Jason Crawley on high-volume bar menus

Designing cocktail menus to suit specific venue styles is a particular skill, and one that bar industry legend Jason Crawley is well versed in.

So when it came to designing the menu for freshly relaunched Sydney institution Goodbar, on Oxford Street, he had a very definite brief. We chatted to him about how he tackled it and how the same principles can be applied to menu design in other venues.

How is designing the menu for a high volume bar different to designing for a smaller venue?

At the outset the rationale is actually quite similar, as it’s still grounded in driving sales through attractive flavours. The key difference at play is the notion of ‘service-time’ and how you compress decision making into a faster process with a range of evolved communication systems, condensed procedures and being intelligent about process. The trick is being surgical and intelligent about service preparation, constantly seeking out scale serve efficiencies and monitoring consumption to build robust and on-going slick service systems.


What specifics did you take into account when creating this menu?

At a macro level, we looked long and hard at consumption habits in the given demographic ‘pre- and post-‘ guests actually being in Goodbar. What I mean by this is: in what mindset do people arrive at the venue and what would they usually be doing the following morning. The area is very much a health driven culture among the core demographic; super fit, up and out people and we wanted to integrate into this with a re-hydrating and refreshing program which makes sense to them.

Do you have a particular process for ensuring that a menu is balanced in terms of flavour and variety?

There has to be an evolved strategy in play and it has to exist within the ether of common sense and creative expression with who is actually drinking and how long they are staying in the venue for. You have to cater for all tastes and bizarrely sometimes the tastes can be quite similar. E.g, many popular ‘cocktail’ bars feel lots of aromatic strong cocktails make sense, as a large percentage of their clientele will have just one or two experiences. For a club style business, the variety on offer has to be in longevity and order frequency. Or not!

How do you go about picking drinks that suit the style/theme of a venue?

It’s a balancing act of tapping into the psychology of the core demographic and matching (and inspiring) the capability of the venue management team’s cultural capital. If the venue has an overt ’theme’ then it’s about finding unique elements of this theme and juxtaposing it with things which compete and contrast with verisimilitude. It’s certainly not curtain colour.

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