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Bobby Heugel: “We are serving the city that we are working in”

Bobby Heugel na Bar Convent Berlin 2018 Source: Bar Convent Berlin 2018 / Gili Shani

Bobby Heugel is bartender who changed the cocktail culture of Houston. We got an opportunity to hear his story at the BCB in Berlin 2018. Enjoy! 😉

We can say that he is one of the guys we don’t see everyday. He is running a lot of places (he visited 3.000 destilleries 😮), he is engaged in lot of seminars, stuff that he is doing outside of his bar. He earned 1,000.000 $ and gave it to the humanitarian purposes.

Tell me what is your secret of success?

I think the most important thing we do in bar is making sure we are serving the city that we are working in. Nowadays bars are too conscious on what is going on outside of their cities.

We are serving the guests that are living in Houston, so when people from abroad are visiting us, we give them full Houston experience. I think that is what bars should do. So I guess that thing we are trying to do is – to be the bar of the city from where we are.

You mentioned few times that you are not in high level of the prices in your bar. What is the price for Tom Collins at your bars?

It changes depending on the bar. We have extremely nice bars, where we are charging 15$ for the cocktails. They are very small rooms and we take reservations. On the other hand, we have another bars where we are serving Tom Collins for 8$. Almost double in diference. The context of the bars can really change what pricing should look like. 

What do you think, what is the exact number that you seems to feel like bartenders are good bartenders?

Of the total number of the people that are bartending, what percentages are good bartenders? I don’t know. It’s a tough question. I would hate to give an exact number, but I will tell you that I think it was a lot higher 10 years ago.

The small number of certain bars that are making cocktails means that we have people with less experience in bars. And that’s why we need training. 

How many people don’t pass the test?

We never had anybody who didn’t passed the program, unless they decided it wasn’t for them. That’s important. Some people decide that they are not working in the right bar.

Even that is only a few people, they might leave and say : you were right, this isn’t the right place for me. As long as they are willing, we will get them through.

Nice. And you have many tests as you said: knowing the menu, blind tests… Is there any penalty if somebody doesn’t know the right amount of correct answers? 

No. If we have someone who is strugling and it’s an effort issue, we will talk about the effort. We don’t have penalties for not passing, because the important thing to remember is that some people are good at something, and worst at others. 

How much are you included in managing your bars and making the interviews, tests, your weekly program that you mentioned?

Most of the training implementation of staff members are done by managers. I’m not doing actually any training anymore. It’s not possible. But our managers and I are on the same page about the training program and what it should look like. It’s really important to have a daily communication and common understanding. 

What is your first thought when somebody requires from you to describe a term of a good bar, in one sentence?

It’s a place where you feel welcome. 

It’s not about enviroment? It’s just a feeling?

Yes, it’s when the guest feels welcome. 

Bobby Heugel interview

What is your favourite bar in Europe?

I love The American bar in the Savoy. There is a limited number of seats in the bar. I think that is the best bar experience in the world.

If I checked correctly, there are only 2 bars from Germany in World’s 50 bars 2018? Schumann’s and Buck and breck. What happened with German bars?

I have no idea. Really. It’s not just about awards. We value awards in placements where we are misvaluing what we’re supposed to do as hospitality professionals.

People who are giving the qualifications to the bars that are competing for the top 50 bars, are they traveling to the bars and checking? Or now that everything is available on social media, they decide whether it will be a good bar for top choice?

I think you have to visit the bar to go for it, for that kind of decision.

What’s your favourite drink?

Martini.

Classic?

Yes.

Nice. Have you ever visited Croatia?

I didn’t but I would like to.

Now you have friend in Croatia. We have something to offer in Croatia also so please be welcome to come. 😉

Yes, ha-ha. I went to Istanbul, Bucurest, but I didn’t spend any time with origins. I need to come. I will come. 

Thank you very much and I hope you will enjoy our article online!

Bobby Heugel Bar Convent Berlin 2018