Maintaining consistency through the wee small hours key to success
By Matthew Lynas
IT only took Mark Lappin one phone call to launch an on-trade partnership which is knocking on the door of its tenth anniversary.
A decade ago, during a brief spell working in Bar Budda on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, Lappin met Paul Bright, who was managing the outlet at that time.
Lappin went on to launch Maggie May’s in Glasgow’s Merchant City – and asked Bright to join him.
“When the opportunity at Maggie’s came up I jumped at it,” said Bright.
Nine years – and a couple more outlets later – and the pair were collecting the SLTN Late Night Bar of the Year Award for 2013, in association with Tsingtao, for their Bath street venue Slouch.
Judges were impressed by the commitment of staff at Slouch to deliver a consistent offer regardless of the time of night – a principle that was carried over from sister venue Maggie May’s.
“We won’t shut the kitchen or the bar because it’s quiet,” said Bright.
“We stick it out.
“You’ll get a chicken wing at one minute to two [in the morning].”
In addition to an a la carte menu, which is available from 11am until 10pm daily, Slouch‘s kitchen serves up a ‘bar bites’ menu until 2am.
And there’s an impressive range of late night food on offer.
Slouch’s late night bar bites menu includes stone oven baked pizzas, quesadillas, nachos and burgers – all of which are homemade; as well as a ‘create your own platter’ option with dishes ranging from the traditional chips and onion rings to chicken and sweet corn hush puppies and battered calamari rings.
Depth of choice also extends to Slouch’s drinks range.
Barbados, Guyana, Venezuela and Guatemala are just four of 15 nations represented in Slouch’s rum range.
In total, the gantry is stocked with over 150 spirits, while the back-bar fridges boast a diverse range of craft and world beers from California to China.
Such a broad range of premium drinks can present a challenge when it comes to communicating what’s on offer to consumers, but Slouch has its own solution.
A rotational promotion, in a similar vein to a ‘malt of the month’, sees top-end spirits take turns on the bar’s specials chalkboard.
It’s a logical approach, according to Bright.
“There’s no point in buying a £50 bottle of whisky and have it on the shelf gathering dust,” he said, explaining that after a spell on promotion, premium spirits tend to be asked for by brand name even when returned to their original price point.
Such a broad range also means that knowledgeable staff are essential.
Lappin said he believes a strong relationship with staff has been one of the secrets of Slouch’s success.
“One of our tricks for the company is that staff turnover is very low,” he said, adding that the company’s latest Bath Street venture, The Howlin’ Wolf, was at least part motivated by the need to give staff “a place to move up to”.
“All but one of Howlin’ Wolf’s management are ‘graduates’ from Slouch or Maggie May’s,” said Lappin.
With three venues now well established, the pair refuse to rest on their laurels, and stage weekly management meetings to discuss how they can improve the offer at each unit.
Bright reckons the key to their success at Slouch – and the other two venues – is simple.
“Consistency; giving people what you say you’re going to give them,” he said.