Self taught bartender and bar owner Bobby Heugel from Houston Texas had fairly rapidly become one of the most important and innovative hospitality professionals in the world. Known for his fearless questioning of everything in our industry from provenance of – and corporate responsibility of – every product his bars stock to the roles of bars in the wider community. When Bobby talks sensible people stop and listen.
His talk at BCB 2018 was standing room only and while he prefaces the session by saying that the industry was severely short of trained staff – a problem that Covid-19 related closures will no doubt negate – his concept of what and how to train bartenders is perhaps vital to be revisited for two reasons.
Firstly although there is soon going to be glut of ‘trained’ bartenders on the market as many bars simply do not reopen or reopen with reduced capacity managers and owners need to realise they are not buying an ice machine that can simple be unplugged from one venue and work perfectly in the next but their staff must want to grow professionals; be able to convey the bar’s brand identity; to contribute and change the bars norms to facilitate growth and to show that hospitality and community extends beyond the walls of the bar. Every staff member, new or old, must go through a shared training program to ensure this and enhance teamwork.
Secondly this ‘downtime’ allows managers and owners to use the time to reevaluate their training programs to ensure that the experience their staff are delivering is always positive – and perhaps raising their standards as guests reevaluate their spending. Bobby shares the nuts and bolts of his own twelve week training program in fascinating detail and shows how his bars have become not just prized places to work but also a hotbed of emerging talent that have gone on to open critically renowned bars themselves. This was an unmissable talk in 2018 and is still relevant and crucial in today’s New Normal.