Prep Your Bar For a Smooth, Seamless New Year’s Eve

From batching cocktails to hiring extra security, these steps can save the night.
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Plan small details in advance to avoid confusion on one of the busiest nights of the year. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

New Year’s Eve: It’s probably your most profitable holiday and your busiest night of the year. Whether you intend to pull out all the stops or keep it mellow, planning in advance is key to a successful night.

Related: How to Make Your Bar a New Year’s Eve Destination

Brad Kime, owner of Tini in Indianapolis, said he prepares in advance for bigger crowds to arrive starting the 22nd. “Because so many people are not working, a Monday night in between Christmas and New Year’s can be a New Year’s night too.”

From batching cocktails ahead of time to making sure your staff has a little bit of downtime, drink up these tips to make this New Year’s Eve goes off without a hitch.

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Since most people are off of work, prepare for large crowds between Christmas and New Years, says Brad Kime, owner of Tini in Indianapolis. (Photo: Brad Kime)

Make lists — and check them twice

For a night like New Year’s Eve, there are a lot of small details that need to be attended to so everyone is ready to cater to the influx of guests without having to, say, juice more limes in the middle of service. Detailed prep lists are essential.

Make lists cocktail by cocktail, menu item by menu item, for what needs to be purchased, prepared ahead of time and done day-of. Timeline-style lists that tell you when things should be done when can also help save your sanity.

Generra Longoria, head bartender at The Outsider and Tre Rivali in Milwaukee, suggested assigning more than one person to look over each list to keep forgotten details to a minimum — the night’s already stressful enough.

Plan to improvise when necessary

Encourage your staff to improvise if and when they’re hit with an unexpected glitch.

“Thinking on your toes and making a good decision call can kind of save lives at that point,” said Longoria. Once, she forgot to prep a lemon foam that was an essential component of one of her best-selling cocktails. “One of the chefs came rushing out like, ‘I have key lime pie foam, will this work?’ and I’m like, ‘It will today.’”

Keep the party under control

Tini hires additional security for the night and has enough staff circulating to make sure everyone behaves. As he put it, “one person’s fun may not be fun for everybody else.”

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It is crucial to make sure your team is hydrated and relaxed during busy shifts, says Generra Longoria, head bartender at The Outsider and Tre Rivali. (Photo: Colin Beckett)

He noted there are usually two waves of guests on New Year’s Eve: one earlier in the evening and one later, typically after midnight. The later wave has been out elsewhere, but you don’t know how much they’ve had to drink or how alcohol affects them if they aren’t regulars.

Make sure your staff is ready to handle patrons who’ve had too much. Instruct them to get the manager when in doubt.

Put out snacks such as crackers or nuts and have your bartenders encourage guests who look like they need a break from alcohol to have a water or soda. If the bartender needs to cut someone off and call them a cab, they should do it discreetly.

Take care of your team

This is important even when it’s not New Year’s Eve, but it’s especially important when a hectic shift lies ahead. Schedule appropriately so that no one is working too long, there is always enough coverage behind the bar and on the floor, and people have time for breaks. Encourage them to eat and hydrate during those breaks, advised Longoria.

Think ahead

Beyond preparing the necessary ingredients, staff schedules and decorations, make extra sure you have enough beer and wine and that glassware is right where you need it to be. Batch cocktails or parts of cocktails ahead of time if need be.

“Does it come down to perhaps opening an additional two bottles of bubbly at a time because people are going to be drinking a ton of bubbly?” -Longoria.

Those are the types of questions she asks herself when preparing for what she knows will be a high-volume, high-stress night.

Take a beat

Before the madness begins, take a moment with your staff. Longoria said she likes to do an icebreaker pre-shift to bond everyone and help calm people down.

“You think of positive things in hectic moments and it kind of gets you through it.”

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