22 Feb, 2024
20-21 March 2024
10 April 2024
4 March 2024
In the interview below, Kyle talks about why he wanted to become a bartender and discusses what he looks for when buying new products for his bar.
COPA Bar, Sheffield
I'm 27, and I've been in all sorts of roles in hospitality over the past decade. I'm currently half the management team at COPA bar in Sheffield, a brand new bar that opened earlier this year.
I chose to become a bartender after a friend and I paid a visit to a speakeasy called Vice & Co in Lincoln. My experience was very memorable, and the staff were so knowledgeable and charismatic that I remember turning to my friend and saying (rather drunkenly), "He's what I wanna be when I grow up". A few years later, down the line, here I am! Hoping that I'm doing my younger-self proud. I still consider many of the staff at Vice and Co good friends and always try to pop down to visit whenever I'm in Lincoln.
Adaptability is the big one, and I still believe that to be true. You need the ability to alter your service to suit your guests' individual needs, as well as the capacity to manage different scenarios and environments.
I also believe that teamwork and the ability to communicate effectively within a team are vital. Not one person is the best choice to deal with every situation. Having a team that can cover your weaknesses and vice versa creates a much stronger bar that is much better prepared for any situation thrown at them.
Personally, I look for a great, relatable story that I can relay to guests.
I tend to find when upselling products, guests don't tend to care about how many times it's been distilled or what rare rock it was filtered through under the light of a full moon. The thing that I find works the best is relaying the product's backstory and the ability to humanize the efforts that have gone into producing it. I should be able to work as a bridge, creating a rapport between the guest and those who put in the work to produce great quality products.
Image: Kyle Elwis
It has to be Pancho Datos for me; aside from offering a fantastic range of premium tequilas, the team behind it is incredible. They've always been super supportive of my personal career, they do some great work in supporting and raising awareness for mental health within the hospitality, and they're just a genuine pleasure to work or go for the occasional margarita with.
The best part of the job for me is being able to touch people's lives daily. As an example, we recently held a wedding reception at COPA; being part of one of the most important days of that couple's lives and being trusted with that for me is very humbling.
Not every example is as grand as a wedding, but often on shift, you're a part of people's lives sometimes without even realizing it. People come to bars to celebrate, mourn, and escape, and I think it's great to be there for all these human experiences.
I think hydration is key! Where possible, always offer guests water alongside and between their orders. Aside from promoting more responsible drinking, I find better-hydrated guests are able to order more drinks without it impairing their judgment too much. It also has the added perk of giving the guest something to drink and cleanse their palate while waiting for their next round.
Image: Kyle Elwis
People can go to various places for quality drinks, but the experience of a bar makes it unique and keeps guests coming back. I love hearing reviews about how my team or I went that extra mile for guests to make their day. Equally, I embrace the challenge of hearing about how we get things wrong to improve and be better for next time.
Everyone who works behind a bar will have a tale about that guest who whistles, clicks, or waves money at them. My advice is don't be that person. Remember that although we are servers, we're human beings first, and having polite manners goes a long way to getting served quicker.
It also helps to be ready with your whole order, be ready to pay, and remember your please and thank-you's, which will all help ensure you get prioritized in the future.
Allergen depending, whenever someone asks to be surprised, I will usually reach for the Creme de Banane....who doesn't love a banana-flavored drink. One of my personal favorites is a banana daiquiri.
- Vice and Co, Lincoln- Will always hold a special place in my heart as the venue that gave me my current career path.
- Strait and Narrow, Lincoln- Possibly a little biased because I used to work there, but I've always admired the team's creativity in their drinks and how they create unique experiences for their guests.
- Murder Inc, Soho- I always try to visit whenever I go down to London. This bar makes the absolute best use of its small space. Crowded or quiet, the vibes are always electric, and often some fun and exciting stuff is happening.
I recently had a guest that I had previously met at a mutual friend's house party. She remembered me from the party and was very complimentary about the drinks I made there.
Aside from being flattered, it was a nice reminder that hospitality could extend past the walls of your physical workplace and apply to every aspect of your life.
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