Laura Roscioli: At Eau de Vie Melbourne, hosting is about managing expectations

“Who they’re with as well makes a massive difference,” says Laura Roscioli, “because if they’re friends with whisky snobs or drink connoisseur, they can be very like ‘Oh, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.'”

You’ll find Laura Roscioli most nights either working the door at Eau de Vie Melbourne, or walking the floor and and demystifying the bar’s cocktail menu for guests.  When we put the call out for bar hosts with the most on social media, Roscioli came through highly recommended (by some highly commendable people). Here, she talks about how she goes about her role, and tells us that most guests, well, they just need some encouragement.

As told to Sam Bygrave

I’ve been working in hospitality for about seven years, but I’m from Adelaide originally. In Adelaide I worked in restaurants, but it was very much a casual situation; I moved to Melbourne three years ago, and I’ve been working at Eau de Vie now for two years.

When I first started [at Eau de Vie] I was mostly hosting. There’s usually a line on the weekends and you have bookings as well, so you have to go through the line and make sure no-one has got a booking so they don’t get upset when they get to the door. And you have to explain the process of waiting in line to everyone else that’s there.

Essentially it’s one in, one out. We have a licence that makes sure that everyone is sitting down at all times; we use liquid nitrogen and fire and it’s pretty dangerous if people are walking around. But also, the bar — once it’s full it’s really small, and we’re carrying around 10 drinks at a time so it’s better if people are still.

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Usually we’ve got one section in the middle [of the bar] that’s relatively fast, where people come in for one drink and leave; so we say that usually you don’t have to wait longer than 15 or 20 minutes. And I’ll keep coming back to keep you updated, so people are okay about it.

Then I started working more on the floor and the door, because the managers do like to work on the door because it gives them more control over who is sitting where, they know what bookings are coming in and that sort of stuff. I still work on the door once a week, but mostly it’s on the floor — I float around and make people happy.

It’s hard to explain concisely: it’s a bar for people who love whisky; it’s a bar for people who know a lot about cocktails and it’s a bar for somebody who wants to try something new; it’s a bar for people who don’t normally drink cocktails and want to give it a go; it’s a bar for people who love taking Instagram photos; it’s a bar for tourists — they love it — a lot of people we have here have been returning for five or six years. It’s an occasion bar. It’s not really a stumble upon kind of place.

I genuinely think that [the most important thing] is making people feel not intimidated. I have to remember the first time I cam in here, I might have been just 18 — I came to Melbourne instead of schoolies. It was Victor Harbor or Melbourne. I came here with my best friend, and we went to all the nice bars — we were obsessed with old films, so we went to The Everleigh, to Eau de Vie, and those kind of places. We came here, and it was overwhelming. You come in and someone is using the trolley that has liquid nitrogen on it, it looks like you’ve just walked onto some kind of theatre production, all the bartenders are beautifully well-dressed, everyone speaks very eloquently, a lot of people have accents because they’re not from here, you get a drink with like fairy floss on top of it — you get a menu which is like a novel and it’s beautiful, but also it can be intimidating. Because clearly everyone knows what they’re doing. You’re not in a place that’s familiar. 

Sometimes people need a little encouraging, because they’ll be like, “Oh, I’ll just have a GIn & Tonic,” and it’s like, no no. You don’t have to worry about me thinking you’re stupid or anyone else, you can ask a question, say something that you like and we’ll give you something good.

It really depends on the person. I usually just gauge what they’re like. Who they’re with as well makes a massive difference, because if they’re friends with whisky snobs or drink connoisseur, they can be very like “Oh, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” But [I’ll ask] what flavours do you like in general, do you feel like something sour or sweet or savoury or spicy, ask them things that they know. They give you a few things, then you choose two cocktails on the list that sound like they would enjoy, and they try it — and they feel better.

It’s a classic mistake that when you walk into a bar that the people on the floor don’t know how to make the drinks. When you’re explaining to people the menu, they ask to have a bartender come and have a chat. I know the menu like the back of my hand.

It’s common. Especially with whisky, when dudes are like, “Oh are you sure you know what you’re talking about?” Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to work here if I didn’t.  

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