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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Drink to Dethrone the Espresso Martini

Will this Drink Dethrone the Espresso Martini?

by David Klemt

A coffee cocktail sitting on top of a bar

If we’re to take what industry pundits and cocktail aficionados are saying, 2024 may be the year that the Espresso Martini falls from grace.

Alright, that may be a bit dramatic. However, maybe we won’t read about how the Espresso Martini is having yet another “moment” this year.

Instead, it’s possible that 2024 will be the Year of the Carajillo.

This incredibly simple cocktail is receiving as muchif not morehype than the Negroni Sbagliato did in 2022. Only this time, bartenders may not roll their eyes whenever they hear someone mention it.

Before I dive into the Carajillo, a bit of clarification. I’m not anti-Espresso Martini. It isn’t like I think I’m above enjoying one of these not-Martinis from time to time. And I’m sure it makes registers ring plenty at bars around the world.

However, it seems like we’re told we’re in the midst of the Espresso Martini’s latest moment every time fall or winter comes around. Look, this is a modern classic that has been around for decades. It’s not “having a moment,” it has simply reached ubiquity.

So, the idea that a perhaps lesser-known coffee cocktail can have its moment this year is exciting. (And a bit of a relief.)

Let’s cannonball into the Carajillo!

Not So Simple

When you do a cursory search for the Carajillo you’ll encounter quite a few absolutes.

For example, there are people who say the drink only and always consists of hot espresso and Licor 43. You may read that the ratio is always one to one.

However, there’s more nuance surrounding the Carajillo.

This deceptively simple cocktail comes to us from Spain. From what I can find, it’s often a cold drink that varies from country to country, region to region. In Spain, it’s commonly coffee and brandy in a two-to-one ratio. Order one in Cuba and it will likely be a rum cocktail rather than brandy. In Mexico, while Licor 43 is said to be the standard, it’s not uncommon for mezcal or a coffee liqueur to accompany the coffee.

Now, as I’ve said, you’ll come across sources that say a Mexican Carajillo is espresso and Licor 43. So, let’s go with that recipe for now.

It’s a simple build: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add two ounces of hot espresso or other hot coffee and two ounces of Licor 43. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a rocks glass. The shake should form a foamy head. Some people garnish with three coffee beans.

Make it Yours

Of course, there’s room to play with this recipe. You and bar team can change the ratio, change the garnish, experiment with glassware, replace the Licor 43 with another liqueur, add an ingredient…

As an example of the latter suggestion, Cazadores produces a coffee liqueur, Cazadores Café. This can replace Licor 43 or work alongside it.

Just know that if you replace the original liqueur, you’re missing out on a blend of 43 botanicals. That means your Carajillo will taste much different than the standard Mexican build. In that case, is it still a Carajillo?

Well, that’s up to your guests to decide, I suppose.

There are bars that make their Carajillo with cream, brandy, and Licor 43. Some serve theirs with a small bowl of sugar so guests can sweeten them to their liking.

At some bars, the build calls for heating the liqueur or base spirit with lemon and sugar. Others make Carajillos with mint and amaro.

So, you and your bartenders can do what has been done with the Espresso Martini: Alter the Carajillo to create your signature version. You can also simply serve the traditional build.

Or, and this is my recommendation, you can serve traditional Carajillos and offer one or more signature variations.


Image: Jeppe Mønster on Unsplash

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Top Pizza Styles & Toppings by Region

Top Pizza Styles & Toppings by Region

by David Klemt

Person clawing slice of pepperoni pizza

That’s one way to pick up a slice of pizza…

Now that we know the top 11 pizza styles in North America thanks to Pizza Today, let’s see how they break down by region.

Unfortunately, they don’t include regions throughout Canada in their trends report. However, the information is still incredibly valuable.

Pizza Today has put a lot of effort into their 2024 Pizza Industry Trends Report. So, make sure to click this link and check it out for yourself.

Before we jump into the regional breakdown, let’s check out which pizza toppings lead the way across the nation. As you’ll see later, while many regions follow national trends, they also deviate in notable ways.

If you read last week’s article, you already know which pizza styles dominate North America. For those of you haven’t yet read that article, click here.

That said, here are the top 20 toppings in America.

Top Toppings: Nationwide

If you operate a pizzeria or pizza is a significant focus of your business, you probably know the number one topping.

The image at the top of this article is a hint.

Per Pizza Today, these are the top 20 toppings in the US:

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra Cheese
  5. Bacon
  6. Chicken
  7. Onion
  8. Red/Green Bell Pepper
  9. Ham
  10. Black Olives
  11. Meatballs
  12. Canadian Bacon
  13. Jalapenos
  14. Pineapple
  15. Beef
  16. Basil
  17. Banana Peppers
  18. Fresh garlic
  19. Tomatoes
  20. Spinach

Due to outright bias, I hope to see meatballs break into the top ten one of these days. That’s my number one topping.

Now that we’ve shared the top 20 toppings according to Pizza Today, let’s check out the regional breakdown.

The West

This region includes two subregions, Pacific and Mountain.

In alphabetical order, the Pacific states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. The Mountain region includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

So, if you’re in one of those 13 states, the info below is relevant to you.

Top Styles

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. California/American Artisan
  4. Sicilian
  5. Neapolitan

Number three makes sense, given this region includes California. Otherwise, the West follows the top five pizza styles in the US rather closely.

Top Toppings

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Chicken
  5. Bacon
  6. Extra cheese
  7. Black Olives
  8. Onion
  9. Jalapenos
  10. Pineapple

In the West, the top three toppings are the same as the rest of the nation. However, chicken and bacon overtake extra cheese in the this region.

The South

Pizza Today divides the South into three subregions: East South Central, South Atlantic, and West South Central.

The former consists of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The South Atlantic includes Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. And West South Central is made up of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

As you’ll see, the top five pizza styles in the South are the same as the top across the US. Further, the top five toppings in the region are also the same top five nationally. It isn’t until numbers six through ten that we encounter deviations.

Top Styles

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Neapolitan

Top Toppings

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra cheese
  5. Bacon
  6. Onion
  7. Chicken
  8. Red/Green pepper
  9. Beef
  10. Ham

Beef is number 15 nationally, if you don’t want to scroll up and check for yourself.

The Midwest

The Midwest, per Pizza Today, is organized into two subregions. Those are East North Central and West North Central.

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin make up the former. Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the states in the latter subregion.

Top Styles

As a proud Midwesterner, I’m happy to report that the region didn’t disappoint when it comes to the region’s top pizza styles.

  1. Traditional America
  2. Chicago Thin
  3. New York Style
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Detroit

The argument that Chicago Thin (a.k.a. Chicago Tavern) rather than Deep Dish is the true Chicago pizza style is bolstered with these rankings.

Top Toppings

Pizza Today shares only five toppings for this region. Notably, extra cheese doesn’t make it in, kicked out by onion.

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Bacon
  5. Onion

The Northeast

The Middle Atlantic and New England are the two subregions of the Northeast.

For their report, Pizza Today identifies New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania as the three Middle Atlantic states. New England is Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Top Style

Number five, given where it was reportedly created, isn’t a surprise.

In fact, the whole list makes sense:

  1. New York Style
  2. Sicilian
  3. Traditional America
  4. Neapolitan
  5. Grandma

It’s also not a surprise that Deep Dish doesn’t make it into the Northeast’s top five pizza styles.

Top Toppings

Further, the top five of ten top toppings in the Northeast are the same nationally.

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra cheese
  5. Bacon
  6. Chicken
  7. Onion
  8. Red/Green pepper
  9. Meatballs
  10. Banana Peppers

However, as you can see, meatballs (my favorite) and banana peppers break into the top ten in this region.


Obviously, there are more than just 20 toppings finding their way onto pizzas in the US. Pizza Today reports that birria, fig jam, hot honey, pasilla peppers, and pickled vegetables have earned their way onto menus in at least the past 12 months.

And when it comes the top 20 toppings, there’s nuance. For example, there are multiple styles of pepperoni and preparation, and the same holds true for sausage.

All this is to say the following: A blend of popular, traditional toppings along with the unexpected and new is likely a winning combination. This can include exotic ingredients, plant-based analogs, and international herbs and spices.

Remember, it’s pizza; it’s supposed to tempting and fun.

Image: Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels

KRG Hospitality menu development. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort. Food. Drinks.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Nachogate: A Lesson in Standards

Nachogate: A Lesson in Standards

by David Klemt

People sharing a plate of nachos

You wouldn’t think a social media post about a plate of nachos could cause a scandal but that’s exactly what’s happening, and it’s known as Nachogate.

Shockingly, this story comes to us from a luxury casino resort in Las Vegas.

A photo of a meager dish with six entire tortilla chips on it has 1.3 million views already. That’s pretty impressiveor unfortunate, depending on which side of the post you’re onconsidering the post is from this Monday.

One of the top comments on the post points out that there’s quite the disparity between chips and accompaniments.

“More condiments than chips. Wow,” reads the comment. To which the original poster responds, “They said it was so you can have the perfect bite.”

It should go without saying that every dish put in front of a guest needs to be as close to perfect as possible. If it’s on the menu, if it leaves the kitchen, it impacts the guest experience. There is no, “Well it’s only [insert item]. It’s not that big of a deal.”

That mindset simply has no place in hospitality.

No, not every dish or drink is perfect. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. The absolute lowest standard should be caring enough to catch mistakes before they affect guests.

Failing that, every operator and leadership team member needs to care enough to acknowledge mistakes that reach guests, handle them gracefully, and fix them. This includes listening to and rewarding servers, bartenders, barbacks, and hosts whenever they catch a mistake.

Of course, there’s another lesson here. When developing non-negotiable standards, aim high. Fountainbleau Las Vegas is a luxury lifestyle brand; I doubt Nachogate reflects the company’s standards.

#Nachogate Fallout

Look, it can feel good to say that we don’t have competitors in this industry, we have peers. In some ways that can be an accurate statement.

However, watch what happens when an operator makes a mistake and it blows up in spectacular fashion.

Case in point, Nachogate. Or, given how the situation went viral, #Nachogate.

It would be bad enough if The Tavern at Fountainbleau Las Vegas took a reputational hit solely with the guests it affected directly. Obviously, it gets exponentially worse when it takes off on social media and alters the perception of potential guests.

But #Nachogate got worse when the venue’s “peers” leveraged the situation to their advantage.

That’s just a handful of posts taking advantage of Fountainbleau Las Vegas’ mistake. And that’s a lot of free marketing leveraging an unforced error that transformed into a viral moment.


Alright, so I probably haven’t made any friends at Fountainbleau for sharing this story. Well, allow me to extend an olive branch. After all, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and will make more in the future.

It appears that the issue has been addressed by the property. That says to me that there are indeed standards, and there are people who care enough to respond when they’re not met.

Again, mistakes happen. The key is to correct course and move forward. Fountainbleau has done just that.

That’s a smart move. A mistake was made, people piled on, and instead of ignoring the issue, the company acknowledged and corrected the mistake where it blew up: the public eye.

Fountainbleau Las Vegas is just over a month into serving the public. There are going to be growing pains. Indeed, anyone who has been following the casino resort is aware that there have been much larger issues. For example, the company is dealing with the departures of three high-level executives.

The point of this article isn’t to roast Fountainbleau further. Assuming the viral post is true and the nachos at The Tavern have indeed been improved, a mistake was made and was then addressed.

I’m sharing this story as an example to drive home the need for standards, for non-negotiables. That means sitting down, considering every element of operations and service, writing out standards, and training teams on those non-negotiables. It’s as important as identifying values, sharing them with the team, and adhering to them.

Sit down today and develop your standards. If you’ve done that in the past, review your standards, update them if necessary, and ensure they still have buy-in from your team.

Image: Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

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Boutique Brand StandardX to Make Debut

Boutique Brand StandardX to Debut in February

by David Klemt

A white letter "X" painted on a black wall

Like The Standard’s logo, this letter X is upside-down.

Boutique hotel standard The Standard will debut its new brand, StandardX, in Melbourne when its first property opens in February of this year.

Not only will this new hotel be the first StandardX location to open, it’s also the first Standard hotel to open in Australia.

This new boutique hotel brand follows a growing and notable trend within the space. Many hotel groups are focusing on launching brands and imprints that focus on locality.

These brands aim to honor local cultures, striving to serve locals and their communities along with tourists. In fact, some of these brands appear more interested in locals than visitors.

Beyond staycations, these hotels work to gain buy-in from locals in several ways. One of the most obvious is through F&B programs. These new(er) brands seek to menu food and drink items that are authentic to their locations. Likewise, nightlife experiences.

However, it goes deeper than that. Many of these hotels welcome locals to use communal spaces for meetings, art installations, and more. The goal is to establish themselves as a pillars in the communities in which they operate. If done right—deeper than a thin veneer of local support—these hotels prove their locale loyalty.

All that said, only time will tell if StandardX Melbourne will find support in the brand’s chosen Melbourne neighborhood, Fitzroy. On paper, however, it should be a perfect match.

Two Decades of Cool, and Counting

The first Standard opened on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1999. It takes a lot of work be effortlessly cool, and the Standard Hollywood achieved that standard upon opening.

Artists, celebrities, people who wanted to see and be seen… All could be found at the Standard Hollywood. The hotel’s Rooftop bar and pool became one of LA’s hottest hotspots, a seemingly endless party featuring a seemingly endless parade of the cool and connected.

Starting life in 1967 as the Thunderbird Motel, the Standard Hollywood appears in Sex and the City, Entourage, Mortdecai, and Ocean’s Twelve. One of the property’s most notable details, one that undoubtedly generated coverage, whispers, and social media attention, was “The Box.”

This was a living art installation behind reception. Fifteen feet long, it was a box in which models lounged as guests checked in and navigated the lobby.

After a successful and impactful run of over a decade, the Standard Hollywood closed its doors at the start of 2022. While that meant the brand left California completely, the Standard operates seven properties across the globe, with plans for more standard Standards to come.

The StandardX hotels will take a minimalist approach while maximizing the Standard’s view on hospitality.

“This was an opportunity to return to raw, unbridled simplicity that was accessible to the next generation traveler looking to experience a city through the lens of The Standard brand,” said Standard International’s CEO, Amber Asher, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.

Considering how the Standard brand is associated with all things cool, it’s no surprise that their first foray into Australia is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

Position, Position, Position

Yes, I know the maxim is, “Location, location, location.” Well, I’m being clever. See? See how clever I am? Am I cool yet?

Clearly, the Standard has put in the work to be positioned as one of the coolest brands in the hospitality, accommodation, travel, and leisure spaces.

So, it makes sense that they’ve done their homework and designed a brand and selected a location in keeping with that position.

We can argue whether or not being deemed “cool” makes or breaks your status as cool some other time. The fact is, Fitzroy is considered more than just one of the coolest neighborhoods in Victoria. It’s held up as more than just one of the coolest neighborhoods in Australia. Fitzroy is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

The neighborhood is celebrated for its eclectic nature, local pubs, fantastic indie restaurants and boutiques, and killer nightlife. So, again, the StandardX making its debut there is fitting.

Characterized by 125 minimalist rooms, “cultural programming,” and compelling F&B, the StandardX Melbourne is clearly on a mission to establish itself as the coolest of the cool hotels in Australia.

Two F&B venues, BANG and the Roof, will serve up Thai-inspired dishes and “authentic Mexican,” with the latter accessible only to guests. That exclusivity and of itself will likely make the Roof a sought-after nightlife destination in short order.

Oh, and The Box is back. In a nod to a design feature and installation that separated the Standard from the rest, The Box is the property’s retail venue.

After Melbourne, StandardX is aiming to position itself in Bangkok, with Brooklyn and Austin to follow. Look at where the brand is headed and one thing is clear: their chasing the coolest scenes.

Image: Jen Theodore on Unsplash

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The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns

The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns for 2024

by David Klemt

ITALICUS bottle surrounded by citrus fruits

Your bar team members have the opportunity to participate in the sixth-annual Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge and win an invaluable prize.

There are multiple prizes, really. For example, national finals winners take the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist for their country, for 2024. They also walk away with a ticket to the global finals, which take place in Rome.

After the global finals, one winner will earn the title ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024. However, taking nothing away from this title, there’s another prize that I feel should drive every competitor to truly outshine their competition.

The ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year will head to the incredible Cafe La Trova in Miami to participate in a mentorship program. Given that Julio Cabrera is such an influential member of the hospitality world, this prize represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Now, as an operator or leadership team member, you may wonder what this news has to do with you. It’s simple: Encouraging your bartenders to participate in this competition and others like it shows you care about their career progression.

Bar team members who want to take part in competitions get to show off their creativity to a wider audience, become known to brands, and network with peers outside of their local communities. They can also discover and bring back tips, techniques, and lessons to your bar, restaurant, nightclub, or hotel.

In this case, one bartender will return to their bar or restaurant with lessons from the Cafe La Trova team. That’s priceless insight that will benefit their entire team.

For crucial competition details, please read the Art of the ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge press release below.

Good luck to all of the participants!


New York, NY (January 9, 2024) – Today, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge returns for its sixth edition, inviting bartenders from around the world to create an original and unique aperitivo cocktail inspired by any form of art and crafted using ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto.

The Winner of the renowned industry challenge will be crowned ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 and win a trip to Miami for a once in a lifetime mentorship program with Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. Nominated in 2023 as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars, Cafe La Trova is the true embodiment of hospitality, welcoming guests with impeccable warmth, attention to detail and service, crafting a truly memorable experience for anyone who visits. The “cantinero culture,” which is synonymous with the venue, embraces the most important values of the cocktail industry, making it the perfect inspiration for the new Art of Italicus participants. As part of the prize, the 2024 ITALICUS Bar Artist will have the opportunity to experience what makes this bar truly special and discover one of the most vibrant art cultures in Miami’s iconic surroundings.

Reflecting the brand’s passion for Italian art and design, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge is built on the belief that bartenders are artists and offers them the opportunity to expand their creativity whilst experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and glassware to showcase the versatility of ITALICUS. Each recipe must be in an aperitivo style and can be inspired by any form of art such as sculpture, painting, fashion, music, architecture and much more.

The competition will welcome entrants from 13 countries including Croatia/Slovenia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Swiss, United Kingdom and the United States. Bartenders from other countries will be able to apply through a Wild Card entry, offering them the opportunity to win a spot at the global final in May in Rome.

Giuseppe Gallo, founder and CEO of ITALICUS, comments:

“Now in its sixth year, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge celebrates aperitivo culture while encouraging bartenders to express their creativity, looking to art in its various forms as way of inspiration. Meeting with the industry’s emerging talent through this program gives me a great deal of pride and is something I hope continues for many years as a way of keeping our community connected, working together and empowering one another.”

The 2024 Competition

Competitors are tasked with creating an original aperitivo cocktail using a minimum of 40ml (1.5oz in US) of ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto and a maximum of five ingredients. Participating bartenders must upload their unique recipe alongside an image of their creation including measurements, garnishes and glassware recommendations to the competition website before February 20, 2024 in order to be in with a chance of winning. Competitors are also required to share their inspiration and the story behind their aperitivo cocktail and encouraged to suggest food pairings for their recipe.

Applications for The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge 2024 will be open from January 9 through February 20. Recipes can be submitted via the website:

Entrants are also encouraged to share their creations on social media ahead of the competition, using the following hashtags: #ITALICUS #ROSOLIODIBERGAMOTTO #ARTOFITALICUS #AOI24

National Finals

The national finals will take place throughout March and April (March 4 – April 12) where the eight shortlisted bartenders will present their cocktail creation to the judging panel across eight minutes and including at least three serves. The winner of the national final will receive the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of their country 2024 along with a ticket to participate in the global final which will be held in Rome.

Global Finals

On May 12, the national finalists will compete against one another in Rome in a bid to earn the coveted title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 as well as a once in a lifetime opportunity and mentorship with one of the world’s most influential bars, Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. During the trip to Miami, the winning bartender will be accompanied by a film crew who will document their experience and create a documentary video which will later be released on social media.

For further information on The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge, please visit


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Vegas Legend Addresses F1 Impact

Legendary Las Vegas Restaurateur Addresses F1 Impact

by David Klemt

Red vintage model race car against black background

As much as I dislike the cliched slogan, what happened behind the scenes in Las Vegas during last year’s Formula 1 race is absolutely not staying in Las Vegas.

Legendary restaurant owner Gino Ferraro has written an open letter exposing the negative impact F1 had on the city’s small business owners and locals.

While the Ferraro family’s restaurant story doesn’t start in 1985, that’s when the doors to their first location opened. Since then, the Ferraro family and their team have opened and closed restaurants throughout the city.

Their Ferraro’s Ristorante flagship has been located at the intersection of Paradise Road and East Harmon Avenue since 2009. This location is directly across from the Virgin resort and casino.

The iconic restaurant, revered for its authentic Italian food and incredible wine list, was directly impacted by F1. Roads needed to be improved, which meant snarled traffic and drops in traffic for operators of all manner of Las Vegas businesses.

In his letter, Ferraro claims that “Las Vegas was crippled for nine months,” and that the restaurant on Paradise lost more than $2 million in revenue as a result. Further, he states in the letter that his employees lost 20 percent of their pay in comparison to the same time in 2022.


Below, the nearly viral letter, transcribed as presented:

F-1 Las Vegas Disaster

Gino Ferraro

4480 Paradise Rd Suite # 200

Las Vegas, NV 89169


Having a restaurant or any business on the tourist corridor is no longer a positive experience. Through the construction for F-1, Las Vegas was crippled for nine months. Over this period, we had thousands of tourists and locals complaining about the traffic, as well as the increased cost of cabs and Uber rides. Customer’s shared fare receipts of over $100 for a mile ride from the strip, where it took over an hour to get to their destination.

We heard from countless tourists that they will not return to Vegas during that time of the year, not to mention many locals said they will not return to the strip until all this mess is over. This not only hurt our business immensely, but many surrounding local businesses were also negatively affected as well. We at Ferraro’s have lost an excess of 2 million dollars in revenue. It begs to bring up the question, how can our Las Vegas leadership allow that to happen, local businesses struggling and suffering all for a 3-4-day event. Who profited? A few hotels, it doesn’t make sense. How do we know what the ROI is with all the money that was spent to destroy the Strip, its surroundings, and ultimately people’s lives! We employ close to 80 people and their pay was 20 percent less than last year. Who will reimburse Ferraro’s and our staff?

In speaking to other people and hearing their opinions, the track should have been built somewhere else away from the Strip. The Strip and Vegas will always get exposure no matter where the event takes place. It doesn’t make sense to tear up the Strip and surroundings to resemble a carnival. To add fuel to the fire, Las Vegas leaders have approved another 81 road upgrades. This means more traffic delays, and Uber and cab drivers not wanting to work in these areas, because it’s impossible to navigate.

I could go on for hours on the negative impact this event has created for all Las Vegas residents and our tourists. I strongly believe we need to rethink the strategy on how we can accommodate our visitors prior to the race and during. We can’t destroy the city for on weekend.

Thank you ~

Gino Ferraro

Ferraro’s Ristorante


For a variety of reasons, operators are often wary of criticizing city leaders publicly.

As an example, when someone opens multiple concepts and locations throughout a city, they get to know local lawmakers. Obviously, blasting their decisions in an open letter and calling their motivations into question can be risky.

So, when a respected operator uses their voice to call for change, it can be powerful.

This situation could’ve been handled quietly. Ferraro could’ve sent emails. He could’ve had private calls to politicians, perhaps an in-person meeting or two.

Instead, Ferraro sent his letter to Nevada’s governor, county officials, tourism leaders, and other state politicians.

Now, I can’t speak to the accuracy of Ferraro’s claims. I don’t how much F1 impacted the restaurant’s staff and revenue.

But I do know Ferraro was willing to confront decision makers about how he believes small business owners were negatively impacted during a massive event.

Will this lead to change? To use another cliche, only time will tell.

Image: Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

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

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2024 500-point Start-up Checklist

2024 KRG Hospitality 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist

by David Klemt

KRG Hospitality 2024 Bar & Restaurant 500-point Start-up Checklist

Opening a bar or restaurant is a daunting undertaking, with projects requiring the completion of 500 unique tasks within four phases before welcoming guests.

It takes strategic clarity along with a strong supportive team around you to ensure your dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare. To help you get ahead and start 2024 with the strongest opportunity for success, we’re giving you access to a number of free resources.

First, our 2024 Bar & Restaurant Start-up Costs Guide. If you haven’t already, download this informative guide today. And now, our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist.

KRG Hospitality’s feasibility studies, concept and brand development, and programming are unique and customized to every client. However, the journey from idea to grand opening is a well-worn path dotted by hundreds of waypoints.

There’s a reason we call our project plans Roadmaps to Success: we’re here to help guide our clients to and through each point on the map.

Below you’ll find 32—only six percent—of the 500 unique tasks we at KRG believe you must complete before your grand opening. Just these tasks alone should provide an idea of the enormity that is taking your concept from idea to brick and mortar.

To download your free copy of our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist, click here. As you’ll see once you open this checklist, it’s interactive. You can easily check off items as you complete them, and the document will save your progress.

Opening a bar or restaurant is challenging. We’re here to help make it easier.

Planning Phase


  • Mindset assessment
  • Support network assessment

Feasibility Study

  • Market viability study
  • Technical viability study

Brand Strategy

  • Vision statemet
  • Frame of reference

Tech-stack Plan

  • Service technology plan
  • Payment processing technology

Project Set-up Phase

Job Scopes for Project

  • Landlord presentation
  • Equipment vendor presentation

Project Support Team Plan

  • Industry consultant
  • Legal Advisor

Menu Testing

  • Final flavor profile creation
  • Theoretical costing, food

Interior Design

  • Final choice in furniture
  • Final choice for millwork design

Operational Set-up Phase

Operational Vendors

  • Bar and kitchen smallware vendor
  • Refrigeration tech vendor
  • Hood cleaning vendor
  • Grease trap cleaning vendor

SOP Procedures/System

  • Finalize hourly operations plan
  • Application forms
  • Food safety quiz
  • Leadership team manual

Launch Phase

Marketing Execution

  • Creation of media package
  • Search engine optimization

Tech-stack execution

  • Point-of-sale systems
  • Menu management systems

Team Onboarding

  • Leadership team onboard
  • Team-building exercises

Soft Opening

  • Menu timing
  • Menu feedback

To download your free copy of our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist, click here now!

Image: KRG Hospitality

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

WhistlePig Launches Dank January

WhistlePig Launches Dank January

by David Klemt

WhistlePig Dank Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail

You’ve heard of Dry January but WhistlePig Whiskey wants to usher in Dank January, and they’re giving back to bartenders to make it happen.

The craft whiskey producer, a finalist in the second annual Liquor Awards for Sustainable Producer of the Year, has released a head-turning new alcohol-free expression.

Already sold out at the time of publication, the limited edition Dank & Dry Old Fashioned promises a unique drinking experience. Luckily, we secured our Hot Box Bundle (information below) prior to this terpene-supercharged bottle selling out.

This eccentric bottle features reverse-distilled WhistlePig Piggyback Rye, which becomes Rye Non-Whiskey. WhistlePig blended the alcohol-free non-whiskey with barrel-aged maple syrup. Of course, that in and of itself would make for a fantastic bottled craft cocktail. However, its another ingredient that really stands out.

WhistlePig added what they’re calling Old Fashioned Terpenes to the non-whiskey and syrup. These terpenes were cultivated from cannabis that had been grown in whiskey barrels. To create the Old Fashioned Terpenes, the terpenes from the barrel-grown cannabis were isolated by Satori Premium Cannabis, a producer located in Vermont.

Before anyone rushes to any conclusions, no, Dank & Dry won’t get you high. Terpenes are aromatic compounds, not psychoactive. So, this limited edition bottled cocktail won’t get you drunk, high, or otherwise buzzed.

What it will do, I suspect, is deliver a truly unique flavor experience. I’ll report back with my thoughts after it arrives and I get to sit with it for a bit.

This bottle is also helping bartenders as 100-percent of Dank & Dry proceeds are set to go to Turning Tables. With any luck, WhistlePig will be inspired to bring this bottle back for every Dry (or Dank) January going forward.

Dank January is the New Dry January with WhistlePig’s Non-Alc, Terpene Maple Old Fashioned

World’s First Dank & Dry Cocktail Puff-Puff-Passes 100% of Proceeds to Bartenders

SHOREHAM, Vt.–WhistlePig Whiskey, the leader in independent craft whiskey, is highjacking Dry January with a Limited Edition Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail. Known for pushing the boundaries of whiskey making to craft the world’s best and most interesting whiskeys, WhistlePig is elevating the non-alcoholic cocktail experience with the addition of non-psychoactive cannabis terpenes to its signature Barrel Aged Maple Old Fashioned recipe. 100% of the proceeds of this Dank January Limited Edition will benefit the bartending community.

Crafted with 100% Rye Non-Whiskey, Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup and Vermont Cannabis Terpenes, the new terps non-alc is a salad bowl of superior ingredients never-before-seen in a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned. WhistlePig’s reverse distilled PiggyBack Rye ‘Non-Whiskey’ is balanced with Barrel-Aged Maple and locally sourced Old Fashioned Terpenes for a chronic non-alc cocktail experience. The non-psychoactive terpenes were cultivated from cannabis grown in whiskey barrels, and isolated by Satori Premium Cannabis in the Green Mountain State.

“At the intersection of non-alc and cannabis trends, terpenes offer a new frontier for flavor that we couldn’t resist experimenting with,” said Meghan Ireland, WhistlePig Head Blender. “The results are fire, with terpenes adding aromas and mouthfeel that are often missing from non-alc innovation. Whether you’re still walking the hog, enjoying the electric lettuce, or abstaining altogether, WhistlePig fans do not have to miss out on a great tasting Old Fashioned this January.”

WhistlePig’s Dank & Dry Old Fashioned Cocktail is available as both a ‘One Hitter’ (single 750ml bottle) for $49.99 MSRP or in the ‘Hot Box Bundle’ with the addition of a pig-shaped cocktail smoker and ‘dime baggie’ of cocktail smoking chips for $64.20 MSRP. Each bottle is presented in a Reefer Madness inspired gift box emblazoned with WhistlePig’s original logo (since retired) with the pig wielding a left-hoof-cigarette.

As a toke-n of thanks for bartenders who work their tails off during the holiday season only to be left high and dry in January, WhistlePig is puff-puff-passing 100% of Dank & Dry Old Fashioned proceeds to bartenders through Turning Tables, a New Orleans based non-profit whose vision is to cultivate leadership, create real opportunity and change the face of hospitality by establishing a model and standard for equitable access for the Black & Brown hospitality community of New Orleans.

WhistlePig Dank & Dry Old Fashioned is available online while supplies last.

To learn more about WhistlePig Whiskey, visit You can also check out WhistlePig Whiskey on Facebook, X and Instagram.

About WhistlePig Whiskey

Located off the grid on a 500-acre Vermont farm, WhistlePig Whiskey is crafted by a new generation of whiskey distillers and blenders driven to reinvent and unlock the flavor of Rye whiskey. Through their rebellious pursuit of experimenting and pushing boundaries in the industry, WhistlePig has become the leading independent craft whiskey brand for innovation. WhistlePig is committed to becoming the best whiskey on and for the planet, starting with its locally sourced ingredients and sustainable supply chain and distilling process. For more information, head to

About Turning Tables

Turning Tables was launched in 2019 by industry leaders and mentors who found a thirst for community and opportunity among Black and Brown hospitality professionals looking to take their careers to the next level. The Turning Tables 12-week intensive program connects each cohort of individuals with a foundation in spirits, cocktail and wine knowledge with access to career pathways within the three tier system, restaurant and bar management, trade advocacy, marketing, and hospitality leadership. Their process is both experiential and classroom-oriented. They partner with employers, brands and like-minded individuals who recognize pervasive racism and inequity in the industry and want to join them in challenging it.

Image: WhistlePig Whiskey

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Can It? NA Canned Cocktail Performance

Can It? Zero-proof Canned Cocktail Performance

by David Klemt

Moth Margarita canned cocktails stacked on a black, wood table

Veylinx, a behavioral research platform trusted by some of the world’s biggest brands, has turned their attention alcohol-free canned cocktails for a recent study.

They’ve researched demand for non-alcohol before. In fact, you can find our analysis of their 2022 study here. We’ve also covered their look into the effectiveness of Super Bowl ads.

For their latest study, consumer demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails, Veylinx showed how seriously they take research and methodology.

Conducted between November and December of 2023, the platform created a fictional canned cocktail brand, Elixir. This was done to account for brand bias.

Further, the “brand” produced two benchmark products—alcohol and alcohol-free—and four variations. These non-alcoholic variants offered four different benefits: CBD, mood boost, zero-calorie, and natural detox.

All participants were 21 or older:

  • 21 to 25
  • 26 to 35
  • 36 to 45
  • 46 to 55
  • 56 to 65
  • Older than 65

Half of the study identified as male, and the other half as female. Most, 73 percent, were alcohol drinkers, while 27 percent were not.

For the study, Veylinx had each participant, 410 in total, bid on the six Elixir products with their own money. The bidding took place in randomized, sequential auction.

After the auction, the participants completed a questionnaire. The following is a sample question:

“What would be the main reasons for you NOT to buy non-alcoholic beverages? Please select all that apply.”

Possible answers to that question were: Limited availability, Limited variety, Flavor, and/or Other.

With methodology explained, let’s check out the results.

Canned Cocktails by the Numbers

While demand for non-alcohol canned cocktails appears to be growing, their counterparts remain most popular.

Per Veylinx, demand for Elixir’s alcoholic canned cocktails surged by 20 percent in their study. In comparison, average demand for the fictional brand’s non-alcoholic benchmark and variants canned cocktails increased by four percent.

Further, the full-proof and zero-proof CBD products garnered the most interest. The alcoholic version saw an uplift of seven percent, and CBD saw a three-percent uplift. Consumers showed the least interest in non-alcohol, zero-calorie variants.

Comparing 2022 to 2023, demand for “standard” alcohol-free canned cocktails is up 14 percent. This is followed by the CBD variant with four-percent growth in consumer demand. Next, non-alcoholic canned cocktails with a “mood-boosting” benefit, which grew by two percent. Natural detox saw an increase in demand of just one percent. And consumer demand for zero-calorie, zero-alcohol canned cocktails fell by one percent.

So, today’s consumer, at least according to research conducted by Veylinx, is most interested in alcoholic canned cocktails. Still, there’s growing interest in alcohol-free canned cocktails, something for operators to keep in mind.

Changes in Behavior

Speaking of interest in zero-proof, Veylinx uncovered some other interesting information.

In 2022, around 56 percent of consumers expressed interest reducing their alcohol consumption. That number fell by 18 percent to 38 percent in 2023. That’s still a significant percentage of consumers looking to make a big change in their lives.

Forty-one percent of consumers aged 21 to 35 are trying to reduce their alcohol intake. That number drops slightly to 36 percent for those aged 36 and older.

Veylinx also found that half of consumers would drink less alcohol if one simple change took place. All it would take is better-quality, non-alcohol versions at better prices to hit the market.

In fact, per Veylinx, consumers cited flavor and price as the two top influences on their decision to consume zero-proof canned cocktails. So far, energy drinks are the go-to for most consumers trying to drink less alcohol.

If they’re smart, brands with an interest in producing successful non-alcohol canned cocktails will work to improve costs, flavors, and health benefits, if this Veylinx study is taken to heart.

To review this study in its entirety yourself, click here. The press release for the study is below.

The Year of Canned Cocktails: Consumer Demand Increases for Non-Alcholic and Alcoholic Variations

NEW YORK, December 20, 2023 —  According to a new, year-over-year study from behavioral research platform Veylinx, consumer demand is increasing for both non-alcoholic and alcoholic canned cocktails. Using Veylinx’s proprietary methodology—which measures actual demand rather than intent— the study found that demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails grew by 4%, while demand for alcoholic canned cocktails surged by 20% over last year.   

While interest remains strong for non-alcoholic alternatives, the percentage of people trying to reduce their alcohol consumption fell by 18%, to 38%. This decline from 2022 could lead to lower participation in abstinence events like Dry January. 

Half of respondents claimed they would drink less alcohol if better non-alcoholic alternatives were available, showing opportunity for yet more innovation in the beverage sector. Those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption are 50% more interested in non-alcoholic cocktails.

In 2022, “Never tried before,” was the top reason consumers gave for not buying canned non-alcoholic beverages. That is no longer the case in 2023, suggesting that non-alcoholic canned cocktails increased their market penetration over the last year. Flavor and price are now the primary reasons people don’t buy non-alcoholic cocktails.

“Even with fewer people trying to reduce their alcohol consumption, demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails continues to grow,” said Veylinx founder and CEO Anouar El Haji. “Drinkers and non-drinkers alike are receptive to ready-to-drink alternatives that are better for their health and wallets.”

The study also measured demand for non-alcoholic cocktails enhanced with functional benefits like mood boosters, detoxifiers and CBD. Demand for the standard non-alcoholic version increased 14% from last year, while the enhanced variations increased only slightly and the zero-calorie version fell by 1%. This suggests consumers might be losing interest in what they perceive as marketing gimmicks. The CBD version saw a 4% increase in demand, remaining the most popular non-alcoholic variation. 

Additional key findings: 

  • The optimal price for non-alcoholic canned cocktails that maximizes revenue for brands is $12 for a four-pack

  • The brands consumers have tried the most are: 1) Mocktail Club, 2) Wild Tonic, 3) Spiritless, 4) DRY,  and 5) Hella Cocktail Co

  • 44% of people expressed support for an additional 10% tax on alcohol as a public health measure for reducing consumption 

  • For those aiming to drink less alcohol by replacing it with other beverages, energy drinks experienced the greatest increase in popularity

  • Physical Health and Cost are the two most popular reasons for reducing alcohol consumption

  • Grocery stores are the most popular place to buy non-alcoholic canned cocktails

  • Flavor options have the most influence on which brand consumers choose

  • A lower price would convince 20% of consumers to buy more non-alcoholic cocktails

To download more detailed results from the 2023 Non-Alcoholic Canned Cocktail study or for more information about Veylinx, visit

About the research 

Unlike typical surveys where consumers are simply asked about their preferences, Veylinx uses behavioral research to reveal how much consumers will pay for a product through a real bidding process. Consumers reveal their true willingness to pay by placing sealed bids on products and then answering follow-up questions about their reasons to buy or not to buy. The research was conducted in November and December 2023 among U.S. consumers ages 21 and over. It is a follow-up to a similar study Veylinx conducted in October 2022. The 2022 study can be found at

Image: Ambitious Studio* – Rick Barrett on Unsplash

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

HM Makes 2024 Culinary Predictions

Hotel Management Makes 2024 Culinary Predictions

by David Klemt

Tartare of mushrooms on a plate

Two weeks before we rang in 2024, Hotel Management revealed a handful of compelling culinary predictions for the new year.

Of course, time will tell if these are accurate. After all, it’s just January 5. Still, they’re all worth a look.

One in particular stands out from the rest, at least for me. You’ll find that prediction at the bottom of this article.

Alright—let’s dive in!

Streamlining Menus

Perhaps it’s a validation of the fallacy of choice. Maybe it’s that people are overwhelmed and want to make less decisions.

Either way, Hotel Management thinks operators will offer fewer choices to improve the guest experience.

That may sound nonsensical to some operators. Shrinking the menu to enhance a person’s enjoyment?

However, there’s more nuance than simply eliminating items. Indeed, Hotel Management points to focusing on local, seasonal ingredients to create curated menus.

Further, a smaller menu allows the kitchen team to innovate, develop their skills, and truly build impressive dishes.

There’s also, of course, the benefit of lowered costs. This is particularly true for operators who embrace the art of the cross-utilization of ingredients.

Don’t Hassle Me, I’m Local

Sourcing and highlighting local ingredients is mainstream at this point. At least in my opinion, it has gone from fad to trend and become a staple of successful operation.

That doesn’t make it any less important, of course. In fact, it appears more important than ever.

Guests want to connect with the restaurants and bars they visit. One effective method of making this connection is to offer a true taste of location.

Utilizing local ingredients—even better if they’re unique to the area—also supports the community. Fostering connections with guests, producers and other small businesses is a win-win-win.

Shroom, Shroom

It makes sense that when some people read or hear the phrase “plant-based” they think of Impossible or Beyond.

However, plant-based dishes and menus just consist primarily of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, or fungi.

It’s that last one that Hotel Management thinks will have a moment in 2024.

Among the reasons for this prediction? Mushrooms absorb flavors easily, impart umami, and are versatile.

Oh, and a fun bit of trivia: While often categorized as vegetables, mushrooms are considered neither plant- or animal-based; they’re a type of fungus.

One brand embracing the culinary magic of mushrooms is Meati. I expect these products to become as well-known as Impossible, Beyond, Gardein, and Morningstar Farms.

This is the One

So, this is the prediction that jumped out at me: seacuterie.

As the name suggests, it’s charcuterie but with seafood. Simply put, you salt, smoke, and cure seafood, then present it as you would charcuterie.

Hotel Management provides three interesting examples of seacuterie that will likely grab your guests’ attention:

  • pastrami-style tuna loin;
  • octopus salami; and
  • swordfish ham.

I know that if I saw at least the salami and ham, I’d raise an eyebrow.

Now, it’s all well and good to identify seacuterie as a menu item with potential to grow in 2024. But what if you’re not sure where to start with it? Well, I dug into it to learn more and provide you with a real-world example.

Chef Aaron Black, chef de cuisine at PB Catch Seafood + Bar in Palm Beach, Florida, is a seacuterie pioneer. And it just so happens that PB Catch provides guests the opportunity to build their own seacuterie boards.

Guests can choose three seacuterie items for $24 and six for $45, with the option to add an additional item for $8. Selections include salmon pastrami, octopus torchon, and mero bass jerky.

If it fits with your concept, seacuterie should re-energize your regulars and tempt new guests to check out your restaurant.

Image: jevgeni mironov on Unsplash

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