Joe Singara, formerly of Perth’s Bobèche, writes for BARS&clubs about what he has learned regarding the art of having everything in its right place.
Mise en place. Bar set up. Perfect world. Call it what you may. Often over looked, the practise of ensuring that a bar is set out to maximise productivity can be the difference between a night in the weeds and a night where it is pure pleasure to hold court from behind the stick.
It starts with the well, or rail, if you prefer. An order for a vodka, lime and soda begins a chain reaction of reflex. Your left hand reaches for a glass while your right hand begins to drop subconsciously. Your fingers grab the bottle by the neck and before you know it there’s a bottle of vodka in your hand ready to be poured into the glass on the bar.
The subconscious recognition of where things should be begins to become important. After a while it becomes glass, bottle, jigger, pour, ice, lime, soda and straw the whole time holding a conversation about that local sports team.
Eventually moving past the basics of well setup, mise en place incorporates the wider spectrum of how the bar is laid out. Good operators are constantly evaluating the way their bar is laid out to maximise their productivity. Productivity leads to profitability.
More drinks in guests’ hands means more money through the till. There are very few definitive answers when it comes to mise en place. This is due to the infinite ways bars can be designed and the differing service styles of different bars.
When looking at your bar’s mise en place it’s important to factor in all the elements of service particular to your bar. Making sure that the items you use most are closest to you and in a place that makes sense to your bar teams work flow.
Ideally, a bartender should be able to stand in front of a station and have everything they need for service within an arm’s reach. This ideal can be widened from mere station design and layout to thinking about the backbar behind each station.
Extending the bartenders space from the 180 degrees in front of them to the (almost) entire 360 degrees around them.
Widened even further and you start to think about how fridges are set up, cool rooms, dry stores and so forth. The further you delve into the rabbit hole, the faster and faster your service becomes. Ease of access for the more frequently needed items allows less time to be wasted.
While it may seem like seconds saved it all adds up. Over the course of a shift, a week, a month, a year, each bartender on shift saving countless seconds starts to add up. The larger the bar team, the greater the savings, the more drinks the team can serve.
IT’S ABOUT TEAMWORK
While putting thought and planning into your mise en place is a huge head start, the real success of all that planning relies on the bar teams commitment to upholding the system.
Without each team member being committed to putting everything back in the right place each and every time the system starts to collapse. All that effort put in to building muscle memory of where to reach when you want something is wasted if your hand falls to where something should be and suddenly it’s not there.
There’s a small moment of your body questioning it’s movement before your brain catches up and you have to stop and physically look, breaking your work flow and slowing you down.
When training new bartenders I try to stress the importance of having things neat, tidy and in place. More often than not it’s the first thing to go out the window when a new bartender gets busy.
Effective evaluation and evolution of your mise en place should be something that is constantly in the back of every bar operators mind.
After all, good mise en place can make a huge impact on the success of venues.