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I have the honor of attending Friday’s UK annual conference being held at Wembley Stadium, the theme ‘Update and Celebrate’. Karen Forrester, Senior Vice President & CEO, Friday’s UK, is the best natural leader I have met in my long business career. When she holds one of these events it is truly inspiring. I am presenting her with surprise award, first and only of it’s kind. I am also working on getting an interview the London Times reporter who prematurely reported my demise in a restaurant review back in 1990. Karen has asked me to be the Head Judge at their Bar Champs competition. I am delighted to participate and have already put out the word that “I can be bought!” 

The origins of the many worldwide bartender competitions, including the Bartender Olympics, come as a result of a marketing challenge Friday’s faced in the early 80’s. (Note: This event gained enough fame that the Olympic authorities took note and the name had to be changed……personally I think they should just added it as an event!!!)  As I mention in the book the market place is like a meandering road. One must stay alert and follow it or land in the ditch. In the early 80’s we and the industry at large were faced with declining bar sales. The crusade, which I supported, against drunk drivers and a increasingly health conscious consumer, were the primary causes for the decline.

Most of my competitors responded, as they do today, with discounts, two for one’s, give aways and lavish happy hours. Our approach was to educate our patrons to the better experiences in beverage alcohol. We became the largest seller of Hennessy XO, a high end cognac. We were introducing the latest boutique wines from around the world, especially wines from California . One of our biggest promotions, fun and educational for many, was our entrance into the race to be first to the United States with Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a fun worldwide event. The first year I flew the Beaujolais Nouveau back on the Concord and gave a press party in New York City with Tony Randall as our spokesperson. My last year we flew a FedEx DC-10 full of the wine to Memphis for early distribution. After I left Friday’s, the new management, in order to reduce costs, tried using California beaujolais. It was a non-event??????? By departing from the true event  the promotion died.

We also introduced a whole line of non-alcoholic drinks called flings, mmmmmmm-good. The amazing thing we introduced as part of our marketing plan was entertainment at the bar in the form of ‘Flair’! I call it amazing because of the worldwide phenomenon Flair has created. Tom Cruise was trained by a former Friday’s bartender for the movie ‘Cocktail’. So after all these years it seems fitting that I be one of the judges at Karen’s Bar Champs competition and if I can pick up a little money on the side………………………….so!

Oh, by the way, WE INCREASED BEVERAGE SALES, no coupons, discounting, advertising or give aways. Just pursuing our standard of EXCELLENCE!

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