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Your Beer, Sir
By Jim Anderson

OK, people. You've put in twelve new draft beer lines, and fifty new bottles. You've called your beer distributor and asked what the hot new microbrews are. You've priced out everything, gotten some promotional do-dads up on the walls, and added beer specials to your menus. Are you ready to start charging $5.00 a pint?

Maybe.

But before you can expect your bar or restaurant to become the hottest new beer joint, you have to know a little about beer service.

Beer service???

Yes, like everything else in your establishment from silverware to scungilli, beer has its proper and improper ways of being served. And whether or not you can get your staff to follow these simple rules may mean the difference between heady profits and an expensive inventory gathering dust in the basement.

GLASSWARE:

  1. Keep the glasses out of the freezer. Whoever started freezing beer glasses should be strapped to a barstool and forced to drink a case of Zima! You don't serve wine that way, so don't serve beer that way. Today's beers have loads of flavor, and the colder they're served, the less those flavors will reveal them- selves. If necessary, you can always chill a glass for a customer.
  2. Don't use a screwdriver to pound nails. Just as red and white wines have their own glasses, so do ales and lagers. Serve your lagers in a narrow flute or pilsner glass to preserve carbonation and focus the aroma; serve ales in a wide-mouth glass to allow carbonation to escape and release the bouquet.
  3. Rinse thoroughly. Nothing ruins the flavor and appearance of beer like a soapy glass. If you don't keep your rinse water warm and clean, don't expect beer fans to flock to your door.

DISPENSING:

  1. Handle with care. When pouring draft beer, aim for a two-finger head. If the beer is pouring heady, let it settle rather than dump the head off. The stuff is expensive, so don't pour profits down the drain.
  2. Pour the bottle or don't pour the bottle. Many of today's exotic beers contain a layer of yeast on the bottom of the bottle which shouldn't be stirred up or poured into the glass. So, either pour the whole beer, or let the customer do it himself -- sediment mixed up in the beer or dumped into the glass is legitimate grounds for sending the beer back, and that's money wasted.
  3. Always offer a glass with a bottle of beer. Simply handing someone a bottle of beer and asking him for $8.00 is a sure sign of beer illiteracy. If the customer chooses to drink from the bottle, let him. You wouldn't make him ask for a fork to eat his dinner with, so don't make him ask for a glass to drink his beer from.

SELLING:

  1. Know your product. If one more server tells me "I don't know, let me find out", someone's gonna get hurt! You expect your servers to know how to describe the food you serve, why not the beer you serve? If your staff can't handle the task, get some beer lists printed up, pronto.
  2. Do it for the coach. Not every server drinks beer. But every server is obligated to sell it. If a server doesn't drink beer, it's not an excuse for not knowing about it. Their job is to sell what you have for sale, whether they personally like it or not.
  3. Higher checks = higher tips. You don't have to sell a customer on Bud. But if you sell a customer on Duvel, you double your beer sale. 'Nuff said.

Tough love? Maybe. But these rules are nothing more complicated than those you already follow for many other aspects of your establishment. It's a tough world out there, and ignorance is no defense in the service industry. Save the ceremony for a beer tasting, do the basics right, and you'll be enjoying the fruits of the Beer Revolution as if you've been doing it all your life.




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