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Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

by David Klemt

Black photo concept of red wine glass and bottle

Cabernet Sauvignon may be King of Grapes but Zinfandel certainly isn’t the court jester when it comes to wine.

No, it’s not one of the five Noble Grapes from Bordeaux. And yes, in Italy Zinfandel’s name is Primitivo, which translates to “primitive.”

But just because this red wine is often described as rustic doesn’t mean it’s basic.

National Zinfandel Day, which takes place Wednesday, November 17, is the perfect time to introduce Zin to your guests.

Zinfandel 101

While there are a few reasons Bordeaux doesn’t consider Zinfandel to be a Noble Grape, there’s one in particular that stands out: Zinfandel is an Italian grape. Well, sort of.

Basically, Zinfandel is grown in Italy and America. Intriguingly, however, the grape originates from Croatia. It’s original name is Tribidrag.

Another interesting note: Red Zinfandel only accounts for about 15 percent of overall Zin production. You’re probably already guessing which style accounts for the lion’s share: White Zinfandel.

Now, you can promote both styles of Zinfandel—that’s a decision you have to make. But for this article, I’m talking exclusively about Red Zinfandel.

This is for three reasons. First, White Zinfandel is best as a beginner wine. It’s light, it’s usually low in alcohol, and it’s not very complex.

Second, you can sell Red Zinfandel as a worthwhile alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, the most popular wine in the world. Third, it’s delicious, full-bodied, and the ABV is often quite high.

A great Red Zin is jammy (like a big Cab), bold (like a big Cab), and velvety (like a big Cab). So, many of the Cab Sauv drinkers among your guests will be willing to try a medium- to full-bodied Red Zin.

This “rustic” wine also pairs well with pizza and barbecue. How can that ever be a bad thing?

Bottles of Note

Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert (15.8% ABV), $50 SRP

It’s arguable that Red Zinfandel’s rise in popularity is due to it showing up in many red wine blends. Another factor? Winemaker Dave Phinney in particular utilizing this grape in his red blends. 8 Years in the Desert round in the mouth, providing drinkers with a decadent, lush wine drinking experience.

Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel (14.4% ABV), $22 SRP

The 2019 vintage of Bedrock’s Old Vine Zin receives top marks from experts across the board. When it comes to American Zins, wine aficionados consider this Zin to be the gold standard.

Opolo Mountain Zinfandel (15.7% ABV), $30 SRP

For those guests who want to taste a straight-up, 100-percent Zinfandel. Opolo is one of the finest producers of American Zin. The 2019 vintage is velvety smooth even with it’s big alcohol content and bold, jammy flavors.

The Prisoner Wine Company Saldo (15.5% ABV), $32 SRP

You don’t have to be a wine aficionado to be familiar with The Prisoner Wine Company. In fact, The Prisoner, undoubtedly one of those most famous red wine blends in the world, helped shine a spotlight on Red Zinfandel. Saldo is a three-wine blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.

Seghesio Old Vines Zinfandel (15.6% ABV), $36 SRP

Like Opolo, Seghesio produces big Zins that offer the drinker a balanced experience. Yes, the alcohol content is high but the mouthfeel is smooth and plush while delivering bold flavors. The mouthfeel may be soft but it’s certainly not shy on the palate.

Turley Old Vines Zinfandel (15.5% ABV), $40 SRP

So, there’s a debate over whether “Old Vine” or “Old Vines” has any official definition. In general, a grapevine matures some time between 12 and 25 years old. Some say that “Old Vine” is a designation that means more than 25 years old, at least 40 years old, or at least 50 or 60 years old. Well, it’s fair to say that Turley offers true “Old Vine” Zinfandel given that the producer’s grapevines range in age from 40-plus to nearly 130 years old.

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As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

by David Klemt

Luxury concept featuring Champagne coupes on silver tray

Consumers are drinking better and the luxury categories of several spirits, wine and Champagne are benefitting.

Interestingly, this growth no longer appears to be driven solely by a desire to stand out and be seen.

Instead, according to one Bar Hacks podcast guest, consumers seem to be more carefully allocating their dollars.

Luxury Continues to Rise

The word “luxury” tends to conjure thoughts of expensive, high-end items.

Indeed, that’s certainly still a part of luxury. However, the concept of luxury as unattainable to most people is seemingly falling to the wayside.

Maxime Lecocq, Prestige sales manager in Las Vegas for Pernod-Ricard, shares a similar thought on episode 56 of Bar Hacks.

“The consumption style started to change during the pandemic,” says Lecocq. “So, people are more careful on what they’re drinking, where they’re spending their money.”

Intriguingly, Lecocq doesn’t mean that people were looking to spend as little as possible. Rather, they wanted higher quality for their dollars.

“Instead of having just any Scotch, they’re gonna research more,” Lecocq says. “Instead of spending, like, $25, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna spend $40 but I’m gonna be more careful about what I’m gonna drink.'”

As far as Lecocq is concerned, consumers doing more research is benefiting the luxury segment.

Why does he think that? Because it appears that research is leading consumers to spend more on luxury spirits and wine.

Numbers Support Luxury Growth

Early last month, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) shared their research into luxury spirits.

DISCUS data shows that during the period from 2015 to 2020, luxury spirits brands saw sales growth of 125 percent. Further, looking at the first half of 2021, luxury spirits volume is up 25 percent.

For the curious, DISCUS considers any brand that sells 750mL bottles at retail for $50 or more to fall within the luxury segment. So, $10 more than the example Lecocq provides during his Bar Hacks appearance.

There are six luxury categories tracked by DISCUS: American whiskey, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

On his podcast episode, Lecocq discussed three of those categories: Cognac, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

Growth Categories

Per DISCUS, American whiskey has seen annual growth since 2015 of 41 percent. For Japanese whisky, that rate of growth is 42 percent.

Irish whiskey and Single Malt Scotch are also healthy annual growth. However, Irish whiskey’s annual growth is only a third of that of its Japanese counterpart at 14-plus percent.

Single Malt Scotch, in the first half of 2021, is up 5.6 percent.

According to DISCUS, Cognac’s annual growth is nearly 16 percent. Lecocq posits that this rise in interest in Cognac is down to shifting consumer perception.

Once thought of as “your grandparents’ drink,” younger consumers are now more eager to explore this type of brandy.

It’s perhaps tequila that sees the most interesting growth. Given its explosive and seemingly unwavering popularity, I thought the luxury tequila category would see growth in excess of 42 percent.

However, per DISCUS, luxury tequila brands are up 30.7 percent annually since 2015. Obviously, that’s impressive growth, and the category represents 28 million bottles sold.

That’s more than American, Irish, Japanese and Single Malt Scotch whiskeys combined.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that operators should abandon their less expensive spirits and wines. It does, however, show that consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be higher quality brands.

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What Your Brand Can Learn from LEGO

What Your Brand Can Learn from LEGO

by David Klemt

Assortment of LEGO bricks in different colors, sizes and shapes

When it comes to brands that enjoy nearly universal reverence, LEGO is a company with enviable presence and visibility.

Around the world, it’s difficult to find someone who isn’t aware of LEGO. It’s even more difficult to find someone who outright dislikes the brand.

Of course, we can say the strength of the LEGO brand boils down to them being a toy company that taps into nostalgia.

However, LEGO’s strength was recently revealed by tech columnist Jason Aten for Inc. The company, it turns out, approaches customer interactions in a “freaky” manner.


“Freaky,” as Aten explains in the Inc. article, stands for Fun, Reliable, Knowledgeable and Engaging.

When you look at those four words in the context of LEGO’s “freaky” approach, you can see the obvious links that can be made to hospitality.

Let’s start with Fun. This should be an easy one—your restaurant, bar or hotel should provide a fun guest experience.

Really, this should go without saying. If spending time at your hospitality business isn’t fun, why would guests return to spend their money on you?

Also, if your business is fun, your guests will become loyal, walking billboards for you. They’ll tell family, friends, and tourists they need to check out your restaurant, bar or hotel.

However, the guest side is only half of the brand equation. A brand that’s fun to work for as well is even more powerful. Your workers will help you recruit rock stars to add to add to the team if it’s fun working for you.

Think about it: If it’s fun to work for your brand, every team member is now a brand advocate.

Finally, think about your mental and emotional health as an operator. Running a business in this industry will always be difficult to some degree. Wouldn’t you be happiest operating a brand that’s fun and loved by guests and staff alike?


Replace the Reliable with “consistent” and you can see where I’ll be going with this one.

While lately they never seem to be shy of controversy, McDonald’s is an excellent example for consistency.

After all, there’s a reason the company is the most-powerful fast-food concept on the planet. Not to malign the brand, but do you think it’s because they craft the best-tasting, highest-quality cheeseburgers?

No, it’s because McDonald’s demands consistency from all their locations. For decades, the company has dialed in their processes.

Global perception of the brand is that regardless of where in the world you visit a McDonald’s, the experience will essentially be the same. There may be menu items exclusive to certain countries or regions, but the core menu will taste the same.

One of the most effective ways to convert a person into a loyal guest is to ensure your experience is consistent.

The food, the service, the atmosphere, the energy… If it’s consistent—also known as reliable—your guests will return (if it’s consistently great, of course).


When of the most effective ways to turn a small guest issue into a huge one is to utter the following: “I don’t know.”

Guests hate those three words. Whether it’s a question about a menu item or one that’s about a problem, being told “I don’t know” is frustrating.

According to many reports throughout the years, Disney prohibits guest-facing staff from saying those three words. Instead, if they don’t know the answer to a question, they’re supposed to say, “I can find out for you,” or, “That’s a good question.”

And that’s just one example of ensuring you and your staff are knowledgeable.

Another example is educating your guests.

It’s fair to say that due to the nature of their positions, your bartenders and servers spend the most time engaging with your guests.

Sharing their knowledge of your menu items is a great way to upsell and create loyalty. It’s one thing to be able to rattle off a menu description; it’s quite another to be able to go deeper and share information beyond a short menu blurb.

Bartenders in particular are integral to educating guests. In a few moments, a knowledgeable bartender can introduce your guests to new spirits, beers, wines and cocktails.

That sharing of information demonstrates being Knowledgeable and Fun. And if guests return because of that element of the guest experience, it also embodies being Reliable.


Put Fun, Reliable and Knowledgeable together. What do you get? A hospitality brand that’s Engaging.

Of course, that’s not all there is to building an engaging brand.

Social media, it should go without saying, leverages engagement. Your guests—and potential guests—can interact with your brand when they’re not physically at your location via your social channels.

Wendy’s is a compelling example of being Engaging. The brand’s Twitter account is famous for engagement and interaction. It’s also Fun (for their audience, not always so much for their targets) and Reliable (in the sense that we know what’s going to happen if you step to the Wendy’s Twitter admin).

However, I caution against attempting to copy what Wendy’s does on Twitter, lest you draw their ire. Like battle rappers had a long-standing rule against challenging KRS-ONE, hospitality and foodservice accounts should heed the rule against trying to battle Wendy’s on Twitter.

Guest-facing staff with great personalities, informative and fun tastings, special promotions, F&B-focused membership clubs, loyalty programs, and live entertainment are also examples of how you can build an Engaging brand.

They’re also examples of being Fun, Reliable and Knowledgeable. That’s because all four elements feed into one another.

So, take some time to consider what your brand communicates to your guests and staff. If it’s “freaky,” you’re on your way to being as beloved as LEGO.

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Adding Veterans to Your Team

Adding Veterans to Your Restaurant, Bar or Hotel Team

by David Klemt

Military combat helmet in digital camouflage

Do more this Veterans Day by encouraging those who have served to apply and interview for available positions on your team.

There are several benefits to providing job opportunities to veterans, regardless of the country (or countries) in which you operate.

Of course, there are dos and don’ts that come along with recruiting, hiring and working with veterans.

Benefits to Hiring Veterans

Before we begin, a caveat: Remember that veterans are individuals. “Veteran” is a label, a designation, a descriptor. In no way is one person who is a veteran interchangeable with another.

That said, there are some elements of military service that are similar to those of successful hospitality operations.

Teamwork, a strong work ethic, leadership skills, precision in tasks, achieving goals, consistency in results… When a restaurant, bar or hotel team is operating at its best, it can be said they work with military precision.

Generally speaking, veteran job candidates bring experience to the table that can benefit an operator greatly.

Additionally, it’s commonly said that hospitality leadership should hire for personality because they can train requisite skills. Speaking generally again, many veterans are so used to receiving specialized training that they’ll likely appreciate and respond quickly to yours.

If you want your business to operate with military precision, why wouldn’t you hire military personnel who fit well within your team?

Questions to Ask During Interviews

Obviously, there are definite dos and don’ts when it comes to discussing a veteran’s military experience.

As curious as you may be about some aspects of a veteran’s experience, questions shouldn’t be invasive or offensive.

Some examples of questions you should ask are:

  • “What did you do (in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard or Reserves)?”
  • “Why did you choose that branch of the military?”
  • “How long did you serve?”
  • “Do you come from a military family?”
  • “Where were you stationed during your career in the military? Did you visit any other countries?”
  • “Where was your favorite place you visited or lived?”
  • “How do you think your experience in the military will benefit you here?”

As you can see, nothing in those questions should make a veteran applicant uncomfortable.

Questions and Behaviors to Avoid

Speaking of discomfort, there are many questions that you should never ask a veteran. Not just during the interview process, but ever.

Also, if a veteran informs you they’re uncomfortable answering a question about their service, that should be respected.

Examples of questions and topics you should avoid are:

  • “Do you have PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)?”
  • “Do you find it hard to get back to ‘real/regular’ life after being in the military?”
  • “Did you ever get shot/stabbed/bombed?”
  • “Did you ever kill anyone?”
  • “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you while you served?”
  • Current military conflicts, particularly if you haven’t served in the military.
  • Referring to elements of work through military analogies.
  • Insulting branches of the military if you never served.

In short, treat veterans with the respect their deserve, as you should any other member of your staff. Veterans aren’t novelties or curiosities—they’re people.

For too long, veterans have faced undue scrutiny and undeserved stigmatization. It shouldn’t be difficult to turn that around when the solution is simple: Give veterans respect; treat them like  people since that’s precisely what they are; and provide equal opportunity.

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You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

by David Klemt

Help sign outside business

Independent operators and local chains aren’t just competing with one another for staff, they’re up against global brands.

Unfortunately, that means competing against massive corporations that can offer higher wages and all manner of benefits.

However, smaller operations can still take steps to lure workers and fill open positions.

The Threat

In response to the labor shortage, many national and global chains are increasing hourly wages.

For example, Chipotle boosted wages for hourly workers to $15 per hour a few months back. Along with this boost in wages came a hike in menu prices: four percent across the board.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s also announced they would boost hourly pay. Hourly workers saw a boost of about ten percent. Of course, this chain also found itself dealing with increased supply costs. To offset a rise in costs of at least four percent, McDonald’s also boosted menu prices.

The latest to enter the labor fray is Starbucks. And like other chains, the corporation addressed the issue of hourly wages publicly.

Indeed, Starbucks’ announcement shares several details. First, staff who have worked for the company for a minimum of five years could see a pay raise of ten percent. Those who have been with the company for at least two years (but less than ten) could get a raise of five percent.

However, it doesn’t end there. Starbucks workers in the United States can take advantage of $200 referral bonuses. On average, Starbucks says hourly wages will range from $15 to $23 per hour, with an average of $17 per hour. The company expects these wage changes to be in place by Summer 2022.


Of course, one doesn’t have to need revenue in the tens of millions or billions of dollars to compete for staff.

We’ve addressed this topic several times on the KRG Hospitality site. In particular, we’ve brought up increasing menu prices to support wage hikes. Specifically, we recommend borrowing from Chipotle and McDonald’s: Be transparent and explain why menu prices are going up.

Additionally, Bar Hacks guests like Chef Brian Duffy and Lynnette Marrero have spoken about this topic.

As Chef Duffy says during his second appearance, treating staff better is a big step toward reducing turnover. Word spreads among hospitality workers, and improved employer-employee relations is an excellent recruitment tool.

Another effective benefit? Flexible and improved scheduling which, of course, can be implemented easily via scheduling apps.

Mentorship is a powerful recruiting and retention tool. Both Chef Duffy and Marrero believe in the power of this benefit. They have decades of experience to pass on to staff that can help their careers.

Marrero also suggests implementing labor structures that corporations don’t offer. For instance, she suggests new operators are well positioned to offer earned equity, profit sharing, and co-op ownership structures.

Existing operators can also leverage Marrero’s ideas. However, they’ll need agreement from their investors if they have any.

Now that you know where labor threats are coming from, you can strategize and fight back. You may not have billions of dollars in the bank, but you’re nimble and can implement changes much more quickly. Listen to your staff and be open to making meaningful but reasonable concessions.

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Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

by David Klemt

McDonald's French fries close up in package

It’s increasingly important to stay top of mind with your guests. Now more than ever, that means finding yourself on their screens.

For likely the one-billionth time, allow me to point out something we should all know by now: We’re all on our phones and tablets all the time.

From texts and emails to app notifications and social scrolling, there’s always a reason to check screens.

So, how can operators invade people’s devices? By collecting guest data via a loyalty program.

Fluctuating Support

Not so long ago, industry experts bristled against the mention of rewards and discounts.

Guests, the thought was, had zero interest in signing up for loyalty programs. People would soon frantically seek out “unsubscribe” links after receiving one too many marketing emails.

However, people are quickly thawing, warming to the idea of loyalty programs. Once thought of as too invasive, now marketing experts believe “too intrusive” doesn’t exist.

After all, businesses need to ensure they’re highly visible. Operators must meet guests where they are. Where are they? Their devices.

Rewarding Loyalty

Your staff aren’t the only people engaging with the incentive economy.

Today, it appears that a guest liking your brand isn’t good enough to ensure their loyalty. They want rewards beyond experience, consistency, and delicious food and beverage.

With so many brands competing for your guests’ dollars, you have to stand out to keep them coming back.

Now, there are still industry experts and operators who will tell you to avoid discounting at all costs. Offering a discount, they argue, starts you down the road of devaluing your brand.

Well, the great news is that when creating your own loyalty program, you can offer whatever you see fit. If you fall into the Never Discount camp, none of your rewards have to be discounts.

Free is Better than a Discount

So, let’s remain in the Never Discount realm. What else will encourage guests to sign up for your loyalty program—and actually engage with it?

We can use the loyalty program launched in July by a global fast-food juggernaut as a great example.

Over the summer, McDonald’s launched MyMcDonald’s Rewards. How successful was the launch? More than 12 million people opted into the program.

In exchange for signing up, agreeing to receive alerts, and handing over their data, guests received a free medium French fry.

McDonald’s selected 66 loyalty program members to receive one million MyMcDonald’s Rewards points. One lucky member also received free French fries for life.

Create Your Program

“But David,” I hear some of you arguing, “isn’t free even worse than a discount?”

The short answer is no. A discount can devalue a brand because guests get used to paying less for select items or entire visits. Over time, they perceive the lower price as the standard price. Soon, they’ll wonder when the next discount is coming. You’ll have to either further discount your food and beverage or work harder to re-engage your guests some other way.

If a rewards program is structured correctly, members will have paid for any free item they earn several times over. Most commonly, guests receive points in exchange for dollars spent. They can then exchange those points for a free menu item. This doesn’t devalue the brand, it incentivizes program members to become loyal, repeat guests.

Operators not quite ready to build their own apps can utilize text messages and emails. Of course, the former is the most intrusive (in a good way). Texts can inform members of promotions and encourage them to visit or place an order online. Emails can let members know their current balance and what incentive their close to earning.

Additionally, be generous. Don’t exclude your guests’ favorite items from the program. Why would a loyalty program member remain loyal if they can’t exchange their points for “the good stuff”?

Structure your program correctly and you’ll increase visits per guest and spends per visit. Couple your guest data collection with a platform like SevenRooms and you’ll truly supercharge your revenue.

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New Operators Can Reject the Old Models

New Operators Can Reject the Old Models

by David Klemt

Thinking differently planning concept with light bulb on chalkboard

There’s no reason new hospitality business owners and operators have to do what’s always been done.

In fact, new owners and operators are in a prime position to create entirely new business models.

If we’re going to change things and set the industry up for success in the future, we need to pursue different ways of doing business.

Industry Pioneer and Icon

Lynnette Marrero, widely known as a pioneer in this industry, is enjoying a career that should inspire all hospitality professionals.

After getting her start as a cocktail waitress at New York City’s storied Flatiron Lounge, she transitioned to bartender. In that role, Marrero was able to learn under Flatiron Lounge co-owner and bartending sage Julie Reiner.

She has created and consulted on world-class, award-winning cocktail programs. If you find yourself in New York City, plan to stop into Llama Inn and Llama San to experience Marrero’s menu programming.

Marrero is a James Beard Award and Spirited Award winner, a Dame Hall of Fame inductee, and the co-founder of high-speed all-female bartending competition Speed Rack.

Perhaps most importantly, she’s a mentor and an innovator helping to shape the career’s of new bartenders and hospitality pros.

And on episode 54 of the Bar Hacks podcast, Marrero encourages new operators to think differently about how they run their businesses.

New Models

Specifically, Marrero explains that new owners and operators are in a position to run things differently from the start.

“I think it’s a lot about changing your structures from the beginning. Don’t feel pressure to have to go into models that already exist,” says Marrero. “You can build new models and you can think about new ways.”

Making impactful change from the very beginning requires a change in how we think about running restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality businesses.

“What does ownership look like?” asks Marrero, providing examples of new approaches to ownership. “Can you start a place that’s more profit sharing for staff? Can you build that in from the beginning?”

Offering further considerations, Marrero suggests that new owners and operators consider operational elements such as earned equity and co-op-style ownership.

In theory, such structures, which are certainly far from the norm, may lead to significant reductions in turnover, boosts to staff morale and engagement, and a more dynamic team. Putting different structures in place rather relying on the old models can lead to building teams invested in helping owners grow their businesses for the long term.

Change is Necessary

While established operators can certainly make changes to their existing operations, Marrero says that it’s easier for new businesses to do so.

In part, this is because investors know going in what the labor structure is, for example. They therefore also understand how the payback structure will work.

And that’s just on the investment side of the equation. On the labor side, new structures make it easier to recruit, hire, and retain staff.

Solving labor shortages leads to operating at full strength for full days rather than relying on shortened hours. Staff are less overwhelmed and costly turnover is reduced.

It’s easier to do things the way they’ve always been done. But rejecting the old ways can be far more fulfilling and profitable for everyone involved.

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5 Books to Read this Month: November

5 Books to Read this Month: November

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

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

To review October’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Cook as You Are

The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh is a food writer with a half-dozen books to her name. Her latest will likely change how you look at food and its preparation. In particular, the “mini” version of Cook as You Are aims to be as inclusive as possible. The free download makes it easier for people who learn differently or require assistance in the kitchen to enjoy cooking. Cook as You Are features 100 original recipes created by Tandoh that don’t require hours of preparation or professional-grade kitchen equipment to execute.

The Bullhearted Brand

Expert Joseph Szala explains why operators should view branding as a strategic endeavor. Branding is more than a clever name, eye-catching logo, and slick tagline. Szala, as he explains, “lay(s) out the foundational elements and details about creating and scaling restaurant brands” in The Bullhearted Brand, drawing from years of real-world experiences.

Bourbon’s Backroads

Bourbon is one of the few spirits that America can truly claim as its own. Myths and legend abound, such as the claim that whiskey can only be called bourbon if it’s produced in Bourbon County. Karl Raitz conducted extensive research to uncover the full history of bourbon in the United States for Bourbon’s Backroads.

Gilded Age Cocktails

Author Cecilia Tichi takes readers on a cocktail journey spanning three decades. The Gilded Age, which took place between 1870 and the early 1900s, is known as the Golden Age for cocktails. Readers will be able to learn the stories of not only classic Golden Age cocktails to pass on to others, but also the stories of their creators. Gilded Age Cocktails transports us back to the pre-Prohibition Era, a time when bartenders first became famous and helped us all drink better.

Hacking the New Normal

Doug Radkey, president of KRG Hospitality, author of Bar Hacks and Hacking the New Normal, makes the case for making meaningful, impactful change in order for the hospitality industry to survive and thrive moving forward. As he explains during bonus episodes of the Bar Hacks podcast, as have multiple podcast guests like Chef Brian Duffy, the industry won’t truly recover unless we change our mindsets and the way restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, entertainment venues, and arenas operate and treat staff.

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Stand Out with Weird Holidays: November

Stand Out with Weird Holidays: November

by David Klemt

Stay Weird neon sign with purple background

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

Several “holidays” are set against every date on the calendar, and November is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream—Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving, anyone?—to food-centric to weird.

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

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

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

For October’s list, click here.

November 1: World Vegan Day

Obviously, this holiday isn’t weird for vegans or vegetarians. There are, however, those who still find this particular diet odd. Well, this is the perfect holiday to learn more about vegan cooking and eating. Pass on that knowledge by adding delicious vegan dishes to your menu.

November 4: National Candy Day

Do you have a surplus of candy now that Halloween is over? Trying to fight the temptation to eat it all yourself? Various candies perform well as garnishes for cocktails. There’s also another way to approach this holiday, like featuring starters such as candied bacon.

November 6: National Nacho Day

So, this holiday is more fun than weird, really. However, you can probably see the potential to deviate from the standard nacho builds. Instead, ask your kitchen staff to get creative and come up with intriguing takes on nachos that will grab the attention of your guests.

November 9: National Scrapple Day

One of the best ways to cut back on food waste in restaurants, bars, and hotels is to utilize as much of a given ingredient as possible. Scrapple, of which our Philadelphia audience will no doubt be very well aware, consists of pork scraps. Guests outside of Pennsylvania may have never tried scrapple before, so this holiday is the perfect time to tempt them with a new taste sensation.

November 12: National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day

It’s not this pizza that’s weird, of course. It’s the very specific pizza this holiday is celebrating. I’m guessing that you know exactly what to do to celebrate this holiday with your guests.

November 14: Pickle Day

The (in)famous Pickleback. Bloody Mary made with pickle juice. A Dill Pickle Martini. Pickle appetizers and starters. If you’ve got pickles and some degree of creativity, it’s pretty clear what needs to be done on November 14.

National 15: National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day

This is another very specific holiday. This cookie, the Spicy Hermit, features flavors that couldn’t be any more perfect for fall: cinnamon, clove, allspice, and nutmeg. You can Google a recipe, of course, but we found this one and it seems delicious.

November 17: National Take a Hike Day

We’re big fans of encouraging guests and staff to get outside. There are thousands of trails throughout the United States and Canada, ranging from the easy-peasy to the truly treacherous, so the sky’s the limit. Encourage guests to take a hike and grab a bite and drink at your establishment to rest and recover. Have them tag your spot and their meal, of course.

November 28: Red Planet Day

It seems like billionaires and millionaires can’t get enough of Mars. Over the past few years, space travel has focused almost exclusively on the idea of reaching the Red Planet and figuring out how to live on it. So, if you’ve got dishes and drinks that are predominantly red in color, put them at the forefront on November 28.

Image: Dan Parlante on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Resources for Keeping Guests Safe

Resources for Keeping Guests and Staff Safe

by David Klemt

Everyone is Welcome sign painted on wall

One of the non-negotiable responsibilities of operators and their team members is ensuring the safety of every guest they serve.

Respecting others, instilling trust in guests and the community, and awareness are core tenets of hospitality.

Further, those three tenets are also crucial for the safety of guests, team members, and the community.

We in the hospitality industry like to think we deliver selfless service, putting guest needs above our own. The phrase “all are welcome” is supposedly a hospitality mantra.

But if operators aren’t providing the tools and empowerment staff need to ensure every guest is safe, is everyone really welcome?

Safety as a Core Value

Look, I know it can be uncomfortable to address the uglier elements of this industry. However, we can’t effect change to severely reduce the impact or outright eliminate those elements if we don’t face them.

On today’s Bar Hacks podcast, episode 54 with Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, our guests address keeping women safe in bars and restaurants. That goes for guests and staff.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we know that our industry, operating at its best, is welcoming, accepting, supportive of the communities they serve, and a pillar of society. But we also know we have widespread issues concerning the harassment, violence, and inequality affecting women and other minorities.

Two things can be true at the same time. However, we can work toward wiping out that second truth.

During today’s podcast, Ivy Mix shares two key resources for building safer hospitality venues and work environments: Safe Bars and Green Dot.

Safe Bars

This organization seeks to improve the safety and culture of any venue that serves alcohol. Restaurant, bar, nightclub, brewery, hotel… If alcohol is a major component of service, Safe Bars wants to help.

Through three Safe Bars programs, operators can make their businesses safer:

  • Active Bystander Skills. Teachers operators, leadership team, and staff how to recognize unwanted sexual aggression and opting for the best intervention solution. (Learn more here.)
  • Self-defense and Empowerment. Strategies an owner, operator, member of the leadership team, or a staff member can implement should they be the one targeted for aggression or other unwanted attention. (Click here to learn more.)
  • De-escalation for Hospitality Professionals. The tactics necessary to keep one’s self and others safe should they encounter an aggressive, angry or threatening guest. (More information here.)

Unfortunately, most hospitality professionals have at least one story involving unwanted aggressive or threatening behavior from a guest. Programs like those on offer by Safe Bars can help bystanders intervene to protect others and themselves.

Green Dot

I’ve written about Green Dot Bystander Intervention education before.

Specifically, I shared Green Dot’s Five Ds of Bystander Intervention:

  • Distract
  • Delegate
  • Document
  • Delay
  • Direct

Programs like those from Green Dot and Safe Bars can help operators and leadership assess their bystander intervention capabilities.

The time is now to have an open and frank discussion to assess each team member’s comfort level regarding intervention. That can provide a baseline and guide operators towards which programs they should pursue. From there, operators and leadership can create policies and procedures for intervening, and keep guests and staff safe.

Addressing safety rather than hoping nothing will happen and these issues will somehow solve themselves pays immense dividends. Here are just a few examples:

  • Greater staff confidence.
  • A better relationship with the community, along with increased traffic.
  • A reduction in staff turnover.

Service is about more than food, beverage, and entertainment—it’s also about safety.

Image: Katie Moum on Unsplash