Communication Essentials for Successful Bars

The holiday season is officially in full-swing, and to restaurants this means change. Changes to menus, staffing, scheduling, ordering, and sometimes even the flow of service.

In order to keep things running smoothly, clear communication is essential. A daily pre-shift meeting is a commonly used tool to keep staff up-to-date on menu changes, 86es, items to push, and service notes. But these meetings, of course, are only useful for employees working that day. So, the question becomes, how to keep all of your staff informed?

This is especially important for bar staff, since often times, bartenders will work solo shifts, rarely crossing paths with their co-workers. And since bartenders have more behind the scenes work than any other member of front-of-the-house staff, developing a communications strategy is vital to a properly functioning bar.

Keep a Running Prep List

Bartenders are typically responsible for their own prep, or in some lucky cases, the kitchen will prep for them. Either way, bartenders need to know the daily par for all cocktail components, and keep a running prep list, much like chefs do, of all items needed for the next service. This way, rather than spending extra time taking inventory of stock, the next person in can get to prepping immediately.

Create a Living Spec Sheet for Cocktail Recipes

Changes to the cocktail menu may happen once per season or once per shift, depending on the style of the bar program. In order to make sure all bartenders on staff have access to these changes (and no excuse for not being aware of changes), a living cocktail spec sheet on Google Docs, or a similar platform, is a great tool. This way, recipes can be edited and shared with the entire staff in a few clicks.

Start a Nightly Email Chain

In addition to a prep list and spec sheet, there are plenty of other things bartenders need to communicate about. This is where a nightly email chain comes in handy. Here, bartenders can let each other know what went on during the course of their shift — anything from liquor order needs and menu changes, to items that are 86ed and that weird guest who came in again even though he’s not supposed to.

Consider a Cloud-Based Platform

Document sharing is a great go-to, but for something even more advanced, cloud-based platforms like Slack help further streamline communication. Users can chat, create multiple conversation threads, hashtag topics to come back to later, and share links and documents. All conversations are automatically saved, so, if you want to remember that thing you were talking about last month, a quick keyword search can get you back there.

Help Each Other — It’s the Holidays, After All

Doing a little extra will go a long way. Even if it’s not your responsibility, stock a little at the end of your shift for the next bartender. Re-up a cocktail batch for the next day. Make simple syrup. But then leave a note or a write an email letting the next bartender know you did it. Helping is great, but communicating about helping is the most helpful thing of all.


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