Creating a successful beverage program for one restaurant can be difficult. Making that program work across multiple locations can also prove challenging. But designing programs for a restaurant group consisting of different concepts…that’s a truly daunting task. Boca Restaurant Group in Cincinnati tapped Kevin Hart, their beverage director, to accomplish the formidable goal of creating beverage programs for their three concepts. The group consists of Boca, an upscale restaurant with a focus on French and Italian cuisines, Sotto, a traditional Italian trattoria, and Nada, a fun and upbeat Mexican restaurant.
Kevin was passionate about the restaurant industry at an early age. At the age of 14, he was living in Findlay, Ohio and becoming more and more interested in working in restaurants. He got fully hooked about 10 years ago when he began working at Boca in Oakley, Ohio, a young professional neighborhood in Cincinnati. There, Chef David Falk encouraged Kevin to study wine. Another mentor, Gordon Hue of wineCRAFT, pushed Kevin to expand his palate. The tutelage he received under Chef Falk and Hue helped him to develop his palate, a key to the success of any beverage manager, particularly those creating programs for multiple concepts. The first step in creating Boca Restaurant Group’s beverage programs was coming up with specific goals to be achieved for each restaurant. Kevin understands that the beverage programs aren’t about feeding his ego, they’re about the identity of each restaurant.
For Boca, Kevin focuses on seasonal, story-driven products that pair well dishes spanning the entirety of the menu. To locate spirits with stories, Boca invests heavily in research and development across Europe and the United States, ensuring that the program is fresh and inspired. As Sotto is more casual than Boca and offers heartier portions, Kevin focuses on Italian wines that best encompass Italy’s beauty and simplicity, with most of the selections originating from Tuscany. The menu and beverage program at Sotto feature a palate that works best with vibrant wines and cocktails spiked with amaro. Nada, being a hip, high-energy concept, features bright, playful flavors. The fun concept’s drinks are tequila driven, with both traditional and inventive takes on Mexican cocktails.
In order to create successful beverage programs, Kevin must navigate an overwhelming amount of research and beverage options. He also has to know when his desire for change is beneficial to one of the three Boca Restaurant Group’s restaurants and when it would only represent the folly of change for the sake of change. Kevin feels that the keys to successful beverage programs are paying close attention to the needs of guests and inspiring the staff to grow and learn continuously. The restaurant group as a whole believe firmly in the building of relationships with wine and spirits producers, and those relationships have become stories themselves. Truly, research and development, relationships, putting the guest experience first and travel are the critical elements to designing a beverage program that works.
Learn about beverage programs and check out other invaluable seminars at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show!