The year that was… Naren Young on simple drinks, nurturing your regulars and being kind

Story By Naren Young is the Creative Director at Sweet Liberty in Miami. Catch him @forkandshaker 

Wowzers! What a year this has been, right? One I’m sure many of us would rather forget pretty quickly. That is, depending on where you live I guess. In Miami, where I currently reside, you’d think Covid never came here, such was the response from our governor in keeping businesses almost completely open, for better or worse. For a few months, Miami was the centre of the bar world, as everything was wide open and many bars’ takings were greater than they’ve ever seen. Result!

That said, no matter where you ply your trade, there’s many lessons to be learnt from the pandemic as we all get accustomed to a new world order. Some things may never return to the way they were and that’s not always a bad thing. In the interests of remaining positive amidst the anxiety, struggles and confusion, I think we should look back on the year that was and focus on some of the good things that have transpired this year. I know many of your bars and restaurants have been closed for a good portion of this year but the ideas here that follow are pertinent to any venue, anywhere, any time . . . .

“When times were at their roughest here in the US, most guests wanted to drink things that were familiar and gave them a sense of comfort. They wanted things that were safe and didn’t necessarily challenge their palates in ways that they might have welcomed had times been, well, normal.”

NURTURE YOUR REGULARS
It’s no surprise that regulars are the backbone of any bar, and this is no more important than at this crossroads in history. When times are tough – and boy have they been tough – it is those regulars’ patronage that you’ve nurtured over the years that can help keep a bar afloat. So go out of your way to thank them and make them feel important: whether it’s buying their first round, remembering their birthday with a small gift or just a hand written thank you card can all go a long way to show your appreciation. Don’t take them for granted, kids!

GET OFF THE PHONE
I know this is going to be tough or impossible for most of you, but when was the last time you went out and didn’t look at your phone? Never, I would suspect is the answer. Try this on for size then: leave your phone on silent, airplane mode or even better, turn it off. Trust me, the world will keep revolving around you. You might even have a good time and talk to people. Man, I miss those days. And when can we do away with QR codes for menus? Nothing beats the tangible aspect of holding a beautifully crafted menu and flicking through its pages and taking it all in, one page at a time. Call me old fashioned, but a great menu is something to (be)hold and scrolling through your phone to view it is not.

DON’T BE PRECIOUS
During the pandemic, I’ve seen countless bars pivot into becoming completely new concepts to become delivery services, commissary kitchens to feed the industry and the homeless or turning into retail wine & liquor stores. Being able to adapt during these times has kept many bars afloat and so it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be precious when it comes to the original concept of your bar and that you, too, may have to evolve with the times. And you know? There’s absolutely no shame in that and no one should be judging you for making a go of it, whatever you’re selling.

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KEEP IT SIMPLE (AND DELICIOUS!)
One thing I have noticed and would like to see more bars adopt is to make your offerings more simple and concise. When times were at their roughest here in the US, most guests wanted to drink things that were familiar and gave them a sense of comfort. They wanted things that were safe and didn’t necessarily challenge their palates in ways that they might have welcomed had times been, well, normal. They wanted things that were straight to the point and most importantly, just delicious. Life was (and is) complicated enough without us having to make their drinking decisions also complicated. Do the basics perfectly and people will return . . . . a lot.

STAFF
As an operator or manager, your priorities should start and end with your staff. Nothing is more important to the success (and survival) of your business than the people in the trenches every day. This has caused perhaps the most amount of anxiety for many operators to make sure their team was well taken care of. It’s not easy, I get it. But now that things are getting back to normal, take the time to thank them, take them out, invest in their mental health, take an interest in them and their family, invite them over for dinner, sit in the park and have a chat, ask them how they’re doing and how you can potentially help.

BE KIND
That’s it, just be kind. To your staff, to your guests, to your suppliers and most importantly to yourself. Bring on 2022!!!

 

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