It’s that time of year again—the days are longer and hotter, and people want to party. So what summer drinks best reflect the mood of the season? Ben Canaider reports
The coming spring–to-summer season in so many Australian bars and licensed eateries is the old economic story: supply and demand. Come the longer daylight hours and warmer weather, more customers come out of the woodwork. That’s the demand part of the equation. This makes for better business as long as you have the right inventory of drinks and the right amount of good staff. This aspect is otherwise known as supply.
The good news is that all of this is just that: good news. By degrees.
On point drinks
Wine. Imported and esoteric and unique is still on trend. As is the need to have a few ‘natural wines’ in the wine list. Whether imported or not, red varieties such as tempranillo and sangiovese are still strong; the new style of very aromatic, lighter-weight grenache from McLaren Vale is also on a steady and trendy rise. The season also dictates the return of rosé, which is now becoming more neatly understood by staff and customers alike as falling into two styles: one is hot pink in colour and very fruity; the other is more bronze in colour and much more savoury. The former deals with spicy or chilli food; the latter is for more serious, grown-up, classic menu items served on big white plates.
Beer. Locavore beer is still the bee’s knees. Anything locally made, boutique, organic, made by men and women with beards and tattoos, and served in specialty beer glasses. Craft ale has no longer the whole market by the throat, however, with a bigger offering of bespoke lagers, lighter-bodied pale ales, and wheat beers making more sense come the hotter weather. But it is the local aspect, or ‘community breweries’ as they are now known in the USA, that is telling a very powerful story to beer drinkers of the emerging demographics and multi-genders. A beer that brings with it a sense of its own local community seems to speak some kind of intangible ‘truth’ to drinkers, so it makes wise commercial sense for you to make the most out of this drinking trend.
Spirits and mixed drinks. Gin. Whisky. Vermouth. In that order. Not to serve, but in terms of fashionability over the next six months. The last Northern European summer saw some trends away from dry vermouth and towards pastis (such things as Pernod—the anise-flavoured spirit of the south of France), but how that trend will translate here in Australia is an interesting question. Australian-made gin, utilising the best of native Australian aromatic ingredients, has particularly zoned in on the drink-less-drink-better-drink-unique mentality of younger demographics, which is now translating to the preferences of older demographics. Aren’t we all so young at heart…
Increasingly this area of the hospitality business is becoming more and more specialised, and the expertise such specialist catering businesses provide is nowadays highly refined.
Requests for offsite catering services made to an existing restaurant or bar usually come from regular and well-known customers. And while never wishing to be misinterpreted as acting impolitely, there are a number of ways to gracefully get out of such enquiries and requests. After all, “No, we don’t do that sort of thing…” can come across as a little curt.
The coming spring-to-summer season in so many Australian bars and licensed eateries is the old economic story: supply and demand.
Firstly, thank the customer for their enquiry, and for thinking of your business when contemplating their daughter’s beach-based wedding. Secondly, and very quickly, explain the set-in-stone-legal reasons why you can’t do offsite catering. “It comes down to liquor licensing and insurance, and staff award rates—you know, compliance and administration and government regulation. It is really killing business, isn’t it?” Start with a tone that’s apologetic, but end with one that’s more matter-of-fact and frustrated. Your customer will understand immediately.
RSA and liquor licensing
Speaking of regulation, the spring and its arrival is an excellent time to brush up on your Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) compliance and protocols. With the odds being that you’ll need a few more casual staff, it’s wise to make sure everyone representing your business is singing from the same sober song sheet.
The RSA certificate is a “nationally accredited unit of competency”. And your staff cannot serve alcohol without one. The good news is that most Australian states now allow certificate seekers to do their RSA online. It is quick, not unduly expensive, and very convenient. Having the ticket is pretty meaningless, however, unless your premises constantly refreshes your own RSA in-house protocols.
As an example, have a quick run-through of the following questions relating to RSA compliant practices or amenities and see how many of them you can mentally tick off.
Does your door staff or bar and floor staff have the ability to identify intoxicated patrons? Does your staff communicate with one another about borderline intoxicated patrons? Does your venue’s music drown out conversation? Do you have water on offer, and at regular intervals? Does staff assess any patron who is regularly returning to the bar? Is the lighting bright enough to insure proper staff observation of patrons? Does your RSA signage clearly indicate your responsibility to refuse service?
Of course, all of this makes the hospitality business and its service of alcohol one of the funniest two-sided coins going around. On the one hand you market, promote, enthuse and indulge in the moderate enjoyment of interesting, well-made and honourable beers, wines and spirits; but on the other hand, you have to be a nanny to each and every customer as they let their hairpins out on a Friday night. Your eye has to be on quite a number of balls, many of which are mostly in the air.