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Interviews

Jamie Twigg Keeping Things Interesting at The Ivy

17/06/2022

With a bar as popular as the Ivy, Jamie Twigg may not have to work to get guests in but he does have to make sure to keep things top notch.

Where do you work?

The Ivy Leeds.

Tell us something about yourself

Hello! I'm Jamie Twigg and I'm the bar manager for The Ivy Leeds. I've been working in bars for nearly 10 years. I have a Masters degree in sports science but hospitality and bars has always been a major passion of mine - plus it actually pays better.

Jamie Twigg, Bar Manager at The Ivy Victoria Quarter

What inspired you to get into bartending?

Like most people, I fell into it as a part time job during university and I was lucky that Leeds has THE BEST bar scene in the country! The sense of community and the love & support everyone has for each other is something truly special and you see it & feel it as soon as you fully immerse yourself into it. Leeds boasts some of the best bars and bartenders and these impressive people inspire and push me to be better every day. 

How according to you has the role of the Bartender evolved, especially now during Covid times?

The core role of a bartender has never really changed throughout history. We've always had to be great entertainers, agony aunts,  secret keepers & sometimes demonstrate superhuman patience. For me, the biggest changes have not necessarily come from the bartenders but from how businesses are prioritising staff happiness and understanding their employees worth.

The hospitality industry has been traumatised by Covid, forcing many to leave the sector completely due to job insecurity. This has somewhat forced business to better provide for their staff and make hospitality a more desirable and personally profitable place to work. I certainly hope this investment in staff is something that stays and can propel the hospitality industry forward as a truly respected career path! we've got celebrity chefs, maybe its time to have celebrity bartenders... just not Stanley Tucci (He knows what he did).

What are some of the most important skills for a bartender to have?

Be personable - think of the bar as a stage and you're the headline act. Your main priority is the guests’ happiness and being friendly & engaging provides the foundation to deliver that amazing experience that every guest wants. Personality & passion are key to building those relationships.
Communication - it's an easy answer but critical nonetheless. I aim to ensure every member of my team understands they have a voice and it should be heard. Everyone contributes to the success of the team and communication is the foundation of that.

Be analytical and critical - you should be constantly analysing what's going on in the bar: who needs serving? Who needs the bill? Has someone had too much to drink and we need to look out for their safety? Small details that help service run smoothly and lets guests leave happy.

What do you look for when you plan to buy spirits for your bar?

- For me, the main thing is, do I like it? It's hard to be passionate about a product you don't like.
- Quality - doesn't matter who you are or where you work, a good quality product is a necessity.
- Will it sell? As glorious as Louis Xiii might be, there's no point in buying it if you're not going to be able to sell it. Bars are businesses at the end of the day and you need to be able to make the most out of what you buy.  
 - Versatility - what is the most I can get out of the product? How many bar operators have one bottle of something that was used in that one cocktail years ago that they haven't been able to shift ever since? Guarantee most of us do (that dusty Galliano bottle, i'm looking at you!)
- Supply - Will there be enough? I work for a very large company with over 40 sites and if I'm looking for something that will be supplied to every site I need to know that producers and suppliers can keep up with potential demand.

What support programs work best for you from suppliers?

When working for a large collection of restaurants, having suppliers that want to work with us on an individual basis is a great thing, as this usually allows us to tailor training to what we experience day to day. What we experience in Leeds might be completely different to that in London. So we don't want to be treated like a London Bar, we want to be treated like a Leeds bar. 

What cocktails and drinks trends do you see in 2022?

Last summer was meant to be the resurgence of rum but sadly we never got that opportunity. In the meantime, seemingly every other celebrity is releasing their own tequila brand and with Bacardi's/Patron's shock decision to cease production of the Cafe Patron, tequila is now at the forefront of popularity & notoriety, so i imagine we'll be seeing a lot of tequila on show in the summer. Either way I'm predicting a big summer of aged spirits i.e. rum, whisk(e)y & tequila in all their formats. Also look out for a big push on low ABV and RTD items.

Trends that seriously need to disappear are "flavour bubbles" and dry ice - just make better drinks!

What's the best part of your job?

There's always something new to try. You're never at a loss for something new, quirky or different. Whether it's a cocktail, spirit, beer or wine there are always new delicious discoveries to be made!

What are your favorite TV shows right now? Or your favorite movie?

Any true crime series or sports documentary gets an immediate watch! Although a lot of Ru Paul's Drag Race was watched post lockdown.

If you had to pick one spirit as your personal best, which would it be and why?

it's a toss up between rum and wine. Rum is such a versatile spirit and the category is so broad that there is always something new to try! But I love nothing more than sharing a good bottle of wine with my dad. The emotional value outweighs everything else.

How are you marketing your bar to drive some foot traffic during covid-19?

I'm very lucky to have the platform that I do. A name like The Ivy will have people constantly clambering to get through the door! Having a happy team also contributes to our guests happiness and its things like that that keeps guests coming back.

Any tips for new bartenders?

Literally loads, maybe I should write a book...

- Know and understand your worth! if you work hard and are good at what you do you should be rewarded for that. 
- Learn your classics! They're classics for a reason and will give you a great base knowledge of flavour pairings and techniques.
- Always be hungry to learn more. The world of hospitality and booze is endless, go explore and enjoy. 
- Earn your stripes, do the dirty horrible stuff that no one else wants to and you will get the rewards for it.
- Never call in sick with a hangover! Grab yourself a Lucozade and some paracetamol and get into work! Definitely don't lie to your managers about being hungover either, we already know everything.
- Above all else, don't do anything Stanley Tucci tells you to do! The man shakes negronis and therefore cannot be trusted!

What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient or spirit?

I don't think vermouth gets enough attention sometimes. it's a fantastic and versatile ingredient that needs some appreciation!

What is an experience or a customer story you thought was funny and that you remember?

Far too many stories, most could make a nun blush! But when I worked for Revolution my masterclasses were notorious for getting a little messy... most would culminate in having a mother daughter duo on their knees, heads back, mouths open and me with a can of whipped cream…

What are the 4-5 challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome them?

Hiring good staff - people are reluctant to get into hospitality after a year of chaos but training investment from our head office and our suppliers means we can provide good training to those who don't have a lot of experience. Suppliers - Brexit and Covid means constant battles to get stock into the country. Wine has been a particular issue in this regard. getting staff vaccinated - whatever your feelings are on covid vaccinations, they do help protect you and the people around you. We've started offering money incentives for those who are double jabbed. 

What's your career goal? Where do you want to be and how are you working towards it?

I'd love to work in bar operations somewhere. It's the closest thing to a 9-5 as you can probably get when managing multiple bars and I'd love to be the person making the decisions on how the bars operate and what we stock. In order to achieve that I'm constantly trying to improve myself through business courses, spirit & wine courses. Basically, I want to be the best and only choice for the position I want.

Tips for brands looking to pitch to bars? What should they cover in their pitch? What do you not need to know? Give us the best elevator pitch brands can do to you.

- Never come mid service, you will be turned away and I'm far too busy! Leave a business card and if I want to talk to you I will.
- Do you actually like the product you're about to try and sell me? If I can't trust that you like it, then I can't trust you full stop and definitely don't want to work with you.
- Understand the business you're pitching to. Honestly ask yourself if your product fits in with what the company is currently stocking.
- The big things we want to know as a potential client is: is it any good? How much does it cost? How versatile is it? Why is it better than what's already popular?

Define a good Bartender according to you.

In Patrick Lencioni's book "The ideal team player" he describes 3 core values that a person needs to be an ideal team player and this is something I've always based my recruitment on.

- Humble - humility is paramount, there will always be someone who knows more or can do more but that should never stop you from trying to be the best. 
- Hungry - you should always be looking to improve yourself. There is always more to try and more to learn about. Passion is infectious and to have someone that drives themselves to be better will filter through the team eventually and before you know it you'll have a team of world class bartenders.
- Being people smart - A bartender should be a social chameleon. Every guest, team member, supplier or rep all need to be treated individually and so it's important for a bartender to be socially flexible in order to engage with everyone in the best way.

What's an ideal bar drinks menu? What should it include, what profit metric should it try and achieve?

For me I like a concise menu. A small handful of signature cocktails, a few interesting beers & good selection of interesting wines. If you offer anybody too much choice they're more likely to stick with what they know instead of trying something new!

For the actual menu itself a top tip is if you have a booklet like menu, put your cocktails in the middle of it because that's where the menu opens naturally and is the place your guests will open to first. Don't make your guests flip through pages back and forth to find what they want. Additionally, I'd like to see more menus describe the flavour experience of the drinks rather than just list its ingredients. Guests can be turned off by ingredients they don't know. However, by associating flavours to a particular event or experience you're more likely to sell your specialist cocktail. Furthermore, having a well trained team who know the drinks offering inside out is always advantageous as they can steer guests to things they'll like.

We typically work off net profit as this is our bottom line after taking into account all other costs. From this point we can then work out if our GP is good enough or needs adjusting. we're in the fortunate position where we can decide our GP. For me I try to aim for about 80-85% GP. Obviously you have to take into consideration whether your ideal GP is realistic because people won't buy your drinks if they're too expensive or you won't make enough money if it's too low. Profit metic analysis is something that needs constant review to make sure you're staying above the bottom line.

2023 Submissions are now open. You can register your brands now to save £75 per entry with super early bird pricing that ends on August 31, 2022.

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