Elephant in the room

Artender Blog

There’s an elephant in the room, and it needs to be talked about
“Why should I bartend for a living, if I can make the same as a delivery person”.

This question has been thrown into the air more than once in recent years, and it has posed a real problem in the hospitality industry. A manpower problem and on a deeper level, an economic problem.

I’ll start from the end, the answer to this question is simple, there’s no reason, simple as that. Anyone who asks himself why the option of flexible work, without training, without a boss, at the hours of his choice, and with the same salary is asking a legitimate and logical question.

At this point, all the crazy people will jump up to talk, those who fall asleep with doubts about distillation and wake up thinking about agave syrup, and say that they must have a passion to talk! So yes, passion is excellent, and it’s necessary for development and excellence in any field, but the matter here is different. The issue here is financial.

I separate the 10% who are driven by a passion for the field, and who were willing to sacrifice a lot for its sake, and the remaining 90% who are looking for a job that will support them with dignity and integrate into their personal lives, without paying unbearable prices, cost versus benefit in short. “Why me?” pretty much sums it up.

It’s impossible to base a professional field on minimum wage (or close to it,) and fill the holes with passion. It doesn’t last, and the pursuit of excellence is quickly replaced by the pursuit of mediocrity without even noticing. This the exact process that happened in Israel over the past 15 years. In other words, a “bartender,” a profession in which you can specialize almost indefinitely, reluctantly became a “waiter,” a position that’s seen as one that any person with a pulse can fill. Instead of the professionals upgrading over the years, and adding real professional value to their workplaces, a situation was created that “it’s just a position that needs to be filled” because anyone can. A process based on problematic business models, multiple owners, in multiple business, in a difficult economic reality that originates not from a deliberate hand, or from malice, but from an entrenched spoiled business culture. People in their late 20s found themselves behind the bar with no horizons, no growth, and no motivation to continue as an employee in the field. “Work on the way to the degree.” “I will work as a bartender until…” and on and on.

Reality consists of many shades of gray and “free economy” or “market forces,” aren’t set in stone, and the results are reversible. Adherents of the free market (I allow myself to assume that most of us) say that it shapes itself in the most efficient way, by virtue of being “free”. That means in the end bartender earns as much as they are worth in the field. Why should I pay a certain bartender NIS 80 an hour, if I can pay another bartender NIS 70? Why would I pay 70 if I can pay 60? At the end of the day some kind of situation arises, some salary expectations with a ceiling known in advance. At the base of this emerging reality there is the premise I mentioned earlier: there’s no reason to pay a bartender significantly more than a waiter, since anyone can mix drinks, pour beer, etc..

Have you had no training? Is your professional knowledge basic and nothing more? Come pour some beer, take 50 NIS per hour.

Did you take a bartending course? Have you gained experience? Do you know how to give great service and work fast? Understand a little more about whiskey? Wine? Making cocktails on a daily basis? Come on, here’s NIS 65 an hour.

This more or less describes the current reality, which is why there are several tens of thousands of people who wear a blue shirt and go on errands on a bicycle, because it pays them just as well.

You don’t expect to earn NIS 120 an hour because of your beautiful eyes, do you? Granted, I certainly don’t expect to earn a higher than average salary in the field because of my beautiful eyes, but I absolutely do expect to earn a high amount because of my skill.

This whole celebration, called ARTENDER, is based on the premise that a bartender with technical and aesthetic skills, acquired through training and consistent self-work, over a period of at least a year or two, must necessarily produce more behind the bar. The customer sitting at the bar who accepts him as the service provider will have more fun while spending time, will spend more money, and will return to the same place again. The premise is that the customer gets a better, tighter and more special product. A bartender who is 100% “Artender” must get paid above the “normal” salary. Of course it depends on the business, but a bartender with such a level of skills is simply worth more money to the bar behind which they stand, period.

We try to create this reality in a patient way, by setting a high standard, and of course, by meeting this standard in front of the customers who are completely unaware of the process and do not know what to expect… or in other words, education, yes education. In exactly the same way that a customer entering a bar today can choose to order a Negroni or an espresso-martini, and does not have to order beer or a glass of Chardonnay, because they were taught that. It wasn’t like that 15 years ago.

The customers who know how to appreciate these professionals, who like this professionalism, who look for this level, won’t look back anymore. This diamond is not yet polished, as the polishing time here is the process itself. As I have said many times, “there are processes that cannot (and should not) be accelerated.”It’s important to say that the process is already underway, and every week that passes there is progress, there are trainings, and a new reality is taking shape, a reality in which bartenders can acquire a tool, which with patient and precise work, will jump them on the salary scale to a more comfortable area, certainly not minimum, nor intermediate salary . A high and respectful salary, which reflects the work they have invested in themselves, and of course their true value as professional hosts.

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