Fred Sirieix's Art of Service – How to run a bar

28 July 2011
Fred Sirieix's Art of Service – How to run a bar

To run a bar or nightclub successfully, believes Fred Sirieix, you need an organised and efficient approach combined with a fun, less formal service

In comparison to restaurants, the operation of a bar may seem straightforward. After all, in a bar the main focus is on drinks, many of which come straight from a bottle. However, from my own experience I have learned that bars are hugely complex operations and much more difficult to run, control or tame than restaurants. Indeed restaurants have a more structured way about them whereas bars can be much more random and chaotic due to their very nature, the staff and the clientele.

Bars and nightclubs can be very successful and popular with guests as well as hugely profitable when run by professionals. To run bars or nightclubs well, operators must first understand their beast and combine an organised and structured approach with a more relaxed, fun, but at the same time efficient service. Bars and nightclub operators must bear in mind what their customers expect and why they visit in the first place. Indeed, the social significance of being in one particular bar or nightclub has as much importance, if not more, as the atmosphere, location or the design of the venue.

But guests always want to feel like kings and be treated as such, so a system must be in place to deliver consistently and continuously good service and hospitality.

Selecting the right team and creating the desired culture within the bar is vital. It is a simple yet difficult undertaking. It is about finding happy, charming people who enjoy what they do and the people they meet in what can be a fast paced, pressurised environment.

Bar staff are generally reluctant to train or follow an agreed system - evoking the fast, nonstop nature of the business as well as lack of time - while some operators won't invest in substantial training programmes as almost only drinks are served and anyone can or will do the job to the minimum standard.

This is of course a grave misconception as training - including product knowledge and customer service - and a clear, simple system can engender professional service, which is what guests really want. This is also what businesses want, as operations will run more smoothly and costs will be better controlled.

Staff must be able to read guests and situations well and use their wit, personality, charm, experience and product knowledge to add value to the service and experience.

Bars are great businesses on their own, but when attached to a restaurant they can contribute to the smoother running of the overall operation. For example, during a busy service I like to direct guests to the bar for an aperitif to give the kitchen breathing time between tables. Equally, after lunch or dinner many guests like to relax in the bar.

As bars tend to be busier than restaurants at slightly different times, it makes commercial and strategic sense to ensure the cross training of bar and restaurant staff. If a restaurant is a little quiet just before dinner service but the bar is bustling with drinkers, it makes more sense to transfer a trained waiter to the bar for the time of the rush than to employ an extra member of staff for what may only be an hour. Similarly, the bar business may die down earlier and a trained member of the bar staff may be transferred to help out in the restaurant.

While this sounds simple, it relies on the creation of a team spirit and shared vision within the business to ensure all staff understand how and why these staff movements occur during service. This bar/restaurant collaboration and cross exposure will only raise the bar and strengthen your operations and business for the benefits of guests.


â- Understand your market, location and the trends.
â- Be aware of what the competition does and how they do it.
â- Source and work with suppliers that believe in quality and who understand the meaning of partnership.
â- Engage your staff with your vision, what you want to be and achieve. Ask them for help to write the list.
â- Understand your operational capabilities and limitations (ie, storage, design, etc…).
â- Concentrate on what you know best and are good at (for example, if you're passionate about vodka, you may want to focus on vodka).
â- Think price - consider the costs, the margins and the price paid by guests. Is your list priced according to what the guests are prepared to pay? Conduct a competition price audit.
â- Think training - does your team possess the required product knowledge? Who will deliver the training and when? How often will you have to run courses/training sessions?
â- Quality audit. Once in place, monitor and control overall quality by running a regular mystery shopper to assess the performance and delivery.

The Art of Service training board game is made up of two parts. Part one, the Pairing Game, is about conveying the vision, mission, values and objectives of the business as well as the 10 Golden Rules of service. Ultimately it aims to create a sense of ownership and a high performance culture within your restaurant. Part two, the Restaurant Game, is about the customer journey. Players follow the classic guest journey, beginning in Reservations and progressing through the Reception, the Bar and finally the Restaurant.

The Academy of Food and Wine Service (AFWS) is the professional body for front-of-house service. Offering advice and training, it is dedicated to promoting food and beverage service as a viable career choice and raising standards across the industry." target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">

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