Hiring on Looks is Great for the Bottom Line – Except When It’s Not

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This is by no means meant to be a commentary on my personal appearance, or an evaluation of my “attractiveness” or lack thereof. However, throughout my career, I’ve managed to land bartending gigs in several “high-profile” (read: trendy) bars/clubs, teeming with stereotypically attractive young barkeeps. Read from that what you will. I’m not inferring anything in particular. But, I’m not gonna lie; being surrounded by the hotness does have a certain way of making a brother feel good.

That said, I know full-well about the relationship between energetic, cordial, flirty, and attractive Front of the House staff and revenue. They go hand-in-hand (to an extent). The extent being when said H.P.O.A. winds up either (a) driving away more business than he/she is consistently drawing or (b) pissing off other associates through negligence, incompetence, ignorance, or willful malevolence.

Let’s look at a specific (absolutely true) example, shall we? Take exhibit A: that photo at the top of the post. Most discerning imbibers, and your average 10-year old, would easily be able to distinguish Dom Perignon Champagne (of any vintage) from J.Roget Sparkling Wine (no vintage check necessary). That is to say, 99.9% of common folk know the difference between a $150 bottle of the real-deal bubbly and a $7 bottle of high-volume, commercially-made, American piss-water. Piss-water which probably has an alternative use as a somewhat effective mildew remover. Most folks have a clue unless, of course, you’re an overwhelmingly inexperienced barkeep resembling – to some degree – Rosie Jones or David Beckham (below, respectively). I hate to break this to you but, if that’s the case, you may under the establishment’s employ primarily because the hiring manager (a) knew your ass would lead to repeatedly higher foot traffic and (b) saw an opportunity to eventually/potentially scribe a notch in his/her belt after nailing said ass. Yes, that’s a frequent occurrence.

Rosie Jones David Beckham

In my experience, this business is more incestuous than any other I’ve ever witnessed or been party to. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing. There are indeed fringe benefits to every career. I can tell you first-hand, free-ish love is one of them.

So what’s the problem Freddy? The problem boils down to this… attractiveness and bartending frequently do not go hand-in-hand. Most uber-foxy bartenders I’ve worked with suck ass at actually – you know – bartending and making drinks. That’s not to say those combined qualities are mutually exclusive. I’ve worked with numerous drop-dead-sexy women and women who could easily skate through a Friday night at Lavo or Avenue, or talk the talk and “mixolgize” at any of Sasha Petraske’s disciple bars (read: PDT, Employees Only, Raine’s Law Room, or Dutch Kills). My issue has been that managers/owners are frequently the short-sighted and noticeably detached from actual operations. They often fail to look at the big picture. I’m not accusing them of failing to succeed in running highly profitable operations. But they’ve done so at a cost. That cost is often significant, not quantifiable and they’re nearly always oblivious to the fact for whatever reason. I suspect that isolation, through power-tripping and surrounding yourself with Yes Men, have something to do with it.

Take the Dom Perignon and generic house sparking wine example noted earlier. Not long ago, I witnessed a new hire – a young, athletic, very attractive dude – pop open 2 bottles of Dom and use it to mix house cocktails calling for a splash of Champagne/Prosecco. Now in the grand scheme of things, losing product in that fashion, a potential $300 or $400 in potential revenue is not  a catastrophic loss when the overall nightly ring is in – let’s say – the tens of thousands of dollars. What is devastating to the bottom line is when you have a number of incompetent idiots unintentionally (or sometimes willfully) conspiring to grow your rate of spoilage (overall losses) over the course of weeks/months/years.

You bet. I’ve been witness to that too; a team of ignorant buffoons torpedoing revenue, laying waste to good product and exhibiting terrible customer service night after night. That can manifest itself in excessive and lengthy flirting for much tip rather than keeping it brief and tending to the dozens of other patrons begging for alcohol. Or, it can mean dumping 3 or 4 versions of cocktails because they’ve been prepared incorrectly. It can mean staring at a Z-out/sales-report for 2 hours and doing their damned best to recall 5th grade math skills, figuring out how to separate $4,000 in cash between Cash Owed, credit card gratuities, night bank, and 3 bartenders’ overlapping gratuities. It can mean walking out mid-shift at peak due to stress (happens often). It can mean creating an high-turnover environment where few other bartenders are willing to work with you as you’re pooling tips. These are just a few practical examples. But the much larger issue is the repercussions that chronic and widespread incompetence eventually leads to; guests can eventually get fed up with poor service, degrading atmosphere, and poor quality beverages.

Incompetence over time can turn a $2,000,000 a year business into a $1,500,000 a year business easily. Quite often, that’s something owners/managers often lose sight of. Sad but true. Practically everything in this life these days boils down Money, Power and Sex in my opinion – and in that order. If they knew, they’d care. I’ve worked in places where ethnic owners hire mostly members of the same ethnic group. I’ve worked in others where actors/models/musicians hire only other actors/models/musicians on the drop of a dime just to give them a leg up despite their blatant lack of qualifications. Still, other imbiberies, mysteriously owned and run by Caribbean-born hardware store owners, turn around and hire friends/family (again with little to no experience) then scratch their heads as to why their businesses are crumbling. Some of these violations of conscience also run afoul of the law in terms of non-discrimination. Unfortunately, few instances of that line-stepping behavior are ever addressed by the justice system.

It’s common sense, people. Figure out your establishment’s identity. Determine your target demographic. Hire physically attractive F.O.H. staff who are also competent and experienced, folks who feed into said identity and cater to that demographic. Maybe this problem is simply endemic to New York City. I’m not sure. But hell… owners/managers, you can do do better.

 

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2 thoughts on “Hiring on Looks is Great for the Bottom Line – Except When It’s Not

    • It seems like a crazy concept to most people I’ve met, but workers aren’t hired merely for the purpose of filling their own purse and paying their own bills. Any good employee will care not only about their own money, but also making profit for their employer – and quite often those two things are symbiotic. Idk if that’s the writer’s reasoning, but that is my insight on the matter.

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