Jeff is an irrefutable leader and force in the nightlife and spirits industry. His leadership, relationships and extensive knowledge of the nightlife and spirits industry have steered the nation’s first group of fashion cocktail lounges to immense growth and profitability, demonstrated in thirty separate operating bars, lounges and clubs over the past twelve years. Jeff is also an innovator credited with the industry’s first “National Prestige Account” liquor program. His passion for an exceptionally functional bar has been instrumental in supporting Gerber Bars’ award-winning design and architectural layout for all of their bars and lounges. He continues to travel extensively to maintain his celebrated corporate presence and uphold the national standards he has created.
In the Mix asked Jeff a few key questions that all operators could learn from.
itM: You put a lot of emphasis on relationship building and loyalty. What do you believe is the underlying reason this is so important?
Jeff: Working properly with your suppliers is the key to saving money. Loyalty is a two-way street and both parties need to be loyal to each other. Suppliers should be spending money and entertaining at your accounts, while buyers should be supporting the brands they sell in ways such as offering staff training incentives.
The bottom line is that suppliers shouldn’t forget the little guy who is small and steady, and forsake them for the next big thing. For example: I owned my own businesses that didn’t do the volume we do at Gerber Group by a long shot, but my main supplier worked with me and didn’t treat me like a lesser account. When I went back to Gerber–I took him too!
itM: You have always been one to stick to your principles and follow through on your vision. What kind of pushback or challenges do you encounter regarding your bars?
Jeff: Resisting the trends or the so-called “next big thing.” Gerber Bars aren’t trying to be the hottest bar in any given city; we are in it for the long term, which is why we just celebrated our 20th year in business.
itM: Mixology means many things to different people. How do you interpret mixology as it applies to your bars?
Jeff: We have about 300 incredible bartenders who can craft a drink with the best of them, but we have high volume businesses where we cannot afford to take 15 minutes to make a single cocktail. But we do offer premium spirits, fresh ingredients–local when and where we can get them–and make quality drinks. However, we do not feel the need to create our own bitters, use different water to make different ice for different cocktails or use pharmacist attire to serve it.
Simply put, looking at the cocktail list, I’m confident most of our drinks stand up to any “mixology bar” without going overboard. I think the mixolgy craze has hit its apex.
itM: Can you give us a little insight to your personal life: sports, interests, how you ended up in the bar/club business?
Jeff: I’m a watch enthusiast, equestrian and I studied martial arts. I am also a graduate of FIU School of Hospitality. I have always been in the nightlife industry. My two boys, 2 and 4 years old, and I reside in New York City.