How to Streamline Bar Operations to Cope with Staff Shortages

Post-Brexit immigration hurdles, supply chain pressures and rising inflation have created a challenging market for the hospitality industry in recent months, leaving many bar owners struggling to fill vacancies.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed there were 176,000 job openings in June and according to a one industry survey, almost half (45%) of businesses have been forced to cut trading hours or capacity to cope.

In a world where customer expectations are higher than ever, some bar owners are adopting an innovative approach, finding ways to help their staff work smarter not harder.

Five ways to streamline your bar operations

Streamlining doesn’t mean compromising on service or quality; what it does entail is looking at your processes and introducing ways which make them more effective.

While standing out from the crowd is more important than ever, you definitely don’t want to be noticed for shoddy service or a poor product. These five tips can help optimise your bar operations without impacting customer service.

Reduce your menu

Sometimes less is more so don’t be afraid to take the axe to your menu. Use your point-of-sale system and inventory tracking tools to see what your top sellers are and the drinks that lag behind.

Less popular tipples with poor margins should go but look at the top performers too – if the margins are tiny and they’re eating into your profits, think about reformulating them.

A great way to streamline your menu but keep variety is to make it seasonal using locally sourced products – not only does it keep it fresh, but you can make potential cost savings by procuring ingredients locally rather than from thousands of miles away.

Batch your cocktails

Mixing up your most popular cocktails ahead of time boils down to simple maths really – if it saves your bartender 30 seconds every time they mix a cosmopolitan and they make that drink 100 times in one night, that can add up to 50 minutes of time. And if they make, on average, £20 of revenue for you every ten minutes, then that’s an extra £100 of revenue straight to your business.

Of course, batching cocktails comes with a few caveats:

  • If you run a specialist cocktail business where customers expect a bit of flair when they watch their drinks being made, this might not work for you.

  • Watch out for carbonated drinks or cocktails with champagne which goes flat over time.

  • Beware of mixing freshly squeezed juices which may need stirring beforehand to stop particulates from settling at the bottom.

Cross-train your staff

With a double whammy of Covid and flu expected this winter, staff will likely be calling in sick. Instead of getting caught short, cross-train your staff now so they can undertake multiple functions in your business. Kitchen porters can be trained to wait on tables while waiting staff can pick up the slack when your bar team is down on numbers.

Not only does it mean you have staff who can fill in at short notice, but staff who are cross-trained feel more valued and invested in their careers.

Zero-step bartending

Every step your bar staff takes to grab a mixer or pick up a slice of lemon adds up. Over a whole shift that’s a lot of wasted time, which reduces their productivity and saps their energy. So, anything you can do to make their life easier is better for your business.

Consider the layout of your bar operation and plan it to minimise the number of steps required as much as possible.

  • Create a speed rack – keep your most common or popular drinks here. And if you’re mixing cocktails, have the bottles lined up in the order they need to be mixed.

  • Install foot-pedal operated sinks – sinks are an intrinsic part of any bar design. If your bar staff don’t need to use their hands, it can shave precious seconds off your operations.

  • Think about fridge and storage location – having the ice dispenser or fridges at shoulder height saves bar staff from bending down, again knocking time off their serving cycle.

Leverage technology

Bar tech has come a long way in recent years, and can instantly streamline many common processes without compromising on service.

  • Mobile-first tech can speed up ordering and offer customers an easy way to pay. Square POS for Bars lets you take orders from anywhere and eliminates the usual bar jam as people wait for drinks or to pay.

  • Inventory tracking software helps keep your bar stocked with drinks, fresh food and other supplies. It can make sure you don’t carry too much inventory and helps with overall drinks cost management.

  • Team management software can help you manage staff rotas, keep track of hours worked and is an easy way for staff to request time off. It can even automate your team’s tip pooling process if you have one.

With the shortage of workers likely to continue for some months, bar operators need to find ways to adapt to make sure their service levels remain high. Keeping customers satisfied while increasing efficiency and cutting costs will be key to long-term success in a challenging market.