EXPO Certification Seminars: Passing the bar

(Note: This story appears in the May 2022 issue of ED Magazine)

Spearmint Rhino’s Mark Alums and Tootsie’s Cabaret’s Selem Kamareddine — both longtime bar management experts —  will tell EXPO 2022 attendees how a poorly managed bar can lead to theft and waste from your bar staff, which can sink one of your greatest revenue sources.

Accidental theft is still theft. Similar to how ignorance of the law is no pretense to break it, unintentional over-pouring or spillage translates to unintentional theft from your establishment.

Mark Alums, the bar manager for Spearmint Rhino Las Vegas, and Selem Kamareddine, bar manager for Tootsie’s Cabaret in Miami, will be speaking on the “Bar Management: Preventing theft and waste” ED University Certification Seminar on Monday, August 15, from 1-2 pm.

One of the sticking points they plan to discuss is how proper training, or lack thereof, can mitigate agonizing pains for your club’s bar and its bottom line.

Mark Alums

“The number-one thing I see in all bars/restaurants is that the bartender was never trained. So many people get a job because of their looks or who they know,” says Alums, who oversees a 50,000-square-foot building and manages a staff of more than 100 employees at Spearmint Rhino Las Vegas. “People are getting jobs thinking bartending is very easy, yet most people are under qualified. It’s easy to make a rum and Coke: put ice in the glass, pour rum and splash Coke on top. But there’s so much more depth to that. People get jobs they’re not qualified to have, therefore most of the time the waste is accidental because they were never conscientious about it or properly trained. So many people pour a drink and it’s ‘Oh, I put the wrong thing it in’ and pour it down the drain and remake it. They just threw out money.”

That’s ultimately your money whirling down the sink.

“I make sure people I hire have quality, qualifications before I even think about their looks,” adds Alums.

“The number-one thing I see in all bars/restaurants is that the bartender was never trained. So many people get a job because of their looks or who they know.” — Mark Alums

Sometimes, it’s not as cut and dry as a mis-pour or blissful ignorance. Sometimes, it’s a premeditated crime of theft. Kamareddine recalls an instance where a bartender and waitress tried to pull a fast one on the establishment with the bartender incorrectly ringing things in and passing the mis-rung-up cash to the waitress.

And other times, you may have a “Robin Hood” bartender where they short the rich patron and spread the rest of the “wealth” to other customers, aka regulars.

“As an employee/owner, you have to be knowledgeable of all this information and be prepared when it comes to managing your staff and keeping track of your inventory,” advises Kamareddine. “You can have theft and you can have lack of training that cuts into your costs.”

Selem Kamareddine

Kamareddine, who has been with Tootsies Cabaret for almost 10 years and has also worked at restaurant staples like The Cheesecake Factory and Yard House, says education is critical to keep business humming smoothly.

“Over-pouring, short-pouring, mis-rings with items on checks, caution with cash transactions — solutions that follow these issues are ‘eye-doctoring,’” says Kamareddine. “This means keeping an open eye for discrepancies previously stated. These solutions are in the best interest for your business to be profitable.”

Alums says he doesn’t trust that his bartenders have actual experience until he witnesses it firsthand, and mentions that he gives new bartenders the self-help reference book “Bartending for Dummies.”

“A bartender focuses on themselves and the customer,” says Alums. “A bar manager focuses on all of the bartenders as well as how the customers are being served. Are the bartenders making the drinks properly? You have to manage the customer, manage the bartender, manage the whole thing — it’s like a coach on the field. You have assistant coaches, players, but the coach is managing all of them.

“(Being a bartender is) like being a chef; no one goes straight to being a chef just because you know how to scramble eggs,” adds Alums. “There’s a culinary school where you start at the bottom and learn. Bartending is exactly the same.”

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