So after much deliberation, I decided to print this question and my response, as it’s a question that I get from you guys at least once a month. And therefore I think it’s important. So here we go:
I’m new to the bar, but not our company’s restaurant group. I’ve done my research and understand how important fresh juice is, but have already had negative feedback from the bar manager when he “caught” me juicing lemons with my own juicer before my shift off the clock. In addition, I’ve been told they like my enthusiasm, but apparently only on a per case basis. I asked them for some new bottles to make some great classics with as well as modern favorites (I was told I could get whatever I wanted) three weeks ago and haven’t heard word one.
Our place lies somewhere in between volume driven and quality driven, is a block away from a world-renowned cocktail bar as well as three other decent cocktail programs, and I feel that we aren’t keeping up in a VERY ritzy neighborhood that’s only getting bigger.
I understand that not everywhere can be a great cocktail bar and not all places are meant to be, as well as the fact that there are many other variables here, but am I wrong to think that we should be trying harder to grab some of that market share?
It’s tough to try to swim upstream when you’re working someone else’s program. As a bar manager, consistency is key and to have guests want to come in on your nights because you use fresh juice as opposed to other nights when the rest of the bar doesn’t, well, that’s just not good business for the bar. I know it sounds counterintuitive and I’m sure that someone is going to comment here that fresh juice is better than sour mix, to which I say – “Yeah. We know. That’s not really the point here.”
You’re going to burn a bridge if you keep trying to force a square peg into a round hole at your current bar, and is that what you really want? I know you’re thinking of yourself as the guy who makes the delicious drinks at the crappy bar, but I can almost guarantee that you’re really known as the prick who can’t follow the rules. And that’s certainly going to hurt your career – I know, I’ve had my share of those bartenders on my team over the years, believe me.
Look, I feel for you, man. You want to get better at what you do, and the situation you’re in isn’t letting you do that. That’s a really tough place to be, and I’ve been there before. But as I see it, you’ve got two choices: move on to another bar that serves the sort of cocktails that you’d like to make, or stay at your current establishment and step in line. Anything else would be career suicide.
Sorry if that sounds kind of harsh and wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but this is real talk. I want you to have a healthy career, I want you to learn all you can and become a better bartender, but I just don’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot while you’re trying to do so.