Welcome back to the second part of our interview with the world’s fastest bartender, Sheldon Wiley!
In the first part of the interview, we focused on advice for people joining the industry, Sheldon’s own experiences, and what it really looked like working as a bartender at the top of his game.
In this second part, we’re going to focus on where he thinks the industry is headed alongside some of the hurdles Sheldon has encountered in his long and illustrious career.
Insights Into the Industry
Sheldon has been around the block in the nightlife industry. He started in 1999 and worked his way up to his current title. On top of that, he’s also played as a DJ in countless venues and made a name for himself as an authority.
When asked about a part of the industry that he believes could be improved, he immediately pointed out the traditional operational systems.
“Certainly running payments. It’s always been a gripe of mine and I always thought, “why can’t there just be a quicker way to process payments so that you don’t have your back turned to the guest?” Because that CAN become part of your workflow throughout the night but you always have to turn around and reset.
I’ll time the bartenders and I’ll see how long they’ve been standing in front of the terminal vs. how long they’re actually entertaining the guests and their needs.
It’s at least a third of the time, sometimes half of the time, they’re processing payments. OR standing in front of the terminal looking for something.
So, that’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Because I don’t think the process is being maximized. I think it’s too traditional. Maybe there’s a fear of change from an operational standpoint or an acceptance, generally speaking.
I believe that it could be more beneficial to not only the staff but the venue and most importantly, the guest if they have more drinks in their hand and they’re being tended to.
You can have that back and forth with them instead of thinking about the other 5 things you need to do when you turn your back. Whether it’s entering drinks in or processing a payment and having to count money or whatever it is.
You can be a lot more focused on them and giving them what they need.”
Sheldon made it clear throughout his interview, that he wholeheartedly believed that his job was in hospitality. That meant his first priority was the patron.
Anything that took time away from that was time that could have made the guest experience better, gotten people more drinks, and ended up benefiting the venue and bartender with more revenue.
In that same vein, his second point tied into the first.
“Another thing is the out time and this might just be my age. I’m certainly not getting any younger. I also have a kid that’s about be 3 years old. He gets up between 6:30AM – 7AM. So, I mean, if you do the math, that’s not a whole lot of time for me to get some sleep.
In the process at the end, inputting all of these service charges and the tip amounts so you can run the report and figure out what the house gets, what the staff gets in regards to tips. It’s very time consuming.
If the bank loan is not high enough and the staff is owed more money from the bank downstairs. Then, you have to wait for that money to come up and that can take some time if the management is doing other things.
There’s certainly some variables regarding to that as well.
Ultimately that process in itself takes a big chunk of time. So, a pet peeve for me, is that every single night I’m trying to get home sooner.
I feel as if we’re stuck in this dinosaur warp pre-historic process that ultimately could be sped up.”
He made sure to hammer down on the point that, from a bartender perspective, there was an urgent need to move past the ‘traditional system’.
A system that that leads to a lot of cash handling or individual transaction processing. To streamline that would mean really clearing the way for bartenders to engage their guests.
“It would improve in a lot of different areas. It would improve the guest experience, which is first and foremost from a hospitality perspective. Obviously, let’s not forget that when you’re there as a staff member, you’re there to make money and that’s because that’s your job. So, if ever, you can maximize that, it’s sort of what it’s all about.
Especially in a tip structured system. And of course, all of that promotes return revenue for the venue, which is great for the owner and management if they have incentives.
All of it, as a whole, seems like a no brainer to me. If you have a system that is efficient and can operate in the environment, yes.”
Having given insight into the current state of affairs, Sheldon tied his thoughts into what he thought the industry could look like in 3-5 years.
The changes were focused on streamlining operations so that the patron service could become a more central role. Happy customers, happy staff, and a stronger bottom line for owners.
“Pertaining specifically to the hospitality world, I think it’s inevitable that you begin processing payments through an app. And really reshaping the experience and making it more convenient for the guest.
I believe you could do it in such a way that it’s beneficial for the bartender, beneficial for the owner.
I believe it means more money for the bartenders because their processing less payments and they have their back turned to the guests less. Which means that the guest is the primary focus. So, when the guest is the primary focus, you’re not only enhancing their experience, you’re also putting more drinks into their hands.”
Then, stepping out of his role as a bartender, Sheldon also sympathized with his own guests.
“There’s nothing that we, as customers, dislike more than going to bars and restaurants and nightclubs and waiting to be served. That’s not what we pay for our good, hard-earned money for to have to wait. We could practice patience at home. When we go out and spend our money, we’re looking to be taken care of.”
Furthermore, as someone who consults for bars, has dabbled in ownership, and worked as a bartender, Sheldon thought the trends of the industry heavily affected venue owners and managers as well.
“So, I believe that there’s a benefit to the guest in increasing guest satisfaction. I believe there’s a benefit to the bartender or server because they’re able to maximize what they can make because they’ll be taking in more orders which means more revenue, which ultimately means more tips.
And of course, mentioning revenue, that’s great for the owner. If everything else falls into line, you have a happy staff, happy guest. That promotes return revenue for the establishment.”
Lastly, Sheldon thought it was important to highlight a rarely discussed subject in the nightlife industry.
“And another thing that is not talked a lot in this industry is that there is a pretty high degree of theft and that goes against the bottom line from an operational standpoint. I think less handling of cash would really help in establishments’ bottom line at the end of the day.
Overall, I think it’s a no brainer and I think it’s one of those things that’s really good for all parties involved. Patron, management, operator, and staff.”
Much of Sheldon’s insight was focused on where the industry was headed and how technology was going to be the path to get there. Whether that be a drink ordering app like Noble or the table booking technologies on the market, it’s inevitable that venue owners have to ride the tide to greater success.
A Big Thank You And Where to Find Sheldon
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