3 Tips for Opening a Hospitality Business, with Andy Griffiths
Intro by Jonny McKenzie - Founder and Cocktail Maker at posBoss
It was 2002 in Wellington when I met Andy at a cocktail bar called Q where I was starting as a glassy. Known as the Hospo bar, many industry workers would recall finding themselves there for a roady or two as it was one of the only venues with a 6am license.
The time I first met Andy was a particularly memorable evening as it seemed like the entire Wellington Hospo scene had decided to come pay me a visit. With dirty glasses balancing on any manner of surface, Andy appeared & asked if I needed a hand. What followed was a tequila shot, quick welcome hug & the whirlwind talent of Andy Griffiths’ endless reach & speed in action.
Andy has recently moved to Singapore to open the ridiculously swish cocktail bar Idlewild at the Intercontinental Singapore.
A true gentleman and industry professional with a unwavering dedication to his trade, I am grateful to share Andy’s words of wisdom in opening a new venue...
Andy Griffiths, Singapore
My career in hospitality started in Wellingtown, New Zealand during the year of 1999. Over the last 20 years, I have worked in over 20 venues and, on some occasions, working in 4-6 at the same time.
My career has been full of some incredible experiences but if there was one to tell the tale about I would have to say it was being inducted as a Chevalier de Chartreuse. I was flown to France to spend some time in Voiron and the region. I knew I was going to get my plaque but didn't realize the two monks who make it, Dom Benoit and Frere Jean Jacques actually came down to the tasting room at the distillery to give me it personally.
We then all went out for lunch and I got to spend a couple of hours getting to know them and asking all manner of questions. They are incredibly lovely people who are so down to earth and kind of don't quite understand why some people around the world are so infatuated with their Liqueur.
It was the most surreal experience. Thankfully there was plenty of Chartreuse to drink otherwise I may have been too in awe to talk. They even got a bottle out of one of the secret rooms for us to try. It was over 60 years old and absolutely sublime.
Andy’s Top 3 Tips
Tip 1. Timing
Everything takes longer than expected so give yourself a realistic time-frame.
I have been involved in countless bar openings and I have never seen one open on time. Sometimes it is unforeseen build issues you didn't know were required ‘til you pulled a wall down or the floor up. Sometimes there are supply issues or staff that don't work out that can set you back a week or two. I've even seen issues with the local council being gangsters and wanting all their mates to basically get a cut before they can sign things off.
Anything can, and frequently will, happen.
Tip 2. Design
Don't let an architect design your bar.
I've loved dealing with architects over the years and have learnt a shed-load but thankfully most of it has occurred in a collaborative nature. There is nothing worse than walking into a built bar to find no ice wells (has happened) no plugs in the bar or even a tiny round bar with a huge pole right in the middle of it.
Having an experienced bartender collaborating on the design from the start will always result in a more functional and efficient space. This can lead to needing less staff to make the same amount of drinks which will save you a ton over time (ongoing wage cost vs some consultancy at the start?) you can also achieve better flow to the bar which can actually help aesthetically.
2018 Australian Bar Awards
Tip 3. Team
Balance your team.
This works on two levels.
Firstly you can have a crew that is contrasting or complementary but identical doesn't work. I thought years ago that I needed to find someone exactly like myself with the same passions and drive and general outlook on food, drinks and life and we would be perfect together. I realised eventually that we would probably end up getting sick of each other if there is no Yin to the Yang... The more diverse your crew the more experiences you have to draw upon.
Secondly you need a bit of Yin to the Wang. Bars that have a 'boys club' vibe are generally pretty gross. I'm not talking about venues that may have a masculine feel about them because that can be tempered by the service and attitude of the crew. I mean the bullshit attitude of some people out there who think 'chicks aren't really worthy enough to work in a bar' for a multitude of reasons that should never get any air. I love seeing all our female counterparts across the globe kicking ass and getting the recognition they deserve. But as an industry I still believe we can do better.
Bonus Tip. Celebrate
Keep calm during week one...
It's probably the worst it will ever be. Get through it and be proud of what you've achieved.