So You Want to Open a Flair Bar…

large bar crowdThis is a must read for bar owners, managers or investors thinking about opening a flair bar. It’s also for those of you thinking about incorporating full-time flair bartenders into an existing establishment.

Opening a Flair Bar
The beauty of opening a flair bar is that it can be in almost any type of establishment you’d like. Maybe you’re a sports fanatic wanting to own a sports bar, or an upscale businessperson wanting to own a martini lounge…or even a rock star hungry for a heavy metal dive. Flair bartending can incorporate easily into each of these concepts. It’s a flexible avenue for entertainment and fits in with most any style.

The normal requirements for opening a bar, of course, include things like a business plan, financing, a build-out, and marketing. There are a few additional items to consider before adding flair bartending to your concept.

Things to Consider For A New Flair Bar:

  • Bar Staff – The most obvious difference between a regular bar and a flair bar are the bartenders. Although you could hire local bartenders and train them on some aspects of flair, it’s really best to hire professional flair bartenders. It takes many years to develop the level of entertainment and interaction flair bartenders offer, so if you want to open right (and start off with high sales), use the best talent. You can locate flair bartenders in your area by contacting us or checking into one of the flair organizations (listed on the left) for help.
  • Bar Setup – Space behind the bar definitely needs consideration. A flair bartender usually needs more space than your average bartender. Because flair usually entails juggling, tossing and catching items, height and width behind a bar are important. Ultimately, a good flair bartender can flair anywhere, but adequate space for the more complicated moves may be required.
  • Atmosphere – While flair bartending is flexible, it’s important to know that establishments like fine dining or jazz clubs may be too low key for flair to work well.  A little bit of flair can work everywhere, but there’s a difference between a little bit and a full-time flair bar. Imagine what your guests will want and cater every aspect of your bar/restaurant to this.

Incorporating Flair Bartenders Into an Existing Bar
Let’s assume you already own or manage a successful bar. And, you want to up the stakes a little by adding some flair bartenders because you know this improves alcohol sales, differentiates you from the competition and keeps customers coming back.

Things to Consider For an Existing Bar:

  • Costs – Generally flair bartenders may require more base pay than your average bartender simply because they are skilled at their profession. They work hard and perform consistently well, therefore, be prepared to pay them for this advantage. It will be worth your extra cost, because the additional dollars they bring in and the new client loyalty they provide will usually offset this investment.
  • Hiring Flair Bartenders – While flair bartenders exist all over the world, it may be tough to recruit them if you are in a more rural area. Generally, they like to work in metro markets or places where tourism is high. Truthfully, it’s because they are able to make more money where opportunity is bigger and where clientele turnover can constantly be refreshed. If you’re in a rural area and are still committed to adding flair bartending, be prepared for a lengthy hiring timeline as it may take longer to find the right flair bartenders to move to your location.
  • Inventory – The last thing to consider is your inventory. Flair bartenders use 750 ml bottles in most cases. While you may be able to get better pricing on volume purchases with liters, flair bartending will sell more alcohol to hopefully offset this cost. Consider also the space for displaying this alcohol. Whether your back bar showcases these bottles or you have special shelving, you’ll have more room to display more bottles if you use 750s versus liters.

No matter what situation you’re in, flair bartending is a valuable option for your bar. It improves sales, creates an exciting form of entertainment and increases customer loyalty for your bar or restaurant.


Educating the Anti-Flair Bartending Customer

“Heeeeeeey, Chief!…If you could get me a beer and hold the flair, I’d appreciate it!”

Angry CustomerWe’ve all met this customer. They’re obnoxious and ungrateful, not only for the hard work and entertainment provided by flair bartenders, but generally they give the same attitude to anyone in the service industry. They’re usually poor tippers and extremely demanding, requiring their needs to be put ahead of anyone else in line.

After witnessing some of these “fine” folks, we wanted to post a blog about the facts behind flair vs. the common perception, or myths flair bartending sometimes receives from this type of customer.

Fact: Flair Bartenders Generate More Sales
Let’s imagine a normal, average bartender, heck we can even say he or she has been serving customers for 10 years…a career bartender. Let’s also imagine a flair bartender, someone who’s been competing or at least honing their skills for the past five years. Now, put each of these bartenders side-by-side in a bar on the busiest night of the week. The majority of those nights the flair bartender will have high sales.

Flair bartenders entertain while they’re working, unlike an average bartender who is concentrating closely on volume and getting the next order. Because of this, a flair bartender will likely up-sell each customer with their “tricks” and “entertainment” value, thus creating a higher average ticket per customer.

Myth: Flair Bartenders Take Longer to Serve Drinks
It may seem like the guy behind the bar is wasting time by flipping a bottle into a pour, or juggling three different objects. However, because flair bartenders multi-task more than your average bartender, they’re able to do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time. Therefore, drinks are actually served faster.

It’s just as easy for a flair bartender to pour one shot as it is for him to pour 10 because they utilize techniques like a waterfall pour, for example. This is a trick where multiple tins are stacked inside each other, each with the proper shot, and poured into aligned glasses all at once. This gives flair bartenders an advantage in the amount of product they can sell without the extra physical effort.

Fact: Flair Bartenders Make More Tips
There’s a significant difference in the total amount of tips pulled when a flair bartender is working. When a flair bartender gets a crowd going with his/her show and talents, money tends to flow more readily. Most customers are appreciative of the added entertainment and this is why flair bartending generally elicits higher tips. This is especially beneficial for those bars/restaurants that tip share, or pool tips. Employees will notice when a flair bartender is working and when one isn’t.

Myth: Flair Drives Impatient Customers Away
Even with the small number of complainers, flair bartending does just the opposite: Flair creates customer loyalty. You’re always going to have customers who complain or are rude to the staff. You’re not always going to have a competitive advantage against other bars in your area. How is your bar different from theirs? You both serve alcohol and you both might serve food. What makes a customer come to your bar and not spend their money at the place down the street? You must find a unique offering that gives customers a reason to come back.

This is where flair comes in. Because flair bartending is so interactive and performance-driven, customers tend to bond with flair bartenders quickly. They want to come back and see what new moves or performance they’re going to receive. The overall energy in the bar is also at a much higher level. This again, encourages sales, but it also draws crowds. In addition, flair bartenders can curb the impatience level in a busy bar by giving customers something to watch while they wait. This results in happier, more agreeable customers for all.

Fact: Flair Bartenders Are More Accurate

Because flair bartenders constantly practice pouring techniques, test for accuracy and hone their skills at competitions, they naturally go above and beyond your average bartender. Flair bartenders make sure that what is being served is what’s actually being collected in sales. Our post on pouring goes into great detail of how much money is at stake if your bartenders aren’t accurate.

Hopefully this sheds more light on the benefits behind flair bartending. If not, drop us a line, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts and perceptions about flair…good, bad or indifferent.

We’ll end this week’s post with the 2009 Flair Club Trailer. Special thanks to the International Bartender Center for providing the footage.


Pouring 101: The Best Way to Decrease Alcohol Loss

pourFlair bartending isn’t just about impressing customers with fancy tricks, it’s also about refining the skills needed to make, or in this post, save money for a bar owner.

If bartenders can’t pour accurately, a bar will lose money. You may think – “ehhh, a long pour here and a small spill there isn’t that big of a deal.” But, what if your bar employs six or seven bartenders and they all do this? What if none of them are accurate at pouring alcohol? What is this costing the bar owner?

To give you an idea of the true expense, let’s break down an example using real numbers. An inexpensive, or “house” bottle of vodka runs around $6 in cost to a bar. There are approximately 30 shots in a bottle. Depending on the location, most bars use an ounce & a quarter of alcohol per mixed drink. Therefore, if we take the bar’s price per shot and multiply this by 30, the result is the revenue (or sales) generated for that bottle. If we subtract the $6 cost from that revenue, we obviously get the profit a bar makes from that one bottle.

Let’s also assume that the bartenders, on average, are over-pouring by a quarter of an ounce per shot of liquor. In total, this then equals a shocking statistic: approximately 1/5 of that bottle’s revenue is never collected. 1/5 of the inventory is gone without ever receiving any money for it. This is just on one bottle with one bartender! Now we’re getting somewhere. Can you start to see how this quickly adds up? Furthermore, Vodka is the most popular alcohol for mixed drinks, and bartenders can easily pour two to three bottles a night. One bartender could easily lose $200 a night by over-pouring (or spilling) a measly 1/4 of an ounce of alcohol per drink. Take $200 and multiply that by seven bartenders, and a bar can be short a whopping $1,400 in sales on a few cheap bottles of vodka!

The most important thing a manager or owner needs to know when monitoring alcohol loss is how to pour. If a bar owner knows the skill of pouring accurately, they may then watch bartenders and monitor loss from across a room. They will also be able to continuously train their staff. This is tremendously helpful if a bar doesn’t employ a flair bartender who can teach the rest of the staff this required element to keeping alcohol loss in check.

Pouring Basics

  1. Don’t pour from anywhere except the neck of a bottle. This is where all the money is coming from! This is how a bartender controls the pouring with the most accurate grip.
  2. The key to pouring accurately is the count. We estimate that every one count is a quarter of an ounce…so if a bartender can count to 5, that’s 1.25 ounces….the ideal amount. In addition, the pace at which a bartender counts is really the heart of pouring accuracy.
  3. Know the drink you’re pouring, and adjust your counts accordingly. For example, when pouring a Long Island (a drink that requires two ounces of alcohol), a bartender will pour four liquor bottles at once, thus they should only be counting to two. A two-count is necessary in this case because if one count is equal to 0.25 oz, then 2 oz = 0.25 oz x 4 bottles. Each drink can be different, depending on the recipe and amounts required.
  4. Use the skill of “cutting” to cleanly shut off the flow of alcohol with each pour. Cuts allow a flair bartender to not only shut off the flow of alcohol, but add a bit of showmanship at the same time. There are about 11 different ways to cut alcohol. We won’t got into a lot of the details in this post, but a few of the most popular cuts are the bounce, standard twist, forward twist, wrist snap, backward draw and the forward draw.
  5. When watching a bartender pour, the important thing is to watch their alcohol stream, not their hand. A bar owner can then monitor when the alcohol stops.
  6. We recommend using Spill Stop’s 285-50 metal pour spout. We don’t endorse Spill Stop because we’re getting any advertising money from them. We recommend this brand because it really is the best. The plastic pour spouts are cheaper, but are not as accurate. Metal is the way to go! Don’t believe us? Take two equal bottles of water, attach the Spill Stop brand to one, and attach a generic metal pour spout to the other. The competing brand will almost always pour faster and remain inconsistent with each pour…therefore, bartenders will be less accurate.
  7. Test bartenders regularly. Testing is mandatory to keep bartenders at their best. A bar manager or owner can use tools like a Pour Check, an Exacto Pour or the Fast Tender (from Flairco) to measure pours and accuracy consistently among bartending staff. Most competitive flair bartenders are judged on pouring. In addition, many professional flair bartenders perform level-testing to determine rates of pay based on accuracy and knowledge in this area. This is most common in casinos, especially in Las Vegas.
  8. Don’t just practice pouring – use it regularly. It’s important bartenders not only learn how to pour, but continue to use it on a daily basis while serving customers. After all, just because a bartender can pass a pour test, doesn’t always mean he/she is accurate on the job. Monitoring bartenders during their shift will ensure bad habits don’t resurface.

Need Help or Own a Bar?
Contact us – we’ll be happy to recommend a professional flair bartender in your area to test your entire staff in one day and provide detailed coaching and training. Most likely the money a bar owner invests in this training comes back to them in cost savings within one-two weeks due to improved pouring accuracy.