Common Sense & Choice Architecture
You know what I mean— you do, don’t you? Because I know you. You’re a Caucasian male, live in a large-ish city, preferred the original Star Wars trilogy, use a Mac or a tricked-out Windows PC, own an iPod or similar and have travelled to bar and cocktail conventions in cities like New Orleans, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin or Sydney. I bet as you sit there reading this there’s a drink within arm’s reach. I’m right, aren’t I? It’s a comfortable reading light and you’re sitting in your favourite spot. You love classic cocktails, hate vodka, dislike flair bartending, disdain disco drinks, use Facebook, love whiskey, use a jigger and I bet you own at least one copy of Diffordsguide. And you’re a good-looking guy too, well-dressed, well-dressed, popular with the ladies and intelligent. You’ve read this far, right? Well done!
The above paragraph might sound a bit like mind-reading, but it is just common sense. Most people who buy a specialist book like this one will agree broadly with the statements above. There are more women than men in mixology (sadly), more city dwellers than rural, and of course you’re sitting comfortably-— duh. This, more then anything, is the common sense of charm. See what everyone sees. Do— or say— what no-one does.
With great power comes great responsibility. It is all well and good to have superhuman powers of persuasion, but in a bar setting, you are employing them to make money. Bars make money by being viable over the mid-to-long term: having consistent sales for a long enough time to pay off any loans and make some real money. If you use your skills to overload a guest with food and drink, you make a lot of money one night and probably very little thereafter— you “burned” them.
The goal is to get your guests to return. If they return, you will always have another chance to sell them something extra. But if they ever get an inkling— and remember, body language, intonation etc. work both ways— that you are milking them , they will not return.
It is possible to heavily influence the choices that guests make in your bar because you, handsome chap/ gorgeous lady that you are, are a Choice Architect. You choose which options to give to a guest. You design the choosing system, as it were. A few precepts of choice architecture:
• Humans want instant satisfaction. They want that new car / perfect wedding / hot date / easy date / Staggerac / double-layer limoncello cheesecake NOW, damnit, and the bill/ divorce/ hepatitis/ hangover/ extra ten kilos, well, that’s a problem for the future. One Dutch anti-drinking campaign uses this principle in it’s ads: they feature the enjoyably onomatopoeic tagline: “De Kater Komt Later” [The Hangover Is Later]. It is easy to convince a guest of anything involving instant gratification. Staggerac! Because hey, they walked into your bar. It’s not like they thought it was a health-food store, now was it?
• Difficulty. We do not have to make choices about some things often enough to become expert at choosing, and some things are insanely complicated anyway. Most people only get married and buy a house a few times in their lives, for instance. Guests who don’t visit nice bars often, or don’t drink nice liquor in them, are unpractised. And let’s be honest, choosing what to drink in a nice bar, even for practised experts, is not easy.
• Feedback. It is only by seeing our “mistakes” that we learn. We only learn what drinks, and crucially, which kind of drinks, we like by trial and error. Most bartenders are relatively expert in drinks because they drink more, more often and perhaps with fewer budget constraints, than “normal” people. We typically know far more about food than drinks because this trial-and-error is usually done by our parents when we are young in regard to food. (“ Tonight Mom’s made curry!”) But if your daddy was conducting a vertical Manhattan tasting with you while you were still wearing shorts to school, it’s a wonder you haven’t been on Jerry Springer already.
• Knowing Stuff. If you have never drunk whiskey, it is no help at all to hear that Greenore Irish whiskey tastes similar to Weller’s Kentucky bourbon. When we have to choose unfamiliar products (Jefferson’s whiskey?) in unfamiliar settings (“ What is a speakeasy anyway? I could barely find the damn place! They should put a sign outside…..”), we evaluate them in terms of what we do know – which is often not helpful. A teenage girl (in countries where teenage girls are legally allowed to drink alcohol) ordering a James Bond Martini has probably never drunk a cocktail before, certainly not one like this, and probably never been in a nice bar like yours. All she DOES know is the name of a cocktail. She needs to be Nudged.
• More choice does not help. It frustrates. The libertarian model of decision-making –that we are all super-intelligent, rational and require only many different options from which we can flawlessly select the best one – is flawed. If a guest has never drunk a cocktail before, a 50 drink menu will not help him. A 20-drink menu will not. A 10-drink menu, perhaps, will.
In the Nudge: Improving Decisions about health, Wealth, and Happiness, authors Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein introduce the concept of libertarian paternalism. This can be summed up thus:
1. Allowing people to do anything they want (libertarian)
2. Designing systems to “nudge” them in a “good” direction (paternalism) The essential idea behind libertarian paternalism is that people are both stupid and lazy, and let’s be honest, at certain times and on certain topics, we all are.
Nudging & You
Wouldn’t you like to be able to nudge people to drink better? Maybe even help them discover some of the hidden bargains on your menu? Steer them ‘twixt the Scylla of advertising and the Charybdis of peer pressure? Then make it easier for them to order what is better for them— in your expert opinion— and harder to order what is not. Choose something that you would like to have happen— guests ordering faster, drinking better, selling more high-margin liquor, champagne and cocktails instead of low-margin high-volume beer and wine, whatever. Now tweak the systems you have for helping people decide. (If you’re following me, this is another BU-WA-HA-HA! moment). Now sit back and observe. Some examples might include:
• If you have interior-lit glass-fronted refrigerators for beer, wine and soft drinks, order
blackout sticker for the doors, so guests will not be entranced by the backlit bottles therein. For bonus points, have the stickers paid for by a liquor brand, or with a stencil of a cocktail name cut into it so the light shines through. Have a lighted glass-fronted champagne fridge somewhere at eye level, or perhaps a large champagne bucket full of crushed ice and various bottles of champagne, right in the middle of the bar.
• Remove all mention of everything except for champagne, liquor and cocktails from the menu. Guests can order them— and you have to assume a bar will have them— but you are nudging them towards what you consider to be better. Only include a dozen of the cocktails you’d like to sell, six to eight champagnes, and no more than thirty brands of liquor, tops.
• Have a one-line, twelve-word description for each cocktail, liquor brand and champagne; no more, no less. Include a simile of how it tastes: “lemon-biscuit flavours” describe a good bourbon sour, while a Sazerac contains anise-cherry flavours from the Peychaud’s. Help people to choose between unfamiliar options in an unfamiliar setting.
• Remove all the latent POS and branding you have for everything except liquor, cocktails and champagne. Beer signs, pour mats, branded straws, napkins, bartender bottle openers, bar caddies, fridges, everything. Unplug the beer tap lights.
Put the products you want to sell at eye-level on the back bar, slightly right of centre (studies show 70 percent of guests approaching a bar haven’t decided what to order, they scan the back bar and their gaze ends in the middle of the back bar, slightly to the right). If your back bar looks like you sell glassware, sort it out.
• Make sure your offer is strong enough to support your choice architecture. Re-invent your whole drinks list around champagne, cocktails and liquor. You will need both cheaper and more expensive options, familiar as well as obscure brands, drinks that are visually appealing, that appeal to different age groups, etc. Your offer must be good before you start nudging guests towards it, otherwise you, sir, are polishing a turd.
One Final Exercise & A Creepy Quote
Jim Sullivan and Phil Roberts, authors of the 1995 book Service That Sells!: The Art of Profitable Hospitality, pioneered the Sullivan Nod, which is just about the most powerful sales technique there is in a bar. I guarantee when you read what followed you will laugh out loud or at least smile but here’s the thing: it works. Like, nine times out of ten. No-one ever notices you’re doing it. It’s so powerful you have to use it altruistically: you can literally sell anything to anyone, but you must remember the only goal is a satisfied guest who will return—“ burning” a guest by overloading him with too much expensive booze on one trip may kill your future possible sales to him.
The Sullivan Nod: Slowly nod two times as you say the name of the brand or drink you’d like the person to choose.
First relax your guest and build rapport. Then, let’s imagine your guests asks for a recommendation and says he likes whiskey. If you’re recommending a Sazerac alongside a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned, it would go like this:
“There’s the Sazerac (nods twice), The Manhattan or the Old-Fashioned. Which one would you like?”
Lets make it even more powerful. Smile as you nod when you say “Sazerac”, but don’t smile when you say the other two names. Smiling makes our eyes wider and our cheeks more childlike, and humans are genetically programmed to respond positively and gullibly to child-faces.
“There’s the Sazerac (smiles and nods twice), The Manhattan or the Old-Fashioned. Which one would you like? “
And let’s take advantage of another nifty phenomenon called Primacy and Recency: we tend to remember what comes first and last, and forget everything in between as “noise”. So as well as smiling and nodding, let’s repeat Sazerac at the end of the list as well:
“There’s the Sazerac (smiles and nods twice), The Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned and the Sazerac (smiles and nods twice), Which one would you like? “ And (stifle your BU-WA-HA-HA! Yes, you there at the back) let’s make it utterly bullet-proof by shaking our head when we say Manhattan and Old-Fashioned. Shaking your head is the ultimate "no" and we learn it immediately we're born: It's how a child indicates it has had enough of the milk flowing from a breast or a bottle.
"There's the Sazerac (smile and nods twice), The Manhattan (shakes head), the Old-Fashioned (shakes head) and the Sazerac (smiles and nods twice), Which one would you like?"
This will put your success rate with this "sale" in the 95% percent to 100 percent range.But only if this was the right drink to recommend. Your offer must be good.
Cypher: You know, I know that this steak doesn't exist. I know when I put in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, do you know what i've realized?
(Pausing, he examines the meat skewered on his fork. He pops it in, eyes, rolling up, savouring the tender beef melting in his mouth.)
Ignorance is bliss.
AGENT SMITH: Then we have a deal?
-from the 1999 motion picture The Matrix
- text preluat din Mixologist - The Journal Of The European Cocktail - Volume 3 scris de Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown (http://www.mixellany.com)