I recently teamed up with some friends to produce a video that you may have seen called “Sh*t That People Say to Bartenders”. I apologize if it has congested your facebook newsfeed but it was more popular than I thought it would be. It’s success taught me a lot. Most importantly I realize that we have a community larger than I imagined. If you enjoyed the video, please take a moment to read this.
Like many of you, I am intrinsically driven to change the way people think about spirits, cocktails, and even bartenders. For the past few years I have enjoyed many opportunities through the “cocktail boom” but I still believe as knowledgeable skilled individuals, we are largely undervalued and misunderstood by the masses.
Here in LA, most bar owners prefer to keep costs down by favoring low skilled employees and simple two ingredient cocktails. Rather than focus on a quality beverage program they pour money into design and marketing. This happens because our guests don’t demand much more than that. I don’t believe in telling others what to drink but I fear that this landscape presents significant challenges to our collective value.
I understand that growth takes time yet I believe that growth lies in changing the way people think. I am compelled to believe that we can do more to change the way our work is valued. I have developed a strategy to achieve this but I need your help!
I ask you to consider taking these actions:
We are all in the same gang!. Being competitive is human nature but if we spend our time and effort working against each other we will never realize change. The environment of our industry makes it easy to think success is determined by benchmarking the accolades of others but that is untrue. If we change the way people think about what we do we can all be happy doing what we love.
To the youngsters enthusiastic about bartending that think it’s all about getting into a magazine. Trust me, no bartender pictured in The Tasting Panel is killing it. Recognition is nice, but this job is about loving what you do and doing it well. That’s much deeper than winning a cocktail competition or creating a dozen new cocktails. If you are a youngster, get a mentor and learn your basics before you think you’re a consultant or the mayor of mixology.
-Don’t check out!
Because the highly skilled can be so under valued it seems that more and more bartenders are longing for that brand ambassador job, expecting that to be more rewarding. It might be the easy answer to make more money, but are you a bartender or a salesman? If we dig in, work together, and fight the good fight we can achieve change and increase average bartender wages. Stick around and make it better rather than cutting loose, we could use the help.
-Extend the olive branch.
I don’t know when this happened but there is a massive disconnect between guests and bartenders. Ordinary guests think that bartenders are assholes while bartenders think guests are annoying. In order for people to really value our work we need to work to eliminate this misconception. We get people drunk, of course they can be irritating. But we have thick skin no? We can deal with it professionally. Just like being subjected to being personally attacked on websites like yelp. Which brings me to this…
For several years I have watched yelpers, bloggers, and journalists opine as if they are experts. Some have merit but others are simply uneducated enthusiasts looking for a paycheck via advertising revenue. While there is room for enthusiasts, they should not be regarded as the “experts” in your town. They should not dominate the media, determine the worth of anyone’s work, and they should be checked when they step out of line. Let’s decide to not worry about the erratic opinions of the self empowered and instead empower ourselves as industry professionals.
We can change the way that our work is valued, and further change the way we are rewarded.
I will be doing my part here in LA and happy to speak with anyone about my strategy, vision, and opportunities to work together. But I need your help! I seek strength in numbers! Please help me by liking my company on Facebook and following me and my company on twitter. I promise not to bombard you with propaganda or do dumb shit like tag you in things that you don’t want to be a part of.
I will make a difference! I look forward to fighting the good fight with you.
Super Vest Friends unite!
Your brother in arms,