When it comes to raising standards expected in the bar industry, Zdenek Kastanek points out that it’s about time.

Good day to all fellow readers, barkeeps, drink enthusiasts and future professionals. As our modern hospitality industry has been going through changes and maturing into a professional trade, it’s only natural that expectations from the general public and industry peers have been raised too. What was standard in terms of media management a decade ago has been updated with new requirements.

Nowadays, visiting the world’s best bars or restaurants is a must if you want to claim even a basic knowledge of our industry. And I must say that the concept of being on time has finally arrived to our bartender shores! Yes, we all know how bad we are at arriving at a scheduled hour. But, if you want to have the best shot of becoming a top gun in modern bartending, well, being on time is the way forward. “Being professional means being reliable, trustworthy, honest, driven, deliberate and focused,” says Alex Kratena, who juggled management of the World’s Best Bar with a global travel schedule of 50-plus flights per year. And, it must be said, managed it successfully. Another great example is Nick van Tiel, from Sweet and Chilli in Sydney. His explanation of hospitality done professionally? “It’s not the difference between getting paid to do something and not – it’s your mindset and your approach to what you do that makes you a professional.”

Zdenek Kastanek and Alex Kratena / Photo: P(our).

What I think is not evolving as rapidly, however, is the fundamental education regarding professionalism that our trade gets through official courses or college. Our front of house gurus seem to be a step ahead, perhaps by being more proactive or by having great mentors, but also from education: hotel schools may seem old-fashioned, but most industry veterans would agree that these institutions teach the art of being determined, passionate and professional. From spending four years studying in one, I can tell you there is a lot that college will not teach you. Hotel school will, on the other hand, explain to you what having a long-term goal means, or how important it is to hold high work ethics.

Whether or not you do take the college path, keeping your eyes and ears open will pay off. Look outside of your own bar or restaurant, and don’t stop there – look outside our industry. For example: a 24-hour rule for replying to emails, living by your calendar, having meeting notes structured and properly filed. Or one of my own biggest struggles, that I have repeated over and again to remind myself: “Professionals understand that listening is key; so listen, then make an opinion, and share.” All this is standard in the corporate world, and although you might think being a bartender means you don’t follow those rules, remember that if you want to become the next Alex Kratena, “reliable” was the first word he mentioned above. Having an incredible work ethic, never cutting corners – these already feed your commitment to delivering the absolute best that you or your team can, not to mention people’s opinion of you.

In bartending, the absolute best involves everything from the product to service. The way it looks, smells, sounds and tastes. If you want to be the best, take that attention to detail and apply it to your whole career. Of course this is going to help you achieve your career goals, not least because by being professional, with people seeing you deliver over and over, more opportunities will come your way.

With shakes and love, Zdenek.


Zdenek Kastanek is a resident bartender at 28 HongKong Street, Singapore and GM at Proof & Company, Singapore.

This article first appeared in Issue 46 of DRiNK Magazine China and Issue 04 of DRiNK Magazine Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Subscribe to the magazine here.