re not focusing on staff like we focus on guests,” says Wills. “Treat everyone with respect, including through the hiring process. If you don’t engage your staff, you won’t retain them. You need to show them they can grow in your business.”

According to Sutley, 89 percent of operators say that labor costs present a “significant challenge.” It follows, then, that committing to treating staff with respect and nurturing their careers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart business.

Look for people with passion, those you can motivate to go above and beyond so you’re not stuck with a team full of space-fillers who are just after a paycheck, suggests Mastroianni.

Of course, operators and their teams must also focus on providing exceptional service and experiences to guests.

“Treat ever guest like a pearl in an oyster,” advises Wills. “They’re the pearl, we’re the oyster. We need to ‘protect’ them.” Anything less, cautions Sutley, and guests won’t return.


Interestingly, the trio touched on design, aesthetic, and vibe. However, that isn’t the crux of the second P.

Rather, Place is really goes back to the guest experience. The design, aesthetic, and vibe need to meet guest expectations.

“Make sure your space is what it’s supposed to be,” says Wills.

For example, if a concept presents itself as a high-end cocktail bar, the four walls need to deliver on that expectation. With the exception of a handful of high-level examples, an upscale bar won’t survive if they deliver a dive bar—not neighborhood bar, dive bar—vibe and service. (For the record, I love a dive bar. But I don’t expect to encounter TV trope-style dive bar service if I walk through the doors of a high-end cocktail bar.)

One way operators can ensure their space is what it should be is standardization. Once a concept goes from idea to brick and mortar, when the owner’s vision is realized, the team needs to deliver a matching experience. Steps of service, systems, procedures…standardization is the name of the service game.

“Standardize your opening, shift, and closing procedures and systems to maintain your place,” says Mastroianni.

Every team member—front of house, back of house, leadership—needs to know and buy into an operator’s standards.


Standardization breeds consistency. And consistency is a key element of the third P, Product.

Per Sutley, 76 percent of operators have noticed that guests are opting for more premium drinks. That’s great news, but it’s not the whole story.

It’s great that guests are opting for more expensive drink options. After all, that can certainly help the bottom line.

“However,” cautions Mastroianni, “they won’t come back without consistency in production.”

To drive this point home, consider this story from Mastroianni. A bartender made her a drink, and it was pretty good. She ordered another one from the same bartender and watched him make it differently the second time around. Not only was this second version different, it was better. While one could view this story through a positive lens—the drink was even better the next time!—that’s not the correct takeaway.

If the bartender was committed to building cocktails consistently, the second version of that cocktail would’ve been the first one served to Mastroianni. It would be the best version, and it would always be that impressive version.

When we’re fighting the possibility that up to 70 percent of first-time guests never return, the importance of product consistency can’t be overstated.

“Really focus on the small details to affect big change and get guests through the doors and keep coming back,” says Wills.

Image: Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

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Sugar. Water. Whiskey. Mint.

Sugar. Water. Whiskey. Mint.

by David Klemt

Mint Julep in copper Woodford Reserve cup

…and sometimes Angostura bitters.

Get ready to break out the stainless steel and copper cups, whiskey, and crushed ice: National Mint Julep Day is right around the corner.

This classic cocktail’s traditional time to shine—Derby Day—has come and gone. However, we celebrate this ice-cold drink on May 30. This year, FYI, this bar and restaurant holiday falls on a Tuesday.

While many people associate the Mint Julep with the Kentucky Derby and the South, the drink traces its origin to Persia. According to some historians—the fun experts who love researching culinary and drinking history—”julep” is a derivation of “julepe,” which derives from “golâb.” “Julepe” is a Spanish Arabic word that comes from “golâb,” a Persian word that translates to “rosewater.” As one might expect from the translation, golâb was a drink made by combining water with rose petals.

Over time, it’s believed, the rose petals were replaced by people making Juleps in the Mediterranean. The replacement? Mint leaves native to the area.

Eventually, like so many centuries-old drinks, medicinal elements were introduced. The English Julep, for example, added alcohol and camphor. To think, there are decades of human history where doctors prescribed cocktails to patients.

The Kentucky Connection

Of course, like so many centuries-old drinks, it’s difficult to separate the fictitious from the factual. Some say mentions of the Mint Julep can be traced to 1770s, others say the early 1800s.

As far as the Kentucky connection, there are historians that say Henry Clay, who served as a Kentucky senator and congressman, brought the Mint Julep to Washington, DC in 1850. Clay is said to have shared the recipe with the Round Robin Bar at the Willard’s Hotel (now the Willard InterContinental). The hotel’s website makes reference to this part of the Mint Julep’s history (or legend, as it were).

Chris Morris, Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve for 20 years and now the distillery’s Master Distillery Emeritus, supports the idea, historically, that the Mint Julep was a medicinal cocktail.

“The Mint Julep has a long history, and in the 1800s it was considered a morning drink,” Morris has said. “People working on horse farms or in the horse-racing industry during this time period may wake up with aches and pains.”

It’s safe to say Morris and Woodford know their way around a Mint Julep.

Further, if you dig deep enough, you’ll come across mentions of horse jockeys taking home Julep cups as trophies. Literal trophy cups, if you will.

Consequently, given its ties to horse racing, it makes sense that the Mint Julep would one day become the Kentucky Derby‘s official drink. Of course, as this brief and (hopefully mostly) factual history shows, the Mint Julep undoubtedly had a presence at the famous race long before 1939.

Craft Your Own

Below you’ll find two recipes for your National Mint Julep Day LTO menu. However, this is one classic that people don’t seem to gatekeep much.

In fact, industry experts like Chris Morris encourage experimentation and creation of signature Mint Juleps. So, engage your bar and culinary teams, highlight flavors authentic to your menu and brand, and come up with your own variation.

To help you get started, bear in mind that while spearmint is a common ingredient, there are other species of mint available. The base spirit can also be substituted. Per some cocktail historians, genever-powered Mint Juleps were a common variation in the 1800s.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to tradition. However, the Mint Julep practically begs for experimentation. Flavored syrups, all manner of spirits and liqueurs, garnishes… National Mint Julep Day is perfect for the LTO treatment.


Mint Julep

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 0.25 oz. Simple syrup
  • 6 to 8 Mint leaves
  • Mint sprig to garnish
  • Angostura bitters to garnish (optional)
  • Crushed or shaved ice

Add simple syrup and mint leaves to Julep cup, and muddle. Next, add bourbon and crushed or shaved ice. Tightly pack ice in cup, then stir until frost builds on exterior of Julep cup. Top with more crushed or shaved ice, and form a dome on top of cup. Add mint sprig to garnish. If desired, also garnish with two or three drops of Angostura bitters.

Woodford Reserve Secretariat’s Mint Julep

This recipe is for the special Mint Julep served at this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Pack a Julep cup with crushed ice, making sure to make a dome over the lip of the cup. Add the whiskey and liqueur to a mixing glass and stir. Pour over the prepared cup. Garnish with one sprig of mint and one stalk of Virginia bluebells.

Should you prefer a more traditional build, express the oils of a mint leaf inside the cup. Add the bourbon, chestnut liqueur, and crushed ice. Garnish with more crushed ice, mint, and Virginia bluebells, then serve.

Image: Adam Jaime on Unsplash

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Ocean’s Summertime Celebrations

Ocean Casino Resort Summertime Celebrations

by David Klemt

Exterior of Ocean Casino Resort at sunset

Ocean Casino Resort is celebrating an impressive milestone all summer long through creative local business partnerships.

This summer, the resort will reach its fifth anniversary. The festivities will begin May 26, a month before Ocean’s “birthday.”

However, rather than focus solely on the resort and casino, Ocean is choosing to celebrate the community it serves as well. These fifth birthday activations and initiatives are an excellent lesson for operators across all hospitality business categories.

I’m sure operators—all hospitality professionals, really—will agree that restaurants and bars are integral elements of any community’s bedrock. Increasingly, the same can be said of hotels. In fact, large hotel groups are investing in the development of smaller imprints that are tasked with the mission of serving locals and local businesses.

When a restaurant, bar, hotel, or nightclub reaches annual milestones, it’s largely due to community support. Sure, businesses in destination cities benefit greatly from tourist visits. However, for most markets, longevity is anything but assured without local backing and buy-in.

It’s clear that the importance of local support isn’t lost on Ocean. This summer’s celebrations include several local partnerships and community initiatives to pay that support back.

Local Partnerships

Last year, the Ocean leveraged the demise of the Choco Taco. So far in 2023, Ocean has supported Philly and KC during the Big Game, and gotten creative with cocktails that raised funds for the Girl Scout Troops of Southern and Central New Jersey.

Local partnerships are key to Ocean’s five-year celebration:

  • The Seed: Created Seeds of the Ocean for Ocean’s five-year anniversary.
  • Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall: Seeds of the Ocean lager will also be available at this local beer hall.
  • Rhythm & Spirits: Joining forces with Little Water Distillery to feature their gin in the Oceans 5 cocktail.
  • Little Water Distillery: Their Rusted Revolver Indigenous Gin is the star of the Oceans 5 cocktail, mentioned above. The distillery has also created the Chocolate Cake Martini, featuring Bar 32 chocolate shavings.
  • Hank Sauce: For those who prefer their celebrations spicy, Ocean and Hank Sauce have collaborated on Across the Boards. This hot sauce will accompany food items at restaurants inside Ocean.
  • Tony Boloney’s: They’ve created the High 5 pizza to celebrate Ocean’s birthday. This is another collaboration within a collaboration, as it features Seed of the Ocean lager and Across the Boards hot sauce.
  • Bar 32: What celebration is complete without something sweet? Bar 32 (a bean-to-bar chocolatier) and Ocean will be offering three commemorative chocolate bars: the Berry Pretzel Bar, Party Pretzel Bar, and Salty Peanut Butter Bar.
  • Mudgirl Studios: Ocean has commissioned several handmade, one-of-one pieces from this non-profit that will be featured not just in common areas on the property but also in some of the guest rooms.
  • Atlantic City Arts Foundation: To help celebrate its fifth birthday, Ocean has collaborated with the ACAF for a three-panel mural that will have a home at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall.

Creative & Compelling

What I find most notable about these local partnerships is how several of them intertwine.

Not only did Ocean commission an exclusive beer, a local restaurant chain is using it for a pizza. That same restaurant chain is also using a hot sauce Ocean had created to celebrate their milestone. There are other collaborations that bring Rhythm & Spirits, Little Water Distillery, and Bar 32 together.

However, Ocean is doing more than just supporting a select group of local businesses. Mudgirl Studios employs and empowers at-risk, homeless and formerly incarcerated women. The ACAF, as one would imagine, inspires and empowers people to pursue the arts. Both support and strengthen communities throughout Atlantic City, and Ocean is giving back by supporting them.

In addition to all of that, the celebrations kick off on Memorial Day Weekend with a $300,000 sweepstakes. All in, there will be more than $5 million in promotions and giveaways in play over the course of this summer. From June 24 to July 4, Ocean is putting up one million dollars for a second sweepstakes.

Then there are Tesla giveaways, birthday fireworks, the Birthday Bar Pop-up Experience at 1927 Lounge inside Ocean Resort Casino, and Ocean’s sponsorship of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival.

Nola's Bar & Lounge inside Ocean Casino Resort

Look for Ocean’s birthday drinks at property bars like Nola’s Bar & Lounge

Again, it would be easy for Ocean to have simply planned a celebratory weekend, week, or month, focusing solely on themselves. Instead, they’re involving several small businesses and community organizations.


Do I expect restaurant and bar operators to somehow offer $5 million in giveaways to celebrate a milestone? Or even $300,000? Perhaps a Tesla?

No, of course not.

However, I do think operators should really put thought into celebrating their annual milestones. Surviving the first 12 months is a huge achievement. Making it through the first 18 months and hitting the two-year anniversary is just as challenging.

So, operators should take four to six months to plan their celebrations. Additionally, they should view these events as a way to thank the community for supporting them. And, of course, that includes being grateful for beneficial business relationships.

When considering marking these achievements, it’s wise to include local businesses. Craft brewers and distillers, local farmers and vintners, non-profit organizations… All the better if the selected partners can collaborate with one another to make the celebration and partnerships that much more impactful.

Operators should take a page out of Ocean’s celebration handbook and look for creative, thoughtful collaborations. Doing so lifts up others and pays local support forward, in turn making the entire community stronger.

It’s perfectly acceptable for an operator to be proud and celebrate milestones. But it’s even better for operators to celebrate those who help them thrive.

Images courtesy of Ocean Casino Resort

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5 Books to Read this Month: May 2023

5 Books to Read this Month: May 2023

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our engaging and informative May book selections will take your front and back of house to the next level, and help develop your leadership skills.

To review the book recommendations from April 2023, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Contagious You: Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want

This is one of three books KRG Hospitality’s Jennifer Radkey read in February. It’s the sequel to a book titled Contagious Culture, which we featured last month.

From Amazon: “For anyone who’s sought to create change, or felt sucked into the drama and chaos of a toxic work environment, this book will advance the notion that everyone at an organization is a leader—for good or for bad—and that leaders have tremendous power to influence those who follow their example. The quality of our leadership is based upon our intentions, energy, and presence. By emphasizing authorship, self-care, and response-ability (not responsibility) as leadership skills and therefore cultural amplifiers, Contagious You shows you how to walk the path of more effective leadership while navigating the road blocks in your way. Whether these road blocks are working with negative co-workers with secret agendas and unrealistic expectations, or just the general ‘busyness’ of life and its excessive demands, this book will take you on a journey to create more space, more courageous leadership, and stronger collaboration to influence others and create the impact you desire.”

Grab this book today: click here.

Chef’s PSA: Culinary Leadership Fundamentals

If Chef’s PSA sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s a series of four books. We included another book in the series, How Not to be the Biggest Idiot in the Kitchen, last December in our last book roundup of 2022.

Culinary Leadership Fundamentals is intended to prepare chefs to lead a brigade. It’s one thing to know how to prepare food; it’s another to know how to be the leader in the kitchen. Of course, this book is also full of valuable information for owners and operators. After all, they should know how their chef is approaching their role.

From Amazon: “When you become a Chef for the first time you may be put in a position where you know how to cook but not how to lead and manage. This book will teach you everything you need to know to become a Chef Leader in the kitchen. From how to manage costs, build a team, market yourself and overcome adversity. This is the book every Chef needs if they want a competitive edge in running a successful kitchen.”

Pick it up today!

Southern Cooking, Global Flavors

Chef Kenny Gilbert’s journey through the culinary world is epic. By the age of seven he had shown such an interest in the art of BBQ that his father bought him his first grill, a small Weber. After high school he moved from his hometown to Cleveland to attend the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. After graduation, Chef Gilbert entered into an apprenticeship at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, in Florida. By age 23, Chef Gilbert earned the role of Chef de Cuisine. He has also opened restaurants and led the culinary programs at restaurants and hotel properties not only throughout Florida but also Colorado, Georgia, throughout the Caribbean, France, Japan, and Spain. Oh, and there was Chef Gilbert’s Top Chef season seven appearance, plus the development of his own line of spices and rubs.

His newly released book features 100 recipes that put international spins on southern classics. Pick up Southern Cooking, Global Flavors today!

The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts

We’ve addressed the need to compliment your cocktail menu with a dedicated ice program. This book, available now for pre-order, is from world-renowned cocktail and spirits writer Camper English. Not only does it include easy-to-follow instructions for you and your bar team to elevate your cocktail program, from full-proof to zero-ABV drinks. The Ice Book, then, is aptly titled—it’s everything you need to introduce a memorable drinking experience.

From Amazon: “In The Ice Book, internationally renowned cocktail icepert Camper English details how to use directional freezing to make perfectly pure ice in a home freezer, carve it up into giant diamonds and other shapes, and embed it with garnishes, including edible orchids and olives. You’ll learn how to create a frozen bowl for Negroni punch, serve a Manhattan inside an ice sphere, and infuse cubes with colors and flavors to create cranberry cobblers, a color-changing Gin and Tonic, and other awesome drinks.”

The Book of Cocktail Ratios: The Surprising Simplicity of Classic Cocktails

Long-time subscribers to KRG Hospitality’s newsletters and readers of our articles know that I love a controversial take on cocktails. Take, for instance, the origin of the Margarita. Well, the opening sentence from the description for The Book of Cocktail Ratios certainly got my attention.

From Amazon: “Did you know that a Gimlet, a Daiquiri, and a Bee’s Knees are the same cocktail? As are a Cosmopolitan, a Margarita, and a Sidecar. When hosting a party wouldn’t you enjoy saying to your guests, ‘Would you care for a Boulevardier, perhaps, or a Negroni?’ These, too, are the same cocktail, substituting one ingredient for another. Or if you’d like to be able to shake up a batch of whiskey sours for a party of eight in fewer than two minutes, then read on.

As Michael Ruhlman explains, our most popular cocktails are really ratios—proportions of one ingredient relative to the others. Organized around five of our best-known, beloved, classic families of cocktails, each category follows a simple ratio from which myriad variations can be built: The Manhattan, The Gimlet, The Margarita, The Negroni, and the most debated cocktail ever, The Martini.”

This book should provide you and your bar team with a totally different perspective when it comes to drink ratios. Pre-order your copy today!

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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Program for Unique Holidays: May 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: May 2023

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your May holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and May is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our April 2023 holidays list, click here.

May 5: National Silence The Shame Day

Much progress has been made when it comes to reducing the stigma around mental health issues. However, there’s still much more work to do.

The focus of this holiday is just that: removing that stigma. You can use this holiday to encourage the conversation, raise awareness for issues close to you and your team, or to raise funds for a charitable mental health organization.

May 6: World Naked Gardening Day

Okay, so, unless you own a very niche restaurant, bar, or resort, please don’t celebrate this holiday naked while at work. Instead, celebrate the spirit of this holiday: reconnecting with and honoring nature.

One easy way to do this is to feature cocktails made and garnished with fresh ingredients: rosemary, citrus, juices, etc. And again, you can raise money for any number of conservation organizations dedicated to safeguarding natural resources.

May 8: National Have a Coke Day

Rum and Coke. Bourbon and Coke. Jack and Coke. Whiskey and Coke. If you’re a Coke restaurant or bar, you know what to do on this holiday. If you’re not, well… I guess you can program against it and launch National Don’t Have a Coke Day.

May 10: National Third Shift Workers Day

Depending on your hours of operation, this is an easy holiday to program around. To offer up just a few ideas: healthy meal options; restorative beverages; third-shift-specific LTOs.

May 16: National Do Something Good For Your Neighbor Day

Restaurants, bars, and hotels are the heart and soul of communities around the world. Use this day to give back to those who support you.

May 17: National Pack Rat Day

I’m sure if we all look around our homes we’ll see that maybe we have too much stuff. This is another excellent holiday to give back to our communities.

One way to do this is to host a clothing, canned food, or other resource drive. Donations can be rewarded with LTO items to encourage participation.

May 20: National be a Millionaire Day

Well, you probably can’t turn your guests into millionaires. However, you can certainly help your guests drink like one. While you can shine a spotlight on your super- and ultra-premium spirits, there’s another way: the Millionaire cocktail.

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe or pastis
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Egg white
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to garnish

Prepare a coupe by adding ice to chill it. Dry shake all the ingredients, minus the nutmeg. Add ice and shake again until well chilled, then double-strain the prepared coupe. Garnish by grating nutmeg over the top of the glass.

Want to kick things up a notch? Offer the Billionaire cocktail:

  • 2 oz. Baker’s 107-proof bourbon
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Simple syrup
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe bitters
  • Lemon wheel to garnish

Prepare a cocktail glass by adding ice to chill it. Add all ingredients except lemon wheel to a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

May 25: Sing Out Day

I mean, if there was ever a day to promote karaoke, this is the one. Even better if you can design a competition around it to maximize engagement.

May 26: World Lindy Hop Day

Alright, I’m going to do it—I’m going to suggest you leverage TikTok and Instagram. The Lindy Hop is a dance, I can tell you right now that there’s at least a fair chance that people will be featuring this dance (or variations of it) on social media. So, time for you, your team, and guests who want to participate to learn the Lindy Hop.

May 30: National Mint Julep Day

There are a few easy ways to celebrate National Mint Julep Day. The first, of course, is to perfect your venue’s Mint Julep. The second? Offer a variety of Mint Julep riffs: chocolate, peach, tequila, mezcal, sage, basil… Come up with three or four and your LTO is all set.

A third way is to feature this year’s Kentucky Derby $1,000 Mint Julep Experience recipe, Secretariat’s Mint Julep:

Pack a Julep cup with crushed ice, making sure to make a dome over the lip of the cup. Add the whiskey and liqueur to a mixing glass and stir. Pour over the prepared cup. Garnish with one sprig of mint and one stalk of Virginia bluebells. ($1,000 price tag optional.)

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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Cinco de Mayo Isn’t Independence Day

Cinco de Mayo Isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day

by David Klemt

Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza Puebla, Puebla, Mexico

When planning and executing Cinco de Mayo promotions and menus it’s important to be respectful and understand what this day commemorates.

One step toward honoring this holiday rather than making a mockery of it? Knowing that Cinco de Mayo honors the Battle of Puebla, which took place in 1862.

This day isn’t—and I can’t stress this enough—Mexican Independence Day.

Fight for Independence

Mexican Independence Day is September 16, not May 5. Mexico was also called “New Spain” when the land was a colony under Spanish rule. And by most historical accounts, this 300-year rule wasn’t benevolent.

A Catholic priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, colloquially known as Father Hidalgo, dared to call for independence on September 16, 1810. Father Hidalgo rang the bell of his church in Dolores and delivered the famous “Grito de Dolores” speech (“Shout (or Cry) of Dolores).

It took over a decade of ferocious, brutal fighting for Mexico to earn its independence. Spain withdrew from the Mexican War of Independence on August 24, 1821. On that same date, Spain recognized Mexico as independent country. Mexico honors their independence by celebrating the day that Father Hidalgo, the Father of Mexican Independence, delivered his rousing speech.

Battle of Puebla

Just over four decades after defeating Spain, Mexico would be forced into another pivotal fight. I won’t get into the entire history here but France invaded Mexico.

Initially, Spain and the United Kingdom supported the invasion. Further, much of the world believed France would easily and quickly emerge victorious. After all, France sent a military force with superior equipment.

This wasn’t the first time France invaded Mexico, and it wouldn’t be the last. That’s another important detail to keep in mind: Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexican Independence Day, and it doesn’t the mark the end of the Franco-Mexican War.

Cinco de Mayo, mainly celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla, is about national pride. Outnumbered two to one and outgunned, Mexico forced the retreat of a military force that hadn’t experienced defeat for several decades on May 5, 1862.

The war didn’t end until the French withdrew from Mexico in 1867. During this time, the American Civil War was raging. Additionally, United States policy at the time was to remain neutral regarding wars in other countries. That said, historians point to Secretary of State William H. Seward as helping encourage France’s withdrawal.

However, I’d posit that it’s likely fierce resistance and failure to achieve victory easily over Mexican military forces that inspired France to abandon their campaign in Mexico.

Celebrate with Respect

It’s generally accepted that the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the US took place in California. Well over a century after Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla, restaurants and bars across America were leveraging the holiday.

Again, it’s important to remember that Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated the same way in Mexico as it is the US. There are celebrations in Puebla but overall, it’s seen as a minor holiday.

When planning Cinco de Mayo promotions, it’s important that operators and their teams be respectful. May 5, 1862 wasn’t a party—hundreds of people died during the Battle of Puebla. Perhaps this comparison will help: Americans should know better than to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” on Memorial Day. It’s a day of mourning and remembering those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the country.

So, please celebrate with respect. Respect for Mexico and respect for Mexican culture and heritage. Don’t have your team put on sombreros, don fake mustaches, shake maracas, or engage in any other ridiculously racist stereotyping. I shouldn’t have to say this but don’t engage with racial or cultural stereotypes any day, ever, for your marketing and promotions.

Along those lines, don’t speak Spanish disrespectfully. That includes rejecting “Cinco de Drinko” or “Gringo de Mayo” in your marketing.

That said, if Mexican food and beverage staples make sense for your concept, feature them. Does your kitchen team make amazing, authentic tamales, tacos, and other items? Awesome. Showcase your tequilas, mezcals, and Margaritas. Offer the Batanga (but probably don’t give guests the knife).

Just be thoughtful and respectful with your Cinco de Mayo promotions.

Image: Jorge__ Medina_ on Pexels

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Nikka Age Statement Whiskey Returns to US

Nikka Age Statement Whiskey Returns to US

by David Klemt

Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt 10 Year Old bottle

After an eight-year hiatus, Nikka is bringing age-statement whisky back to the United States, starting with Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old.

Operators with robust whisky programs, their guests, and collectors will recall what happened back in 2015. That was the year that Nikka’s Yoichi age statement whisky line was shelved. The Yoichi portfolio’s stars—10, 12, 15 and 20 Year Old whiskies—were replaced by an expression labeled “No Age Statement.”

Interestingly, we can trace the withdrawal of age-statement Japanese whisky and disappearance of iconic bottles to the 1980s. In response to a slowdown in demand, Japanese distillers reduced production. While that move helped deal with the drop in demand and sales, there would be consequences decades later.

Eventually, the world discovered some of the most iconic whiskies on the planet: Hibiki 12 and 17, Yamazaki 12 and 18, and the aforementioned Yoichi 15 and 20.

Of course, the rabid demand for Japanese age statement whiskies resulted in an extinction event, of sorts. The reduced production that gave the world some of the most amazing luxury whiskies ever known, coupled with intense (and likely unforeseen) demand, eventually put distilleries in dire straits.

Simply put, Japanese distillers needed time to replenish their precious liquids. So, for several years, whisky lovers have been waiting for new aged-statement whiskies from Japan. Around 2017, articles and blog posts started sounding the alarm. Whisky experts told us we’d have to wait at least five years to see the return of age-statement expressions. And, as Nikka’s announcement shows, they were right.

To be clear, no-age-statement expressions have proven themselves compelling portfolio-mates during our wait. However, seeing a bonafide return to age statement whiskies is exciting.

Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old

Not only is Nikka returning to age statements, they’re paying tribute with this 10-year-old release, a brand-new addition to the portfolio. Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old commemorates Yoichi Distillery attaining “Important Cultural Properties” status.

More specifically, ten buildings on the grounds of Yoichi Distillery earned this important designation. Ten buildings, ten years of aging.

“We are honored for the Yoichi Distillery to receive this designation from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. This designation helps ensure we will pass on the history of Japanese whisky to future generations,” says Emiko Kaji, Nikka Whisky global marketing and sales general manager. “To celebrate this special honor, we welcomed the return of Nikka Whisky aged statements and released the Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old, a new expression created by the current blenders.”


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This new, 45-percent ABV expression will be available in limited quantities. However, Nikka says the production will be “ongoing” and release on an annual basis. The suggested retail price is $175.

“A momentous moment for Nikka Whisky, we are so excited to bring the release of Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old to the US,” says Dan Leese, CEO and president of Hotaling & Co. “As Nikka Whisky looks to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2024, this release is a testament to their historical significance in the world of whisky and a preview of what’s to come as they continue to build and enrich their traditional range.”

Momentous, indeed. I’m eager to see more age-statement expressions become available throughout North America. Yoichi 10 is a fantastic start.

Image: Nikka Whisky

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