The lobby group: What makes the perfect hotel bar manager?

Drinks: Uncategorized
Other: Business

In the final Lobby Group column, Gorgeous Group director Robbie Bargh throws down the gauntlet to all aspiring hotel bar managers out there…

When the Gorgeous Group first formed under the contract of creating a destination style bar called Zeta at the London Hilton on Park Lane, the world was a very different place. Hotel bars were still dusty old affairs tucked away in basements, off the main lobby or on some mezzanine to nowhere, serving mediocre drinks in a style reminiscent of Fawlty Towers.

Then the names Ian Schrager and Oliver Peyton started being murmured and a small, discrete hotel bar named the Met Bar opened on London’s Park Lane. And that’s when it all began – separate entrances, mixology, DJs, membership, über-designer interiors and swanky PR parties.

Today, the hotel bar has become a glamorous hook to pull in guests, to add value and £s to the guest experience and room rate alike. And as the hotel bar has changed, so too has the skill set needed to run these bars.

In the past, the hotel bar manager had to understand the workings of the hotel machine and how the bar fitted in with the food and beverage anatomy. The bar supported the all-day restaurant, room and breakfast service, as well as conference and banqueting. The job was about stock stakes, gross profits, beaujolais nouveau promotions, penguin-clad guests downing their warm pints and G&Ts, salted peanuts, piped music and long hours (none of this ‘working directive’ business). Glamorous it wasn’t – but it produced some of the best managers still around today, including Giuliano Morandin, Salvatore Calabrese and, of course, Peter Dorelli.

But now, there is also a hunger for that slice of cool, for that celebrity bartender, the charismatic, all-singing, all-dancing all-rounder. A bar manager who can make the best drinks, give the best service experience, pull in the best sales (and manage to turn them into great profit), someone who can inspire both their team and the guests, who can play the hotel politics card, who can turn up for work on time, looking sharp, and have the charisma to deal with hotel suits, suppliers, hookers and guests alike. They must be therapist, flirt, motivator and creative maverick. But most important of all, while they may have a bit of an ego, they have to realise that this business is not about them – it’s ultimately about the guest and their experience. Oh, and they have to be matinée idol good-looking too.

As we speak, I am scouring the country looking for four such managers – and believe me, they aren’t easy to find. There is a desperate lack of true talent out there. Sure, there are many superb mixologists, but finding a great hotel bar manager is something else altogether.

The perfect bar manager is, for me, all about the attitude, the personality, the passion and the knowledge. But the ultimate trait I look for is that ability to make every guest feel like they are the most important person in the world.

For me the perfect candidate would be a mix of Fred Sirieix (Galvin), Charlotte Voisey (ex-Apartment 195), Simon Rowe (The Dorchester), Alessandro Palazzi (Dukes), Agostino Perrone (The Connaught) and a sprinkling of Brian Silva (Rules).

Incidentally, it would be great if we could see a few more ladies coming through – there is far too much testosterone behind bars today…

Should anyone think they’ve got what it takes to land that dream hotel bar manager job, please send an email to me at [email protected]

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – September / October 2009

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