Lifting spirits

With the help of industry-leading experts, we take a look at how encouraging staff to be the best versions of themselves can make a difference to your venue.

Having a happy and skilled team is essential to ensure a thriving and successful venue. As staff are the driving force of any bar, responsible for providing great tasting drinks and excellent service to guests, it is crucial to consider how you are investing into your workforce and making their lives in the busy world of hospitality better.

Staff wellbeing should be a priority for all bar owners and managers, as without happy and fulfilled staff, there is likely to be a shortfall in employee performance, guest satisfaction and overall venue success. Nicolas Medicamento MIH, Founder of Dr Cocktail and Bar Educator, sees staff wellbeing as crucial, and comments on how staff should be valued for the people they are, not just what they provide to guests. Nicolas explains: “Staff wellbeing plays a critical role, and I consistently remind myself that we are dealing with human beings. Regardless of the role they play, what truly matters to me is that people are treated equally, with love, compassion and kindness, as these forces are among the most powerful drivers in our lives.

“When the individuals working in your bar feel loved and respected, they will undoubtedly produce more,” Nicolas adds.

Kris Hall, Founder and CEO of The Burnt Chef Project, further highlights the importance of promoting staff wellbeing, specifically mental health, and tells us: “According to Deloitte, 40% of all work-related turnover is due to mental illness. This means it’s critical that work environments are conducive to the promotion of healthy wellbeing.”

The Burnt Chef Project is a not-for-profit social enterprise, which was launched in 2019 to tackle the mental health crisis in the hospitality sector. Founder, Kris explains: “Supporting individuals and businesses across the industry, we are fully committed to helping educate, raise awareness, deliver training and support and ultimately reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health across our profession. Our goal is to make the hospitality profession healthier and more sustainable by focusing on people’s wellbeing first.”

There are many approaches your venue can take to promote mental health awareness and improve staff wellbeing. As a starting point, consider conducting anonymous staff surveys to get a well-rounded view of your business’s current approach, which will provide honest feedback with how fulfilled your team are and where improvements can be made. Once this staff review has been conducted, explore methods you can introduce to ensure your staff feel heard, respected and supported.

Staff wellbeing initiatives can be as straight-forward and simplified as you see fit, and are individual to every venue. Kris Hall states: “Wellbeing support can be as comprehensive as creating your own internal wellbeing committee, tasked with delivering on staff happiness and welfare, or it could be as simple as giving a team the tools they need to monitor and track their own mental health.

“Our Thrive Mental Wellbeing App is a great example of this. Trusted by the NHS, Thrive is an app that can be given to staff within a hospitality business and has been proven to boost retention, improve recruitment, support teams and managers and, ultimately, decrease the costs associated with presenteeism and burnout,” Kris continues.

As well as initiatives that focus on mental health awareness among staff, there are many other useful programmes your team can get involved in to increase their support network.

The UK Bartenders Guild is one of the leading professional associations for the bar and hospitality sector. Claudia Carrozzi, President of UKBG, tells us a little more about the importance of staff wellbeing, and what the Guild offers to aid this: “It’s the same as with any business. It just isn’t possible to run a successful thriving business with unhappy staff. We are working in very challenging times, and people have many trials to face both inside and outside of work, so, as employers, we have a duty of care to ensure that we support our people in as many ways as possible.

“Some may need financial support or someone to talk to, some may be ambitious and want to learn. Take a personal approach. Get to know your people, their dreams and goals, and they will thrive, which will, in turn, help the bar to thrive,” Claudia says.

The Guild offers a plethora of services to hospitality workers to ensure they feel supported within the industry. Claudia explains: “UKBG offers members the chance to be part of a network and community, with access to resources such as the Drinks Trust services, who deliver some fantastic programmes under the banners of Assist, Restore and Develop. They provide financial support to those that need it, mental health, wellness support and education and training. We want to foster a real community of education and ideas, where members can support one another and learn from our extensive connections.”

While improving staff wellbeing through programmes and initiatives is effective in providing an increased support network for your team, the fundamentals of happy staff are built in-house.

Crossroads bar, a friendly neighbourhood cocktail bar in Newington Green, London, suggests how venues can consider creating a healthy workplace for staff by improving their work-life balance. Bart Miedeksza, Founder and General Manager, and Valentino Girotto, Bar Manager, explain their approach to ensuring a better work environment for staff: “To protect staff wellbeing, we limit weekly hours worked (alternating four and five days working weeks), and implement a four week rota sent out two weeks in advance. This allows our team to plan their lives outside of work.

“While strictly, from our business perspective, it would make sense to open seven days a week, we’ve decided to stay closed on Mondays. This allows us to catch up outside of work, which is great!” they add.

While predominantly benefiting staff, improved wellbeing and morale can also positively influence your business, creating a happy and healthy work environment that shines through to customers. Nicolas Medicamento MIH supports this, and says: “I can assure you that investing in people, particularly our staff, genuinely enhances the workplace. Their radiance and enthusiasm will shine on the floor and at the bar, catching the attention of guests, who will undoubtedly return due to the exceptional experience they’ve had.”

Creating an admirable working environment can also be a benefit in terms of recruitment and retention. Bart and Valentino of Crossroads bar explain: “Wellbeing and training can be a huge draw. Knowing that your employer has your best interests at heart, that they will help you develop as an individual, and meet your personal goals, is so important to an employee in taking the right job for them.”

While investing into your staff by creating a happy and supportive work environment is critical, encouraging the development of your team’s skills is essential in helping them reach their full potential, and can further promote your venue.

Experienced bartenders, who provide an elevated experience to guests with their cocktail creations and vast knowledge, are synonymous to a successful bar, and vice versa. This means that ensuring staff training is up-to-scratch is absolutely essential for bars looking to move up the rankings in the highly competitive industry. More so, quality and consistent training elevates the individuals of your venue, enabling them to grow and evolve in the profession that they love.

Claudia Carrozzi emphasises the importance of education for bartenders, and states: “Training is a fundamental pillar of ensuring success as a bartender, and for managers.

“If successful training is implemented, then this undoubtedly impacts positively for a venue in terms of increased customer and staff satisfaction, retention and spend,” Claudia adds.

Affirming this statement is Tom Dyer, Director of London EBS, who shines a light on how unexperienced staff can affect business: “Training is so important for any bar. We constantly see bars losing a lot of money due to badly trained staff.”

As a manager, taking a personalised approach to training, instead of it being simply a tick-in-the-box, can effectively help each staff member flourish in their role.

Nicolas Medicamento MIH, of Dr Cocktail, explains the need for training to be conducted so that it is engaging and unique to each individual. He explains: “I firmly believe that overwhelming the team with information might not be as helpful. Instead, it’s crucial to recognise how individuals learn—whether through auditory, kinaesthetic, or visual means. Understanding these different learning styles is a key factor.”

Selecting a training style that resonates with your team can elevate the entire learning experience, making it fun and easy, as opposed to dull and tiresome. This is particularly important for in-house staff training, where venues may be limited to the resources they have. Rob Bright, Founder of Cloud Assess, a market-leading provider of digital training and assessment software for desk-less workers, explains: “At Cloud Assess, we know that the secret to effective training is understanding how employees best learn and retain information, and delivering content in a way that resonates with them.

“Studies show that practical skills, like those required for roles in the hospitality sector, are best learnt by being demonstrated, practiced, and observed in-person, and they should be repeated regularly. So, our software has been designed to facilitate this, whilst reducing the time spent on the admin involved in training. For example, practical tasks can be filmed and assessed virtually, and in-person sessions planned and scheduled alongside online modules within the software”, he adds.

Outsourcing training programmes, such as bartender courses, masterclasses and specific category education is an exciting and effective way of providing staff with all the tools to grow, and too, can benefit your venue by improving standards.

Spirit Lab is a bartending training academy that focuses on the formation and development of bar staff, from beginner to mid and advanced levels. Emanuele Mancini, Spirit Lab Academy Director, explains how the courses Spirit Lab offers can benefit both the new and the experienced bartender. Emanuele says: “I think that giving a solid base to bartenders is fundamental now more than ever. Nowadays, people think they can perform at a professional level simply by flooding themselves with the vast content they find online, without passing through the sacrifices and the ‘elbow grease’ needed behind the bar.

“For a more experienced bartender, our training is all about solidifying their knowledge and service, and giving them the inspiration to expand their horizons,” he adds.

Even for an experienced bartender, education and re-education is critical in maintaining high standards, and ensures further success for both themselves and the venue in which they work. Claudia Carrozzi sees training as something of constant importance for bartenders, no matter their rank. Claudia says: “It doesn’t matter how experienced you are – our world is fast-paced and ever-changing. Trends come and go, and a really great bartender is identifying new flavours, serves and brands and putting their own individual stamp on them. To do this you have to be open to everything around you all of the time. Read magazines, follow interesting social media accounts, learn from industry bodies like the UKBG and love the world of food and drink around you.”

James Duff, Spirits Educator from 58 and Co, underscores Claudia’s words, highlighting the need for their Gin School’s services: “I think masterclasses and category-specific courses, such as we provide here at 58 and Co, are invaluable. Especially these days, with customers becoming increasingly savvy, and industry trends changing so quickly, it’s more important than ever for bar teams to be well-informed and able to inspire confidence in their customers.

“One of the reasons we have such a big focus here on hospitality training, from basic tasting sessions to WSET qualifications, is that education ultimately leads to higher standards across the industry in general, and that’s great for everyone!,” James adds.

For practiced bartenders, The European Bartender School offers masterclasses and specific category experiences, such as the Tequila and Mezcal Tour, which help even the most esteemed mixologists expand their knowledge. Tom, Director of London EBS, states: “Stepping away from one’s comfort zones and learning about other drink categories will only make you a better bartender, able to make better more creative cocktails. Having knowledge in all aspects of drink offerings will enable you to come up with flavours and pairings that no one else will.  

“We often stick to what we like without expanding to try other brands, types, and flavours that would only expand our knowledge and give us a better understanding of taste and flavour in all products,” Tom finishes.

Overall, training for both the new and experienced bartender is crucial in expanding their knowledge and staying up-to-date with the ever-changing industry. Consistent training, which Emanuele of Spirit Lab suggests “should be every 12 to 18 months” enables staff’s on-going development and success, which feeds into your venue.

Ultimately, the tools you provide to staff, and how you encourage them to be the best versions of themselves by encouraging wellbeing and education, are crucial in ensuring a happy and motivated team. While fulfilling their potential, being dedicated to staff development in all aspects, can have a huge impact on the success of your venue. 

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