Bar Business Spring 2021

Page 1

Spring 2021






Owners slim down menus and firm up inventory to find success.









Brewing a Reopening Plan


Tuning Up: Technology Tackles Contact Tracing

Spring 2021

Stone Brewing finds success with a new technology platform.


Contact tracing systems poised to be the next tech adoption.



A letter from our Editor Ashley Bray.


On Tap


Health & Hospitality


Behind the Bar



From the Editor

Industry news & announcements.

Survival of the Fittest

Owners slim down menus, firm up inventory, and stay open to a new set of best practices.

Tips for staying well.

In-depth analysis of beer, wine, and spirits.


Important dates for the month.


Bar Tour





A new haunt in New York City offers up strictly to-go cocktails.

Featured product releases. Alexandra Dorda, Founder, Kasama Rum



The Pandemic Pushes Design Changes

The pandemic has forever changed bar/restaurant design.


Charting a Path Forward Your road map to 2021 industry predictions.


Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine





VOL. 14

NO. 2

Bar Business Magazine (ISSN 1944-7531) is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 88 Pine St 23rd Fl., New York, NY 10005


EXECUTIVE OFFICES President Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr.

Group Publisher Gary Lynch Office: 212-620-7247; Cell: 646-637-5206


Editor-in-Chief Ashley Bray 212-620-7220 Contributing Writers Joe DePinto, Emily Eckart, Elyse Glickman, Maura Keller,


Art Director Nicole D’Antona Graphic Designer Hillary Coleman


Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers


Circulation Director Maureen Cooney


Gary Lynch Office: 212-620-7247; Cell: 646-637-5206

Bar Business Magazine (Digital ISSN 2161-5071) is published four times a year. February, April, July, and October are only offered in a digital format at no charge by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 88 Pine St. 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10005. COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2021. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Gary Lynch, Phone (212) 620-7247, or For Subscriptions, & address changes, Please call (US Only) 1-800-553-8878 (CANADA/INTL) 1-319-364-6167, Fax 1-319-364-4278, e-mail or write to: Bar Business Magazine, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407. Instructional information in this magazine should only be performed by skilled craftspeople with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021


write this letter on the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID19 pandemic shutdowns and restrictions. What was predicted to last only a few weeks has stretched on, and it has affected our industry tremendously. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, restaurant and foodservice industry sales fell by $240 billion in 2020 from an expected level of $899 billion. As of December 1, 2020, more than 110,000 eating and drinking places were closed temporarily, or for good. The eating and drinking place sector finished 2020 nearly 2.5 million jobs below its pre-coronavirus level. It should come as no surprise then that we, as a magazine serving this industry, were also deeply affected by the challenges and market conditions of the last year. As a result, our publishing company Simmons-Boardman has made the difficult decision to suspend operations of Bar Business Magazine after this issue. I have only been editor-in-chief of this magazine for the last four years, but I have worked for our publishing company for over 12, and I was around to witness the launch of this brand in 2008 under the guidance of our first Editor-in-Chief Chris Ytuarte and former Publisher Arthur Sutley. So this decision weighs especially heavy on me. It has been an honor to serve at the helm of this magazine. The bar industry is vibrant, creative, and resilient, and never has that been on display more

than in the past year. I have spoken with bar owners that have implemented brand-new technologies, pivoted their business models entirely to takeout and delivery, and found incredibly innovative ways to continue to serve customers in these challenging times. You all inspire me. And that’s why I can say with certainty that I know this industry will come out the other side of this—bruised and battered, yes, but not defeated. In the wake of this pandemic, the thing we all crave more than anything is to come together, which is the experience at the very heart of the bar industry. I can’t wait to see the rise and reinvention of the guest experience in the months and years to come. I hope this publication has provided you with inspiration, knowledge, and meaningful connections over the last 13 years. It has always been our number-one goal to bring your stories from behind the bar to the forefront of the conversation, and I hope we have succeeded in doing that.


Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

– Semisonic, “Closing Time”

Keep the faith, stay the course, and pour a drink for us tonight.


Spring 2021 Bar Business Magazine



USBG Foundation Offers Tips on How To Tackle Debt

he USBG National Charity Foundation started off its first Instagram Live update of the New Year with tips for managing and reducing debt in 2021.

Two Ways to Reduce Debt Volunteer board member Kim Haasarud explained that there are two philosophical approaches to reducing debt: Avalanche and Snowball. Avalanche. The Avalanche approach requires you to take a look at your entire debt portfolio and then attack the debt you pay the highest interest rate on first. You can do this by paying a little bit more than the minimum payment each month on this particular bill. Continue to pay the minimum balance on the rest of your debt. In the long term, you will save the most money. On the flip side, this isn’t the most gratifying method of paying down debt as you’re not eliminating entire balances. Snowball. This approach dictates that you attack the smallest balances first. You are able to completely pay off these 4

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

smaller debts and get them off your record, which is gratifying. However, you won’t save as much money in the long term with this approach. Little to No Income? Here’s What to Do. Haasarud says there are still ways to save even if you don’t have a lot of money coming in. First, reduce unnecessary expenses by looking at your daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual costs. Small, innocuous costs can quickly add up. Haasarud gave the example of picking up a coffee and breakfast every morning. It may only be $10 a day, but that $10 balloons to $3,650 a year. Haasarud also recommended looking at weekly/monthly subscriptions you may have signed up for. Make sure you’re aware of every subscription you’re paying for and cancel any you don’t need. If you’re looking to start saving a nest egg in case of unemployment or other obstacles, the rule of thumb is to save 20% of your post-tax pay. For example, if you make $35,000 after taxes, you should

save about $7,000. If that’s too much, remember that every little bit of savings helps. Start by trying to save $25 or $50 a month—you’ll find the total really adds up over the course of a few years. Explore Your Options It’s also important to look ahead to the future—especially if you’re unemployed or may be looking to make a job change. One thing to do is to work on expanding your skill set. Consider taking classes in photography, graphic design, or any other interests you have. Employers will be looking for many different skills after COVID-19, and you make yourself more marketable when you learn an additional skill set. Haasarud says she’s taking the time to learn Spanish. Tap Into Your Network Pursuing new opportunities or jobs? Look for partnerships, ask around, and lean on your network to find new prospects.

Photos (left to right): kenary820; Kyle Loftus from Pexels.



ON TAP The Last Shot Film Festival Brings Hospitality and Filmmaking Together


any actors and filmmakers tend to gravitate toward the hospitality industry, as it allows them the flexibility to go on auditions and to shoot the films that help to build their portfolios. What’s more, working in bars and restaurants enables these outgoing individuals to engage with lots of people, which can be a source of inspiration for any creative types. In the Queens, New York neighborhood of Astoria—one of the hottest bar and restaurant scenes in the five boroughs— four local residents found a way to merge their passion for the arts and hospitality by creating a film festival purely for filmmakers who work in the bar and restaurant industry. Called the Last Shot Film Festival (LSFF), it was launched in 2019 by Matthew Stannah, Annie Rosenberg, Sean Kelly, and Amy O’Neill. Stannah is a bartender at The Thirsty Koala, an Australian-themed farm-to-table restaurant; Kelly is a server at Bubba’s Bistro, which specializes in Southern Cuisine; and Rosenberg is a bartender at sports bar McCann’s Pub & Grill, each of which is located on the Ditmars Blvd strip. “We created the film festival to bring together two worlds in which we were immersed: hospitality and the creative arts,” said Rosenberg. “We realized a lot of people were working steady hospitality jobs while finding time to create their art, and we wanted to create a home for them to showcase their works and bring together the creative elements from both walks of life. We each have personally been involved in the hospitality industry for several years as a main source of our income. It has been an industry that has helped pay rent, bills, and support our artistic endeavors as filmmakers.” The goal was to launch an event with a different spin than the traditional film festival, where guests typically arrive, have a plastic cup of wine, watch the films, do a quick meet-and-greet and then leave. “We wanted to make the festival an event itself, a night out to celebrate all the incredible films we were showcasing,” said Kelly. For the Last Shot Film Festival, venues would be the bars and restaurants themselves and would involve locations across New York City. In addition to the

viewing of indie films, the festival would also include an evening of special performances, including live music, drag shows, comedians, mixologists, and flare bartenders. An added benefit to hosting at these venues is that guests would be able to continue to celebrate long after the events wrap up. Just as the final venues for the first LSFF event were secured, the pandemic struck. As the event was originally scheduled for May, the LSFF team had to make the tough decision to cancel the live events as everybody quarantined in their homes. Some of the venues they selected had even shuttered permanently by the time May rolled around. However, as they already had a panel of celebrity judges selected and dozens of submissions coming in each week, they decided to hold the festival virtually. “We spent a lot of hours in front of a computer screen building the platform to showcase these wonderful filmmakers,” said O’Neill. “Interestingly, we found ourselves having to be more creative, and the team really joined coming together to help push each other through the low moments and doubts.” To keep everyone engaged as they were making the pivot to virtual, LSFF held an Instagram-based indie film competition, called “The Quarantine Project,” in which filmmakers were invited to submit one-minute short films around a predetermined theme (the theme of one round was “Toilet Tales,”

for example), and cash prizes were offered to the top three winners based on total likes and comments submitted. Three rounds of the competition were held over a period of several weeks, with dozens of submissions entered, and once the final competition wrapped up, the virtual festival was ready. The inaugural Last Shot Film Festival was held October 2019 and was a huge success, garnering more than 200 submissions and attracting viewers from around the world. The LSFF team is currently collecting submissions for this year’s festival, which will be held August 8-18, and is currently seeking food, beverage, and filmmaking sponsors seeking to gain exposure to their audience. Stannah attributes much of the success of the first festival to the deep connection between the creative and hospitality industries. “Both take a great deal of passion, creativity, imagination, talent, and hard work,” he said. “Both also bring people together. Whether it’s your favorite cocktail made by your local bartender at that spot you love, or your favorite movie at home, each brings you joy in its own way and was created with lots of love and effort. When you think about it, a bar or restaurant is in many aspects a stage, and we are all seeking to deliver a great performance.” —Joseph Tarnowski, VP of Content, ECRM

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine



HEALTH & Hospitality

COMBATING WORKPLACE STRESS Strategies to beat stress.


ue to the pandemic, stress levels of bar employees have skyrocketed in the face of uncertain employment, health concerns, and the need to follow an entire new set of regulations. “Stress is insidious and has so many negative effects on mental, emotional and physical health,” says bestselling author, former immunologist, and leading mindbody wellness expert Jaya Jaya Myra. “In addition to weakening the immune system and elevating cortisol in the body, stress directly impacts a person’s willpower, decisiveness, confidence, and overall ability to perform at their jobs.” Myra offers a few solutions to help combat this stress, starting with meditation. “Meditation can be a quick and effective deterrent of all types of stress, and you don’t have to meditate for hours to see these effects. Even a few minutes a day makes a big difference. It’s about how and when you meditate that makes it effective at


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

reducing stress. Meditation in the morning helps to set a level pace for the day, whereas meditating before bed can help people unwind and process the events of the day, and also get a better night’s sleep.” Aside from meditation, Myra says it’s all about the breath. “Whenever you are able to lengthen and deepen your breath, you automatically slow down what is happening in the mind, while alleviating stress and anxiety,” she says. “During your work day, I recommend taking three minutes to sit and just focus on lengthening and deepening the breath. This in and of itself can help the mind slow down, relax, and regain focus.” For those on their feet—like bartenders and servers—she says deep breathing combined with movement is a great way to minimize stress. Self-care throughout the day is also important. “If you’re on your feet, prioritize some self-care and a good set of insoles for your shoes,” she says. “Take quick breaks when you can to checkin and be mindful. All of this adds up and helps cultivate a healthy, happy mindset.”

The WELL Method, a framework from her book The Soul of Purpose, was created to teach people an ethos for forming a healthy mindset that impacts all areas of life. “Use The WELL Method to create your own bespoke daily action plan to get the most out of your day and to use your actions to improve the lives of others,” says Myra. The WELL Method stands for: WorkLife Harmony; Expect/Enable Excellence; Live Your Purpose; and Love, Not Fear. For example, Expect/Enable Excellence means to expect excellence in yourself and enable it in others. Myra says to pose yourself a series of questions: “What daily habits do you have that empower you? What goals are you working towards? What are you doing to help other people succeed? Most importantly, what would you be doing if you knew you would not fail?” “[The WELL Method] helps people cultivate their deepest potential and make that potential a reality,” says Myra. “The WELL Method is a reminder that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Photo: Shutterstock/ G-Stock Studio.


Let’s talk


Photo: ’Merican Mule.

Catching the wave of readyto-drink products. BY MAURA KELLER


he ready-to-drink (RTD) segment has seen significant growth each year with new entrants and innovations. This is due in part to a new wave of consumers seeking convenient alternatives to fit their active and busy lifestyles, as well as the impact COVID-19 has had on consumers’ focus on to-go products. As a result, the quality of RTD products is increasing and more companies, including small-batch distilleries, are creating premium products that keep consumers coming back for more. Trending in a Big Way According to Donna Hood Crecca,


principal at foodservice consultant Technomic, where she leads the adult beverage and convenience store practices, RTDs were trending prior to the pandemic as suppliers sought to satisfy consumer demand for favorite drinks in portable packaging. “This aligns with the ‘food and drink everywhere’ trend, wherein consumers want to be able to easily enjoy their favorites whether at the park, a concert, a backyard gathering, or a restaurant or bar,” says Hood Crecca. Also, the popularity of craft beer in cans, the rise of malt-based drink options, and bottled cocktails cropping up in some of the more trend-forward Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine



bars made consumers curious about, and receptive to, new packaging options. Just over half of consumers that order cocktails to-go from restaurants report ordering RTD cocktails, according to Technomic’s “Alcohol To Go” study, completed late last year—a strong indicator that RTDs have a place in restaurants’ takeout and delivery programs. “The RTD trend is also an extension of the ongoing cocktail trend—consumers are highly engaged with cocktails and appreciate the convenience of RTD formats,” says Hood Crecca. Christopher Wirth and Camila Soriano, founders of Volley, a canned tequila seltzer made with clean ingredients, say that the RTD environment is very dynamic and fast paced right now. While the category has existed for a long time, it only recently caught mainstream momentum. As Wirth explains, a big part of the rise is the convenience factor, which has been amplified by the pandemic. Not only is it convenient for home consumption, it also has minimal human touchpoints, thus reducing chances to get sick. “The category is seeing a shift away from the overly sweet and artificial RTDs to a more premium offering with higher quality ingredients,” says Wirth. 8

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

Soriano adds that there is a significant amount of investment in marketing coming from the big spirit brands, which is driving awareness and accelerating consumer adoption with attractive new packaging and lower calorie offerings. “Instead of brands just promoting their spirit and leaving the creativity up to the consumer or bartender, they are now providing the finished solution to the consumer, which allows the spirit brands to create brand loyalty at a much lower price point than buying a full spirit bottle,” says Soriano. Dean Mahoney, CEO of ’Merican Mule, premium, Moscow Mule canned cocktails in a variety of flavors, says canned cocktails are authentic and true-to-recipe, making them a premium and simpler version of bartender-style cocktails. “The real reason this canned cocktail segment took some time to get going is that true liquor-based products have a higher tax, which is passed on to the consumer,” says Mahoney. “Malt-based, ‘ready-to-drink’ products offer a more affordable alternative that emulates a cocktail—but there is no tricking the consumer when it comes to quality. Today, consumers are really willing to pay for the superior flavor and especially convenience.” Yuseff Cherney, master distiller and

’Merican Mule (top) offers four main varieties of mules.

co-founder of Cutwater Spirits, says they’ve been focusing on RTDs since they first started back when they were part of Ballast Point. “When Cutwater Spirits officially entered the market in 2017, most of the canned cocktails out there used mystery alcohol derived from a malt base or a sugar but was never distilled,” says Cherney. “We decided we could do it differently and set out to make real cocktails with our own distilled spirits and high-quality ingredients.” Cutwater Spirits now offers 20 different canned cocktails and counting, across nearly every spirit base including tequila, vodka, rum, gin, and whiskey. “The consumer doesn’t have to purchase a long list of ingredients or spend time on prep and clean-up. They also offer a controlled ABV and taste consistently delicious,” says Cherney. “While off-premise drives the majority of our canned cocktail business, we see a lot of opportunity for growth in the on-premise—especially as things open.” On-Premise Benefits At its core, RTDs provide operational ease, speed of service, and the ability to offer on-trend and unique drinks in a convenient packaging. As Hood Crecca explains, RTDs can be particularly

Photos (left to right, clockwise): Cutwater Spirits, ’Merican Mule, Volley.

Cutwater Spirits offers 20 different canned cocktails and counting, across nearly every spirit base including tequila, vodka, rum, gin, and whiskey.

Photo: Volley.

BEHIND THE BAR: RTDs helpful in supporting “alcohol to-go” programs—not only for the operational efficiency but also because the packaging can withstand transit. The challenges for operators include storage and handling, as well as pricing, given that these products are also available at retail. Wirth says that bar owners are benefitting from the RTD boom because they finally have something worth serving to their customers that is close to what a bartender would make. “There’s no replacing the skills of a seasoned bartender and the experience of watching the craftsmanship in making a beautiful cocktail, but in a time when bar owners and operators are surviving off of grab and go, RTDs have provided a perfect solution,” Wirth says. Bartenders are able to pump out drinks at a faster pace with simple logistics as well—no glassware or any additional materials needed. “It’s crucial for operators to identify the strategic role and business rational for offering RTD products for their specific concept,” says Hood Crecca. “That requires asking some key questions, including: Are RTDs a fit with the concept overall? How can these products fill a gap in the menu or otherwise differentiate the drink offering? Are they relevant and appealing to the core customer? Can they be priced effectively—appealing to consumers but also delivering margin? How do these products solve for inventory, cost control, or operational issues? As with any new product, operators have to be very discerning as they evaluate whether to take them on, whether for dine-in or to-go service.” Soriano says that on-premise establishments can best use RTDs in a few ways. In the short term, they are the perfect solution for “grab and go” in a COVID environment. “Sanitary, quick to prepare, and consistent taste make them a great tool for on-premise,” Soriano says. “The challenge is ensuring the RTDs they are adding to their menu align with their clientele. Fortunately there are enough RTDs out there that as an operator you really have a choice of what caliber of product you want to offer. There are premium, low-calorie offerings with low ABVs as well as more spirit-forward,

higher ABV offerings along with a range of spirit bases. By doing their research, the operators can use RTDs as a highmargin profit channel during COVID. And post-COVID, RTDs can be a compliment to their cocktail program.” So what are the trending RTD flavors that consumers are requesting? The Volley team says they’re seeing a lot of lime, grapefruit, and mango as the flavor profiles used in RTDs lately. What’s more, the spirit bases are evolving—there are plenty of vodka bases, some gin, and in 2021, Volley is seeing several tequila options appear. “An interesting distinction in the tequila-based RTDs is that several brands are attempting to ride off of the growing popularity of premium tequila, but are using Mixto tequila, which is generally considered an inferior quality of tequila,” says Wirth. Mixto tequila only needs to be 49% agave and can have 51% alternative sugars like fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or others. Mixto tequila is cheaper to purchase and easier to work with because you can export it in bulk and fill it in a facility outside of Mexico. “Other brands are actually malt beverages but are using tequila flavoring rather than any tequila at all so that they are able to sell their products in beerlicensed establishments, which offer a wider distribution opportunity and a

lower excise tax,” says Wirth. Cutwater Spirits’ canned Tequila Margarita made with real tequila is a consistent fan favorite. The company recently launched a Mango Margarita and are also rolling out both a Peach and a Strawberry Margarita in time for summer. “With a varied ABV from 5% up to 14%, we really try to cover all the bases from our popular Vodka Sodas to the cult favorites Long Island Iced Tea and White Russian,” Cherney says. “RTDs are becoming more popular by the day.” At ’Merican Mule, classic Moscow Mules are definitely trending right now. “It’s our flagship offering, and it’s the most widely known cocktail by the average consumer,” Mahoney says. “The flavor is extremely balanced and drinkable. It’s also an easy place to start when you can’t make up your mind when considering some of the other flavors that we offer.” While the RTD space is riding a significant boost from the pandemic, industry experts agree that it will likely continue to grow beyond the lockdowns. “According to IWSR data, the RTD category has already surpassed the entire spirits category in volume consumption in 2020,” says Wirth. “With the opening of restaurants not far off and a return to outdoor events, combined with increased investment from the larger beverage brands, RTDs are just getting started.”

Volley offers premium canned tequila seltzer made with clean ingredients and no added sugars.

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine


Happenings May 2021


may 31 Memorial Day We’ve all been looking forward to the summer a little more this year, so make sure your outdoor spaces are ready!

may 1 Kentucky Derby Make sure mint juleps are on your bar’s menu today!


MAy 9 Mother’s Day Brunch cocktails will go over big today.

Go beyond mimosas and screwdrivers and try a Blood & Sand or an orange martini cocktail.


Bar Business Magazine

may 1 National Fitness Day Mental fitness is just as important as physical. Turn to page 6 to find out how to keep your mental health in tiptop shape.

Spring 2021

All Photos:

may 4 National Orange Juice Day



may 25 National Wine Day


Red, white, or rose— any will do!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following information is subject to change. Check trade show sites for the most up-to-date information.

June 2021 nightclub & bar show June 28-30, 2021 Las Vegas, Nevada

may 6 Nurse’s Week Take care of those who have taken care of so many of us over the last year and offer up a menu of selections just for nurses.

August 2021 northwest food show


May 21 National Waiters and Waitresses Day Your staff is your most important asset. Treat them to something special today.

August 1-2, 2021 Portland, Oregon

ecrm on-premises adult beverage program August 24-26, 2021 Virtual

september 2021 tales of the cocktail September 20-23, 2021 Virtual

may 31 Save Your Hearing Day Loud bars and live music can affect your hearing. Look into hearing protection like ear plugs!

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine




Owners slim down menus, firm up inventory, and stay open to a new set of best practices.


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021




Photos (left to right): The Ballantyne Hotel; Haberdish.

he tidal wave that is the global COVID-19 pandemic took shifting for survival to a new level. While the global crisis wiped out many establishments, those that survived weathered the storm thanks to a mix of fluid decision-making, teamwork, and a willingness to change a once-successful business formula. Although staying in business through 2020 is a major accomplishment, bar owners need to recognize that changes in best business practices and customer tastes are not just inevitable but unavoidable moving forward. As a result, the pendulum is swinging toward simplicity in recipes, menus, and spirits inventory. When Less is More “We must make up for lost profits during the down time, so spending right now on wasteful product and labor is not worth it,” says Piero Procida, Food & Beverage director at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills. He suggests prepping a report to see which drinks work best for your existing concept and which ones sell the most, and then edit accordingly. He also recommends shifting to recipes that don’t require too many ingredients. “Your staff should focus on the art of bartending, proper pours, and making those drinks the best they can be,” says Procida. “This is not a time to experiment, especially if your volume does not support less popular cocktails. Take them off and add a classic cocktail that everyone knows, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. You can always spruce [it] up by using a smoker to make it more interesting, for example.” Scott Daniel, Food and Beverage director at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, found that successfully reopening the restaurant before its bar helped him sort out the bestselling well and popular call brands while trimming spirits that were more niche and less popular. “We found that high-end bourbons, ryes, and tequilas were still in demand, but demand for single malt Scotches had diminished,” he says. “Besides reducing our overall number of offerings, we focused on creating modified versions of classic cocktails to cut back on the number of ingredients and specialty products. We found success with this

Colleen Hughes, head mixologist and beverage director of Charlotte’s Haberdish, pre-pandemic.

strategy, and will continue it into 2021.” At Cure Bar in Rochester, NY, Founder Donny Clutterbuck says the first things to go were specialty spirits that required “hand-selling,” followed by brand-name ingredients that could be swapped out with comparable products. As Cure Bar is primarily a cocktail destination, another measure he took was removing beers and wines that sold out from inventory. “Creative uses of product and inventory solutions are a huge part of what we’ve been doing for the longest time, so maybe we’re already used to pulling these measures,” he says. “We probably learned to do it even better or quicker.” According to Ivan Vasquez, owner of Madre Oaxacan Restaurant & Mezcaleria in Los Angeles, only the most popular cocktails that could “travel” well were on the menu when it was only open for takeout, taking the number of selections from 11 to four. “We learned what our customers come to us for, and it’s not wine, it’s agave spirits and cocktails,” Vasquez continues, noting that he plans to keep the same approach until indoor dining is reinstated. “We only kept two beers [during the to-go-only phase] for two reasons: There was a shortage of artisanal beer due to the pandemic, and it did not sell fast enough to keep it fresh. Now that we are open for outdoor dining, we only offer two red and two white wines. We also had our fruit inventory in mind, only keeping cocktails

that use fruit we also use in our dishes.” “We launched our first big menu revision just days before the pandemic shut us down for seven months,” recalls Aaron DeFeo, co-owner of Little Rituals in Phoenix. “We had a lot of inventory that was still sitting on the shelves for our 30-cocktail menu, so trimming down the cocktail list wasn’t really an option. We discovered that without bar seating, however, none of our back bar items sold anymore. Our product mix became 95% menu cocktails, and [we] decided to run as lean as possible on back bar items.” To curb potential losses and excess inventory, Little Rituals promoted the bar’s batched cocktails (such as its rotating punch specials) or those with recipes using spirits he had a surplus of for to-go canned cocktails to deplete items that were no longer bulk purchase-worthy. Colleen Hughes, head mixologist and beverage director of Charlotte, NC’s

Pro Tip The pandemic proved that when you reassess your business model, you may have created a road map to proceed in the future.

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine


How To: Menu Selections

Haberdish, calls this “cutting out the fat.” “At the start of the pandemic, we were sitting on around $55,000 of liquor inventory, so we challenged ourselves to be creative with what we had and retooled our cocktail menus to move existing products to minimize our liquor orders,” she says. “We stopped ordering barrels of whisky and started selling our collection of rare spirits. In North Carolina, we are not allowed to sell spirits retail, so moving our back stock has to be done, drink by drink.” As the owner of Ramsey, NY beerfocused bar The Shannon Rose Irish Pub, Assistant General Manager/Beer Specialist Scott Jones curated 35 beers on draft and over 100 beers in bottles/ cans for its menu. After the COVID-19 shut down, this went down to eight beers on draft and about 50 bottles/ cans selections. How things were dispensed to customers also changed. “We still have not opened up our draft lines and are pouring draft beer from keg o’raters and jockey boxes,” says Jones. “We continue to support our local breweries and try to keep as many of them on tap that we can, while keeping a few of the Irish staples on like Guinness and Harp. We still change our draft beers on a weekly basis depending on what is available from our local breweries such as Magnify, Brix City, and Bolero Snort. Ordering draft beers from larger distributers has been challenging as breweries are not brewing as much for on-premise locations.” 14

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

Best Practices “As we navigate the challenges of the pandemic, we are analyzing every aspect of our business,” says Dave Oz, founder/ owner of Bathtub Gin in New York City. Oz’s challenge was to make appropriate adaptations in décor and service while keeping his ten-year-old speakeasy concept intact. He developed an “outdoor hidden bar,” lending itself to social distancing, a redesign of the main bar allowing his team to move more efficiently, and greater storage space for spirits and glassware. “The result will be cocktails served quicker, which is mission critical in a highvolume bar environment once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted,” he says. For DeFeo, the pandemic triggered a major shift in Phoenix’s dining-out demographics. “Our new guests skew younger, and many of them have not spent lots of time in cocktail bars,” he said. “We are introducing this generation of customers to our fairly complex cocktails, and that takes a new strategy as well. But one thing is clear: They are coming here for the cocktails. We’ve never shied away from having larger inventories in the past, and having over 400 back bar spirits is part of our charm. However, we will now be extremely cautious on bringing on new items, and constantly working to lower costs on our existing cocktails, especially our premium well/rail items.” Hughes’ Habberdish cocktail list was skimmed from 30-35 cocktails to 12 customer favorites and large-batch draft

The Shannon Rose Irish Pub.

cocktails that are more profitable and can be easily sold to-go. She acknowledges it was a tough call to cut the bar’s “more conceptual cocktails,” but added that the restrictions made the staff more thoughtful about customer needs. Fewer man-hours of bar prep, a smaller customer capacity, and no alcohol sales after 9 p.m. helped bolster customer loyalty. As Madre is known for having the largest collection of mezcal in the country, when the local ABC issued a temporary relief to sell bottles with to-go food, Vasquez’ strategy shifted. “We started ordering any mezcal that we had had before the pandemic so we could sell them for retail,” he says. “I knew many mezcaleros were not getting any financial help, so we decided to buy their bottles to sell. “Customers responded well as they knew we still had the biggest selection in town. We kept ordering bottles when possible.” The pandemic proved that when you reassess your business model, you may have created a road map to proceed in the future. “[The pandemic] taught me the appreciation of pour costs, and how every single ingredient can add up quickly,” says Procida. “It has also shown how important customer care is. It’s easy to take a busy environment for granted. But when it’s slow, you only really have a few guests and there is no excuse but to make sure they have the most amazing time. If one can apply that lesson during busy times, could you imagine the feedback then?”

Photos (left to right): The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills; The Shannon Rose Irish Pub.

The interior of The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills.

In our first three decades, funded by leading distillers and led by an independent Advisory Board, we worked alongside dedicated advocates to create best-in-class, science-based educational programs, design cuttingedge communications campaigns and champion effective legislation that made our roads safer, communities stronger and families healthier.

That’s real progress — but we’re not done. The next decade presents new challenges in the fight to advance alcohol responsibility — challenges we will rise to meet and overcome — but we need your help. Like the 30 years before, it will take the leadership, commitment and united effort of people like you— distillers who want a better, more responsible future for us all. Join us, and let’s define the future of alcohol responsibility, together.



Outdoor seating at Stone Brewing’s Escondido location.

BREWING A REOPENING PLAN Stone Brewing finds success with a new technology platform.


Bar Business Magazine Spring 2021

Still, Stone Brewing wasn’t spared from the effects of COVID-19, and its restaurants and tap rooms were especially affected. In formulating a reopening plan, the brewery turned to technology to set itself up for success. Stone Brewing had actually invested in contactless ordering technology ahead of the pandemic as a way to activate its underused places of operation and serve a lot more customers in its large spaces— including one 70,000-square-footlocation. “We turned to GoTab through a recommendation and were about to go live in the garden areas exclusively prepandemic,” says Frazer. “Once the pandemic hit, we reformatted a reopening plan. Thank goodness GoTab was already integrated within our system because it helped us serve people outside in a safe way, and customers didn’t have to download an app. We started using

the platform across our locations, and the transition was seamless. It helped us reopen with a lower amount of labor and slowly add staff back as business began picking up.” In fact, the new technology enabled Stone Brewing to cut 8% of labor costs. “There are only so many costs you can cut during the pandemic. If your sales reduced a lot, you were looking at adjusting food, labor, or alcohol costs,” says Frazer. “Technology helped us pivot to a new labor model and reduce around 8% in labor, freeing up the space to make up for lost revenue.” Stone Brewing has used the GoTab platform in a number of ways. First, to expand its takeout program, which only included takeout of growler fillers and beers and DoorDash for alcohol delivery prior to the pandemic. “We definitely

All Photos: Stone Brewing Company.


tone Brewing Company, the largest brewery in Southern California, was originally founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner in 1996 and quickly grew to become one of the most influential craft breweries in the United States with its beers available in all 50 states and more than 40 countries. “We’re best known for our West Coast IPA and for releasing the first year-round bottled double IPA,” says Gregg Frazer, vice president of Hospitality, Stone Brewing. “Now, we’re currently the ninth-largest craft brewery in the United States and run two major brewing facilities in Escondido, California and Richmond, Virginia. We also operate a number of restaurants and tap rooms as well as the largest craft-centric beer distribution in the U.S.”


HOW TO: TECHNOLOGY had to press on the takeout gas pedal during COVID-19,” says Frazer. “We used GoTab as the order platform on our native website alongside its use in our taprooms, and we included food alongside our alcohol options. Because the GoTab program is fairly adaptable and can be updated quickly with item availability, we didn’t run into major challenges.” Frazer says despite this expansion, takeout still wasn’t a major revenue driver for the brewery. However, the to-go offerings were important in keeping the restaurants top-of-mind with customers. “Our Napa location did a great job of selling the food at-cost; they wanted to provide for and be an integral part of the smaller community,” he says. “Then, upon reopening, they hoped people would remember the lower prices and consistency during the pandemic and return to the in-person location.” Stone Brewing also launched its first virtual menu using the GoTab platform, which allowed the restaurants to quickly make changes and inventory updates. The virtual menu also made sanitizing and guest safety easier. “The virtual menu is individualized and just through your own phone, so there isn’t communal sharing,” says Frazer. “There

are fewer items to sanitize without our drink and food menus on tables, so it allows us more opportunity to thoroughly clean the tables and chairs between parties.” The virtual menus also help in selling since Stone Brewing is able to customize with videos and imagery. “We were able to add dish and drink imagery, videos, and detailed descriptions of the food,” explains Frazer. “With fewer servers on-hand during COVID-19, we had to integrate our brand voice into the virtual experience through descriptions and fun videos, and we found this process was easier than we expected.” Although older guests took a bit longer to catch on to using the new menu, Frazer says adoption happened fairly quickly, “From the May 2020 reopening to around August 2020, we saw some amazing learning. Customers got used to it and saw it deployed other places as well, and then we saw those regulars teaching their friends and family how to use our system. They came to appreciate how easy it was and how much faster they were able to get the drinks they ordered.” The new technology even helped Stone Brewing with its reputation management. “GoTab technology helps

Thanks to its GoTab contactless order and pay platform, Stone Brewing can focus more closely on the guest experience. Photo taken pre-pandemic at Stone Brewing’s Escondido location.

alleviate the fear of a bad Yelp review,” says Frazer. “The platform allows you to leave feedback in the app, so we’re able to learn about bad guest experiences and make up for it directly with the customer.” One of the frequent criticisms of technology is that it removes the human element, but Frazer has found that it has actually enabled Stone Brewing to improve guest relations. “We have changed our service model to embrace the human element during different parts of the Stone experience. So, we found that the human element isn’t eliminated,” says Frazer. “For example, we train staff to make a great introduction when customers enter our restaurants and breweries, and we also encourage them to make sure everyone is up-to-speed on the ordering process. This often creates great rapport. “Now, we’ve integrated a manager table-touch to every table, which our managers didn’t have the bandwidth to do previously. We also added a cicerone table-touch to every table! Stone Brewing was always about the beer experience first and foremost. Customers can now truly engage with our product, and we can spend more time discussing and educating rather than just taking orders.”

Stone Brewing operates a number of restaurants and tap rooms. Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine


Tuning Up



TECHNOLOGY TACKLES CONTACT TRACING Contact tracing systems poised to be the next tech adoption.


s the world continues adjusting to the reality of COVID-19, local and federal governments are implementing new regulations designed to monitor where the virus spreads and inform people about contact they have had with an infected 18

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

person. Bars and restaurants are considered to be “hot spots” for spreading the virus, but many states currently have no standard protocol when it comes to contact tracing for the service industry. Barpay, a leading contactless technology company designed specifically for the service industry, has released its contract

tracing platform. The platform is offered as a free or paid service, and follows the company’s initial order + pay software and QR code digital menu platform as a userfriendly way for restaurants to capture and securely store basic information about their customers, such as name, phone number, and other optional information

All Photos: Barpay.



Contact tracing will be the next wave of tech to hit the service industry.

like email and address. From an operator’s perspective, there is a simple dashboard that: • Allows the user to choose the pieces of information to capture. • Generates a ready-to-print QR code for customers to scan using their phone. • Provides a “Request Access” button, should the venue need to contact patrons.

Guests scan a QR code and then input the requested information.

Once the form is filled out, patrons show the host the above verification screen.

For restaurant patrons, the experience is three simple steps: • Scan QR code at the entrance. • Fill out the information prompted by the QR code: 1. Name 2. Phone number • Click the “Verify” link they receive via text message (part of the paid version of the service). Once the patron submits the requested information, they are taken to a screen that they can show the restaurant host to prove they have filled out the necessary information. While some customers may be weary of sharing personal information, Barpay’s contact tracing platform stores all customer data on secure servers, and it only allows venues to view the information upon request and with authorization from county health department officials. Additionally, Barpay only stores information for 30 days before permanently deleting it. “We talk to our clients on a daily basis and do our best to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. What we have been

Venue operators set up the contact tracing using a simple dashboard.

hearing from our venues about contact tracing makes us think that this is going to be the next wave of technology to hit the service industry, similar to the QR code menus,” says Dan Wagner, chief product officer and co-founder of Barpay. Barpay, which was founded in 2015, expects contact tracing to see similar adoption as the company’s original services, QR code contactless order + pay and digital menus, which are utilized in more than 8,000 venues nationally. “We launched our QR code menu platform in April [2020] and might have

been a little early,” says Wagner. “When we first started pitching it, there were restaurant owners that weren’t interested and really had no idea what a QR code was. Now they are everywhere. I think the same thing is going to happen with contact tracing, but not just in the service industry. Basically every brick-and-mortar type business is going to need a way to take down customer information for health purposes.” Joe DePinto is the founder of Barpay, a leading contactless technology platform. Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine


FUTURE BAR DESIGN The Meeting House in Princeton, N.J., features a “rustic chic” interior design by Isabella Sparrow.

The Pandemic Pushes


s the pandemic continues, public perceptions of indoor spaces have changed irrevocably. “It’s definitely going to shape and change the way we think about bar design,” says David Rader, AIA, senior project manager at Dyer Brown, an architectural firm based in Boston. As bars and restaurants prepare for an eventual return to capacity, architects who design hospitality venues predict that some changes will be here to stay. Joshua Zinder, AIA, managing partner of Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design (JZA+D), based in Princeton, New Jersey, 20

Bar Business Magazine

believes designs that encourage social distancing and smaller groupings will be popular going forward. Looking to the past for inspiration, Zinder says, “In a 1950s diner, they used to have a bar that would go out into the room and come back in some spots.” A bar with a curved edge can control how people move through the space, preventing dense crowds from gathering. Small tables or booths nestled between curved bar sections can provide seating for small groups, while openings in the bar give the bartender access to different areas. For venues that already have a built-in traditional straight bar, Rader suggests

adding high-top tables to the bar at perpendicular angles, forming a T-shape. “That ends up helping with distancing from the staff working behind the bar,” he says. Between the tables, you can have small groups of seating. “Instead of having a bar that has a stretch of 25 seats in a linear row, maybe it’s four seats, one of these pop-out or ‘finger’ tables, and then another four seats or six seats,” says Rader, noting that this flexible change in layout helps with social distancing as the pandemic continues, and it can be adjusted later depending on changing circumstances. For creating additional separations,

Spring 2021

Photo: JZA+D.

design changes


Dyer Brown’s winning conceptual design for the NEWH Beyond competition features wood and glass privacy screens, antimicrobial vinyl seats, and copper tabletops with built-in down draft vent.

The pandemic has forever changed bar/ restaurant design.

Photo: Dyer Brown.

By Emily Eckart

Zinder says they’ve looked at projects that include a screening element. Zinder has plans for a screen made of aesthetically pleasing punch metal that could be mounted on top of the bar, extending upward for several feet. The screen can work in conjunction with a plexiglass barrier for the duration of the pandemic. Once things return to normal, the plexiglass can be removed, but the screen would remain. “The screen is supposed to control where people will stand and where people will be able to order from,” says Zinder, noting it allows for flexibility, with openings in places where people can take orders. Individual sections of the screen can

be folded up or removed depending on what works best. “That type of screen can work well in different locations. It also has to somehow tie into the overall story of whatever the bar is.” Dwayne MacEwen, AIA, founder and creative director of Chicago-based architecture and design firm DMAC Architecture, has incorporated similar elements into designs intended to serve both a practical and aesthetic purpose. “One example is at Rivers Casino, where we designed a decorative screen at the cash station,” says MacEwen. “It looks great and like it was always there. In their Sportsbook lounges, we worked with Rivers on concepts for portable dividers between groups of guests sitting in the club chairs.” Zinder also predicts a change in the depth of the bar itself, with eight to twelve inches added. In current designs, Zinder says, “We’re extending the space between bartender and patron.” As Rader notes, a deeper bar provides an additional function: “It can double as concealing the equipment below.”

Antimicrobial Surfaces The pandemic has focused attention on the materials patrons come into contact with while visiting the venue. “The memory of living through a pandemic is not going away anytime soon,” says MacEwen. “We need to communicate health and wellness are a priority through good design.” Easy-to-clean, antimicrobial surfaces are coming into vogue. Zinder says, “New bars are going to be looking at these antimicrobial surfaces a lot more.” Cesarstone and Silestone are good options for tabletops. While these materials had commonly been used before, their antimicrobial aspects are now viewed as a major selling point. Rader highlights copper as an ideal material. Noted for its antimicrobial properties, it also has a pleasing appearance with its beautiful patina. If purchasing new copper tables isn’t an option, existing tables can be wrapped with a thin copper sheet. Visible measures of sanitation can communicate an emphasis on safety to Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine



patrons. “Hand sanitizer should always be visible and accessible, but the dispensers are a design opportunity,” says MacEwen. He also recommends the use of touchless technologies like online ordering, digital menus, and door sensors. Zinder says, “People want to be able to tell their patrons that they’re safe and they can have a good time, and that they’re thinking about their health and welfare.” VENTILATION Ventilation has become top-of-mind for design. While kitchens and bathrooms have traditionally been well-ventilated areas, architects expect to see front-ofhouse ventilation become a bigger trend. Many of Zinder’s hospitality clients have expressed an interest in installing ionization systems, like the ones used on airplanes, and some municipalities are considering allowing bars and restaurants to open to capacity if they have adequate air filtration systems installed. OUTDOOR SPACES The pandemic has forced bars and restaurants to make creative use of outdoor space, a trend that will likely continue. Rader envisions bars using various styles of outdoor seating stations, such as igloos, individual greenhouses, or “cocoons” where service could be provided through a small portal that opens into the indoor kitchen or bar. In JZA+D’s base of Princeton, New 22

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

Jersey, local restaurants opened outdoor seating in parts of the street formerly designated for parking—a change the municipality may make permanent. “The environment during the nicer weather is amazing. There are so many people out, and it’s really engaging,” says Zinder, who predicts some venues may move their bars out of denser cities where this may not be an option. “You’re going to see some people who shift their bars to their windows.” Windows that lift or open allow people to have a bar experience while enjoying the fresh air. In a city where bars and restaurants don’t always have access to an outdoor space, DMAC Architecture came up with a concept for a creative, pandemicfriendly solution that would also have appeal for normal times. An annual food festival (called the “Chicago Winter FE(a) ST”) could take place in soft-sided trailers parked in neighborhoods across the city. “Each trailer would be stocked with shelter (in the form of a tarp), kitchen, tables, chairs, lighting, fire pits, and other accessories, and set up a covered dining area. The interiors and soft sides of individual trailers could be designed with art or branding by the sponsoring restaurant for an annual ‘best of’ award,” says MacEwen, who explains that food festival trailers could be located individually on street corners or grouped in parking lots to create a “marketplace.” “These ‘venues’ would be the buzz of the

A bar design by Dyer Brown at Japanese restaurant Zuma Boston.

city, enticing people to explore the different neighborhoods and cuisines.” THE FUTURE OF BAR DESIGN Ultimately, the pandemic has influenced architectural trends. “It’s made me think about how we can use the space more flexibly,” says Rader. One such flexible design by Dyer Brown earned recognition as the winner of the NEWH Beyond competition for pandemic-responsive hospitality concepts. The design features an indoor restaurant space with built-in booths and banquettes along each wall, spaced so as to be socially distant from the next group of tables. Separating two rows of booths is a set of movable tables and chairs, which can be adjusted as needed. With numerous retail locations closing, MacEwen speculates that bars could attract a larger portion of foot traffic. “Restaurants and bars could be the new ‘influencers,’ partnering with FF&E vendors to showcase products,” says MacEwen. “If guests like a chair or fixture, they could scan a barcode and know where to buy. It’s an intersection of sorts where restaurateurs and retailers create a new kind of dining or bar experience. “While there is a pent-up demand to be with each other again,” continues MacEwen, “I think the restaurant and bar business has an opportunity to expand its reach.”

Photos (left to right): DMAC Architecture; Darrin Hunter, courtesy Dyer Brown.

DMAC Architecture came up with a pandemic-friendly solution for an annual food festival that could take place in soft-sided trailers parked in neighborhoods across the city.



Photo: Andreas Prott.


ince mid-March 2020, the entire country has been wondering what comes next and when we’ll pivot from the current environment of uncertainty to one more akin to our “normal” routines. International consulting firm Kearney has also been asking these questions about the beverage alcohol industry, which can be difficult to answer since there is no precedent for the current situation in modern times—the last time the world dealt with anything like this pandemic was back in 1918. Since traditional “look back” forecasting techniques would be ineffective for trying to predict what comes next, Kearney turned to scenario-based forecasting around possible futures the on- and off-premise markets could be moving towards. The two driving, macro factors Kearney considered to have the most influence on

BY ASHLEY BRAY shaping these possible futures were the timing of economic recovery and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. From there, Kearney used a fourpronged approach to forecast the possible scenarios. First, they applied their proprietary predictive analytics methodology, Janus®, to forecast future performance and define shape of demand. To provide a consolidated industry point of view, they incorporated 30-plus explanatory variables from publicly available sources and leveraged data from SipSource, which was created by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). SipSource is the first and only source for wine and spirits distributor depletion data, which is made available by WSWA members. Kearney also surveyed over 1000 consumers and conducted interviews with leading industry experts. Finally, they leveraged AI and

predictive analytics through a scenariobased approach to evaluate plausible future markets for the US wine and spirits industry in 2021. As a result of all of this research, Kearney came up with four possible scenarios for 2021, which were presented in a webinar hosted by WSWA titled “Consumer Resilience in Alcohol: 2021 Wine & Spirits Forecast.” 1. CHAMPAGNE POPPIN’ RECOVERY The best-case scenario, this prediction sees both a strong economic recovery and high effectiveness of the vaccine for continued growth in the off-premise market and recovery in the on-premise. 2. COVID HANGOVER This scenario is the result of high vaccine effectiveness but weak economic recovery. This leads to continued growth for the off-premise but declines for the on-premise as restrictions are Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine



“COVID hangover” Economic stimulus, slow road to recovery

Off-prem habits die hard, on-premise recovers

– Off-premise consumption volume builds upon ~12% 2020 growth

– Off-premise consumption volume builds upon ~12% 2020 growth

– Vaccine distribution to >60% of population: 2H 2021

– Vaccine distribution to >60% of population: 1H 2021

– On-prem capacity restrictions eased, but not removed by Q4 2021

– On-premise capacity restrictions eliminated by July 2021

– Congress passes modest Q2 economic stimulus – US unemployment remains in high single digits


– US GDP growth 0–1%

– US unemployment rate falls to 4% target – US GDP growth returns to 2–3%

Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine

– Off-premise consumption volume builds upon ~12% 2020 growth – Vaccine distribution to >60% of population: 2H 2021 – Q1 national lockdown ordered to contain disease spread – On-premise capacity restrictions retained through 2020

– Vaccine distribution to >60% of population: 1H 2021 – Consumers gradually return to on-premise as vaccine distributed

– US unemployment rate increases to low double digits

– US unemployment rate increases to low double digits

– US GDP growth hovers at ~0%

– Persistent negative US GDP growth

“The double-shot recession”

– Off-premise consumption decreases from roughly 12% 2020 growth as consumers struggle with an economic downturn

– Congressional gridlock: limited Q1 economic stimulus

– Congressional gridlock: limited Q2 economic stimulus

– Emergence of vaccine-resistant virus mutation

Reversion to pre-COVID-19 consumption

– On-premise consumption returns to 2019 levels by Q4 2021

– On-premise consumption declines on top of ~45% decline in 2020


– Congress approves robust Q1 economic stimulus package


Status quo quagmire of on-premise

Plausible scenarios for 2021

– Consumers return to on-premise and “party like its 1999”; Q4 2021 consumption matches Q4 2019


– On-premise consumption declines on top of ~45% decline in 2020


“Champagne-poppin’ recovery”



With futures defined, what choices must we make now?

Kearney Competing Visions of the Beverage Alcohol Industry Future


2021 Plausible Scenarios:


“Back to the future”

Kearney XX/ID

eased but not entirely lifted. 3. THE DOUBLE-SHOT RECESSION The worst-case scenario results from low vaccine effectiveness and weak economic recovery. Off-premise volume continues to grow, but the on-premise sees even more declines in the face of continuing restrictions. 4. BACK TO THE FUTURE Low vaccine effectiveness but high economic recovery leads to off-premise losing some volume share and the on-premise recovering by the end of the year as consumers return to prepandemic habits. These four scenarios were originally presented by Kearney in mid-January. Given that we’re three months into 2021, we spoke with Dale Stratton, SipSource analyst, about which outcome he now sees as the most likely reality for this year. SipSource recently released its 2020 Annual SipSource report, which focused on comparing 10-month period data (February 2020 – December 2020) to pre-pandemic trends (February 2019-February 2020) and using that data to predict 2021 trends. What SipSource found is that the COVID Hangover scenario—which predicts .5% growth versus 2020 in case 24

Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

volume sales of alcohol—is the most likely outcome for the year. “The possibility that one of these other scenarios could come [to be is possible]. It’s not going to necessarily hit exactly one of these scenarios,” says Stratton. “But I think it’s leaning toward the COVID Hangover.” Stratton says the effectiveness of the

You can’t do it all. Focus on what you’re good at.

COVID-19 vaccine in this model is probably [facing] the bigger headwind than economic recovery as stimulus checks and federal economic recovery initiatives roll out. He breaks the year down into buckets, with January/February’s numbers likely to show the on-premise down 50-60% compared to last year due to spikes in cases over the holidays and the resulting severe lockdowns. March-May will show elevated growth compared to last year since spring 2020 is when many

on-premise establishments were most severely hurt by complete shutdowns. Moving on from May, Stratton says the future is cloudier as vaccine rollouts and new COVID-19 strains introduce uncertainty. He believes the on-premise will start this period at 45-55% down and grow from there, but he cautions that even in the best-case scenario, the on-premise will likely not return to pre-pandemic volumes. “I just don’t see a road to getting back to where we were in 2019,” says Stratton. Stratton stresses that these numbers will very according to region, as the response to the pandemic differed across the country. For example, Stratton says strong shelter-in-place orders and capacity restrictions in the west and northeastern parts of the country led to the on-premise being down 53.9% in the northeast and 53.7% in the west. In the midwest, on-premise numbers were similar at 46.8% down as restrictions were a mixed bag. However, in the southern part of the country, where restrictions were less severe and some areas stayed open, the on-premise was down only 38.3% on the year. “When you start talking about the difference between almost 54% versus 38%—that’s substantial and that certainly is a significant thing that tells us those regional differences did make

Graph: WSWA, from the webinar, “Consumer Resilience in Alcohol: 2021 Wine & Spirits Forecast.”

Kearney’s four possible scenarios for 2021 in the beverage alcohol industry. COVID Hangover has become most likely.


Photo: Inshyna.

a difference in what this looked like,” says Stratton. Another important factor is consumer behavior. “There’s also just the simple question of what’s the consumer going to do?” says Stratton. “We have a lot of legislation action, a lot of activity on what we can do, but in the end, the consumer is going to decide really what this looks like and what they are comfortable coming back to en masse.” With all of this in mind, how should an on-premise owner approach the rest of the year? There are a few strategies owners should take to prepare for any uncertainty and all possible scenarios. DATA-DRIVEN DECISION-MAKING Just as traditional “look back” forecasting didn’t work for Kearney’s projections, bar owners can’t simply compare business numbers to last year’s—they need to go back even further. “I think you need to go back and reset your base to where you were in 2019, what was your revenue,” says Stratton. “It’s probably going to be that you’re somewhere in that 30% down versus that 2019 number.” Stratton also says it’s important to get back to the basic metrics and to keep a close eye on how trends are changing on a month-to-month basis versus any traditional business cycles. “Keep those base measures that you’ve always used to manage your business intact because those are the things that are going to drive your business,” he says. “How many guests did I serve? What was the average check? When I look at that average check, I’m probably going to break that down a little further than I used to.” The disruption from the pandemic led on-premise operators to come up with some creative and innovative ideas to survive, but as things settle, Stratton recommends that bar owners focus back in on what they do best. “You can’t do it all,” says Stratton, who notes that while these new ideas may have generated revenue, they also add complexity to a business. “Focus on what you’re good at. Make those determinations, and head down that path.” SHORE UP YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN Stratton recommends owners work

closely with their distributor and supplier networks, which can help them navigate some of the new complexities of their businesses. “If you’re an operator, you’re focused on trying to run your business, and running your day-to-day business is harder than it was,” says Stratton. “Your distributor and supplier communities can help with that. Continue to work with them to find out what’s going on in the marketplace, where is this thing moving, etc. Make sure you’re in communication so you know what’s going on.” Building out a strong supplier/ distributor network will also enable owners to combat raw materials shortages more easily by creating a flexible supply chain, dual sourcing, etc. MATCH COSTS TO CHANNEL NEEDS Supply chain issues have also led owners to reconsider their menus. “The number of menu items that an account carries is going to be different, and it’s probably going to be smaller than it was,” says Stratton. “The number of choices in the beverage category are probably going to be smaller. So I think finding the sweet spot of how many offerings do I want to have is also going to be something that’s very important.” The pandemic has also led to major shifts in consumer demand in the on-premise world, most notably with

the rise in to-go options. As restrictions ease and more consumers elect to return to in-person dining, owners will need to consider how to integrate to-go into their dayto-day business when they have people starting to show back up in their establishments. For example, are you willing to pull a bartender away from in-person guests to make to-go cocktails? Where will you have guests pick up to-go orders? “How you integrate all of that back into your daily operating process is going to be something that folks really need to watch,” says Stratton. TECH UPGRADES Some of the changes that came about as a result of the pandemic may actually be sticking around, and technology—in the form of touchless payment, online ordering, and virtual menus—is a big one. If owners haven’t already adopted these digital tools, they should consider it. Technological developments have given owners greater flexibility, more effective inventory management, and the ability to offer better and faster service. “I think technology and how on-premise operators leverage technology to their benefit and to the benefit of their guest is really going to be something that’s a gamechanger,” says Stratton. Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine





A new haunt in New York City offers up strictly to-go cocktails.


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

he ghost kitchen concept has gained steam thanks to an increase in demand for takeout during the pandemic, but how about the ghost bar? The aptly named Ghost Bar in New York City has taken the idea of the ghost kitchen and applied it to the world of cocktails. Launched this past January in Manhattan, the concept delivers freshly made crafted cocktails. Born out of the pandemic and based in Midtown Manhattan, Ghost Bar meets customers’ needs for instant access to their favorite mixed drinks at an affordable price, with the craftsmanship and convenience comparable to their once-frequented cocktail bars. Ghost Bar is the brainchild of Ning (Amelie) Kang and Yishu He, who also co-own MáLà Project, a Chinese restaurant in the East Village that specializes in dry pot cuisine.

“Now with respect to social distancing and many bars closing, you can only drink so many whisky on the rocks at home without wanting something more easygoing,” said Amelie Kang, co-founder of Ghost Bar, in a press release. “And making drinks at home, getting a few bottles of liquor, juicing, and preparing the ice...can be quite a commitment. Sometimes I wish there was a quick and easy solution to a nice cocktail, and I think many people want the same.” The partners decided to create that solution themselves with Ghost Bar, and they reached out to Lee Berger, who has copious bartending experience, including Devon, Subject, and Butter & Scotch, to help develop the menu. “We wanted to create a no-frills bar that can bring a drink to you when you need it, and it should take about the same time as postmating groceries from a bodega,” said Kang, in a press release. “People

All Photos: Ghost Bar.


BAR TOUR don’t need to go through the hassle of searching for the perfect cocktail on multiple restaurant websites anymore. Ghost Bar has a wide enough range to fix your cocktail cravings.” The drink menu offers a wide range of classic cocktails, such as Last Word and Sazerac, and creative inventions, such as an Espresso Martini and a fresh and juicy Dragon Fruit Daiquiri. The bar also offers a fun twist on a Long Island named the Longest Island, which is a Baijiu-based drink mixed with complex flavors that tastes like a glass of floral iced tea. “We wanted to have a wide variety of flavors to offer something to all types of drinkers,” says Kang. “We dedicate half of the menu to classic cocktails like Old Fashioned, Penicillin; and the other half to specialty creations that we invented to provide more exciting flavor profiles.” Kang says the team is also constantly playing with new recipes and creating specials based on holidays and seasons. “We freshly batch all of our drinks. Depending on the drink itself, some drinks have a long shelf life, like the Negroni, which we batch about a week ahead. With drinks that involve juice and syrups, we make sure to batch closer to sale,” says Kang. “Our bar manager checks the inventory twice a week to ensure the quantity and quality of ingredients are up to standard.” The cocktails are delivered to customers in bottles with the garnishes also included inside. Instructions are written on the drink labels to pour the cocktail over ice or chill before drinking.

To comply with New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) restrictions, Ghost Bar is required to sell food and snacks with the drinks. To meet this mandate, the bar offers an Asian-inspired food menu featuring items like edamame, dumplings, Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple, and Shrimp & Pork Shumai. “We wanted to provide interesting dishes more than just regular bar foods, especially when many interesting cuisines are hard to access because of the pandemic,” says Kang. Ghost Bar still operates out of a brickand-mortar location to meet SLA regulations, but Kang says the overhead in staffing and rent is still lower compared to a traditional bar. One of the biggest challenges of operating an untraditional bar such as Ghost Bar is the lack of customer-facing interactions. However, Kang is still confident that the to-go-only model will remain popular. “Just like a few years ago, when food delivery first started, many were skeptical,” she says. “Now it’s hard to imagine a city without food delivery. People need good restaurant food and drinks at home. If we can make it accessible to customers, I’m sure there will be a market for craft cocktails at home.” Ghost Bar currently delivers all over Manhattan through, Grubhub, Postmates, and HungryPanda from 11:30am - 10pm daily with drinks starting at $12. It’s setting its sights on Brooklyn next. “We certainly hope this trend can stick around to make craft cocktails at home more accessible to customers,” says Kang.



melie Kang is co-founder of Ghost Bar and MáLà Project. She is one of Eater Young Guns 2020, Forbes 30 Under 30 2020, and FSR’s Rising Stars 2021. Kang attended the Culinary Institute of America, where she developed a passion for cocktails. Prior to establishing the dry pot eateries in the city, she used to bartend at B Flat in Tribeca and an award-winning speakeasy in Beijing called Apothecary, where she honed her mixology talents.

Ghost Bar delivers bottled cocktails with the garnishes already inside.

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine





The Perlick Ice Vault designed by Tobin Ellis provides storage and preparation solutions for large format and craft cocktail ice. As bar owners continue to invest in large format ice, attaining the proper solutions to maintain the quality and prevent profit losses due to inadequate storage and handling are vital. The industry’s first large format ice management system, the Perlick Ice Vault is the only one on the market NSF certified for the storage and preparation of craft ice. Designed to store up to 48 large format ice cubes for craft cocktails, units come with dividers to separate ice types and can even be converted into storage for up to six (1L) liquor bottles. A tempering pan allows the bartender to pull an ice cube out of the vault to properly temper during drink production. The ice vault can be used as a stand-alone or incorporated into the modular bar system, providing bartenders with craft ice within arms reach while creating cocktails—eliminating any potential waste due to over-melting of ice cubes.

Two Stacks Irish Whiskey proudly announces the launch of “Dram in a Can” in the U.S. this March. The 100-ml, 86-proof can is a complex blend of light and dark grain, pot still whiskey, and peated malt. Imported by High Road Spirits, Dram in a Can will be available nationwide with a suggested SRP of $18.99/4-pack. “We want to offer access to premium Irish whiskey in smaller quantities,” says Shane McCarthy, one of the founders of Two Stacks, along with Liam Brogan and Donal McLynn. The whiskey in the can will also be available as a 750ml bottle, called Two Stacks Blended Whiskey. A third release, Two Stacks Blender’s Cut, is bottled at 64% cask strength and is the highest proof Irish whiskey on the market. Two Stacks’ sweet and delicate blend is matured in the finest ex-bourbon, Oloroso sherry, and virgin oak casks before being brought down to proof and can. Dram in a Can is one of only a small number of Irish whiskeys using peated malt in its blend, giving a beautifully rounded experience when drinking. It is non-chill filtered and has no added coloring.

Perlick Ice Vault

Two Stacks Irish Whiskey


PathSpot Technologies, the world’s first real-time, hand-scanning hygiene system, announced a partnership with Touchland, the revolutionary hand sanitizer brand. With public health at the center of the national conversation, restaurants need tools and technology more than ever to keep compliant with rapidly changing guidelines and consumer expectations. The partnership between PathSpot and Touchland provides a turnkey solution for restaurant operators to enhance hand hygiene in the front and back of house. The PathSpot Hand Scanner uses light-based detection to provide real-time feedback on the quality and effectiveness of every hand wash. The scanner delivers results in less than two seconds if harmful contaminants are detected, so team members can take corrective action to prevent the spread of illness. The PathSpot system also collects data on each handwash, which is aggregated and reported through a mobile data application. Touchland’s sleek and contemporarylooking hands-free Kub Hand Sanitizer Dispenser is a first-of-its-kind smart hand sanitizer dispenser that combines design, IoT technology and hydrating, germ-killing formulas to keep both customers and employees safe. Each Kub uses self-monitoring smart technology for low maintenance and refill consumption, and the corresponding Touchland mobile app gives restaurant managers access to up to 100 dispensers straight from their smartphone.;


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021




Baileys is shedding a new light on 2021 with the launch of Baileys Deliciously Light—the latest addition to the Baileys portfolio that’s made with 40% less sugar and 40% less calories than Baileys Original Irish Cream. Featuring a flavor similar to the one you know and love from Baileys— including cream from Ireland combined with Irish whiskey, fine spirits, and rich cocoa and vanilla flavors—this lighter option is now available in addition to the Baileys Original Irish Cream. Baileys Deliciously Light can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including over ice, chilled, in a smoothie or with hot, iced, or whipped coffee. The product is now available nationwide for a suggested retail price of $24.99 for a 750mL format.

Elysian Brewing’s seasonal release, Salt & Seed, is made with 100% natural watermelon and kosher salt. Offering easy drinking with lemon-lime tartness, herbal characteristics, and mild saltiness, Salt & Seed (4% ABV) is made with an even split of pale and malted white wheat and a dash of acided malt. Bittered with Huell Melon and Northern Brewer hops, Salt & Seed is refreshing and light-bodied. This watermelon gose is perfect for the warm spring and summer months.

Baileys Deliciously Light

Salt & Seed Watermelon Gose




India’s NV Group and SMOKE LAB announce the debut of SMOKE LAB Aniseed Vodka in the U.S. SMOKE LAB Aniseed Vodka is a playful exploration of a muchloved Indian herb with refreshing notes of fennel and licorice finishing with a creamy sweetness and delicate fennel blossom note on the palate. SMOKE LAB VODKA is India’s first-ever homegrown, luxury Vodka, inspired and guided by SMOKE LAB Founder, Varun Jain. It is manufactured one batch at a time, at a state-of-the-art distillery and crafted with locally sourced superior-quality Basmati rice, a crop indigenous to the brand’s native country, and pure Himalayan spring water. SMOKE LAB is introducing SMOKE LAB Aniseed Vodka on the heels of the successful debut of SMOKE LAB Classic Vodka. “We encourage professional and at-home bartenders alike to have fun mixing up cocktails with a range of ingredients that highlight SMOKE LAB Aniseed’s unique flavor profile from premium mixers and juices to fresh herbs and spices, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and creative garnishes,” says SMOKE LAB Founder & CEO Varun Jain.

Spring 2021

Bar Business Magazine





lexandra Dorda is the founder of Kasama Rum, a small-batch rum inspired by her mother’s native Philippines. Dorda’s love of craft spirits comes from her Polish father, who co-founded Belvedere & Chopin Vodkas. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in International Relations, Dorda worked at Chobani Yogurt before returning to Poland to work for the family business. She then moved on to work in private equity before she was drawn back to the spirits industry, forging her own path with the development of Kasama. Dorda’s first solo venture not only brings to light her industry knowledge, heritage, and entrepreneurship that runs in her family, but also a sense of optimism that many consumers are craving right now.


Bar Business Magazine

Spring 2021

What led you to start a rum brand?

I grew up in the spirits world, so in some ways it feels like Kasama Rum has been in the works for my whole life. I was just two years old when my dad started working in the industry, and he later went on to launch Belvedere & Chopin Vodkas in the United States. I’ve always loved rum, but I didn’t feel like any of the existing rum brands were speaking to me. They were often focused on really tired nautical tropes like pirates, sailors, and sea monsters. A few years ago, I learned that the Philippines is one of the largest producers of rum in the world. Even though my mother is from the Philippines, I have to be honest and say that that really surprised me. I realized I could create the rum that I wanted while also celebrating the Filipino heritage that I am so proud of.


Tell us more about Kasama.


How are you changing the tropes associated with rum?

Kasama is a seven-year-old rum from the Philippines that is distilled from Noble sugarcane. Our goal is to breathe fresh air into a tired category, both in the flavor profile but also the branding. Sugarcane is actually native to southeast Asia—our warm and humid climate, coupled with our rich volcanic soil and the fact that sugarcane is originally from this region means that we’re able to produce some of the best rum in the world. Kasama is a golden rum with a light and pleasing taste featuring notes of pineapple, vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt.

I created Kasama to bring a breath of fresh air, both in palate and branding, to the rum market, while showing a global audience everything that our islands have to offer. Kasama means “together” in Filipino, and the brand is about celebrating good times with good company.

entire alcohol segment, rum included. Over the last few years, rum consumption has been mostly flat, but super-premium rum has experienced double-digit growth for much of the last decade. Consumers want to drink less but drink better, and I believe that sentiment is here to stay. In my opinion, rum has everything going for it. It is aged, which consumers love, but has a more approachable flavor profile than some other brown spirits. Plus, it has really positive connotations with holidays and warm, tropical escapes.


Advice for other young professionals in hospitality?

The hospitality and liquor industry is vast, and there are so many ways to get your foot in the door. The liquor industry, in particular, is filled with many peculiarities that are not at all intuitive, so I recommend getting as much experience as you can so you can learn the different angles in this industry. For example, I interned at Southern Wine & Spirits (the largest alcohol distributor in the country) while in college, and that experience has been invaluable in helping me to develop Kasama. During my time at Southern Wine & Spirits, I experienced every part of the business, from on-premise to off-premise, the chains, supplier meetings, and even supply chain and logistics. Through this process, I met many business owners, bar managers, brand ambassadors, and sales reps, which helped me to better understand the complex threetier system as well as what makes products succeed and fail. Another important training ground for me was food festivals. In the pre-COVID days, I used to help manage the booths for my family’s brand at food festivals all over the country.

When I was designing the brand, I tried to stay away from nautical tropes as much as possible. Our brand is joyful, convivial, and modern.


Photos: Darya Buben.



What are your thoughts on the state of the rum market?

In my opinion, premiumization is the most important trend affecting the



2.5 oz. Ole Smoky® Blackberry Moonshine 2.5 oz. Lemonade For more recipes visit OLESMOKY.COM Shine Responsibly®

©2021 Ole Smoky Distillery, LLC, Gatlinburg, TN All Rights Reserved. OLE SMOKY, OLE SMOKY TENNESSEE MOONSHINE and SHINE RESPONSIBLY are registered trademarks of Ole Smoky Distillery, LLC.



more? CONNECT WITH BAR BUSINESS MAGAZINE on your favorite social networks. Be the first to know when the latest issue is out, check out event highlights, discover creative cocktail recipes, and read the latest bar and nightlife news.