The driving idea behind Batch Gastropub is a deceptively simple one. High-quality cocktails made with many of the ingredients pre-mixed in large batches, some of which are barrel-aged together, and served in a fraction of the time it would normally take you bartender to make the concoction on the spot. According to Kevin Danilo, who is one of the proud progenitors of Batch Gastropub, along with Jerry Flynn, the idea is not all that dissimilar to making large quantities of vegetable stock.
Fortunately, the final product is starkly dissimilar and rather than getting a shot glass full of veggie stew, Batch is serving up a fine array of mixed drinks in record time without sacrificing the least bit of taste. We caught up with Danilo to ask about his dizzying New Year's, the hardships of construction, and the culmination of an incredible amount of hard work.
— Travis Cohen
So how was the first day?
It was great! Friends and family night was a little busier than we expected, but everything went smoothly when we opened up on new years and it was fantastic.
And you officially opened when exactly?
Yeah, New Years Eve was the official first day.
And were you guys as ready as you had hoped?
Yeah, you know, friends and family night we had a couple of problems here and there so we kind of worked out all of the kinks and it was pretty cool because on New Years Night, a lot of people were saying, 'this place is so great, I didn't know you guys were around,' and we told them that we had just opened and they said, 'O, that's unbelievable.' It was a really great feeling because we put so much time and work into this and people were really receptive to what we were doing.
What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced that first day?
Well, we've never built anything before, so we spent 40 years running and working in restaurants but construction's tough. You don't realize how hard it is until you get into and you have so much respect for these places that are built from the ground up or renovations or anything, just to get to this point. Everybody keeps telling us that this is the easy part, the hard part's running the business, so it's an uphill battle.
You'd mentioned that you have some things in the works with gravity brew lab - what's happening with that?
They're awesome, I love those guys to death - their beer is fantastic. So, we actually had them in on friends and family night and they were going to pour some beer for us, they were going to bring a sample keg, but it was a little too busy so we have that waiting in our cooler now. But Diego's phenomenal, the beer that he makes is great. They're gonna end up doing a specialty beer just for us, we're just waiting for them to get the brewer's license.
Any notable food industry people come by opening day?
Yeah, we had a bunch people from the media and basically from all over restaurants we'd been down in Miami for about 5 years, my partner and I, so between us we had a bunch of friends and family in Miami that had been in this business for a while.
What was the response?
So far, so good. Everybody seems to be pretty happy. The beverage program was definitely unique and we got some great feedback on that and then the food that these guys have been cranking out has been awesome. I mean, we've made it hell for our kitchen and these guys have just come out swinging. We couldn't be happier with those guys.
What'd people ask for the most?
We got a lot of orders for the mac'n'cheese, that seemed to be popular, and the wing too. What's really cool is that it's a very approachable concept so when you're ordering a mac'n'cheese or wings, you don't expect the quality that we're trying to put out. So when somebody loves that comfort dish or something that they're familiar with, but they get the next notch up, it's a pretty cool experience for the guest and it makes them want to come back. So far, some of the feedback on those items that are more bar oriented, but have been upscaled a littler bit has been fantastic.
What went through your mind on day two?
It was nice. Our staff is really well trained, we have some excellent servers, a great bar staff, everybody's been coming in early to hang out, the kitchen staff's phenomenal - so, you know, if we could make it through New Year's we thought we'd be pretty good, so we all slept about an hour and came in and pulled 22 hour days, but it went really smoothly last night. It wasn't as busy on New Year's Day as it was the last couple days so it was nice to take a breather and make sure everything was perfect.
I know it's early, but what are you most proud of so far?
I'm proud of the staff we have, these guys are just phenomenal. We gave everybody a pretty significant test to come in and apply. Our thought process was always ' How do we make sure that everybody who comes in has an opportunity to get to work here?' In Miami, a lot of places, you go in and you meet with somebody for five minutes and you never get a chance to explain who you are are where you come from, or why you're hungry for the job. So we gave people a pretty lengthy test for them to be able to say, 'Hey, this is who I am, this is what I know.' We had about 350 applications and only took 20 people, so the staff has been absolutely phenomenal. Every single person has just been raving about the service, which is really cool because in Miami, we really wanted to take advantage of having excellent customer service. Sometimes that's a little harder to find than we'd like, so when we opened this place up we said the most important thing for us is that ever person leaves happy.
And What're you most excited about for the future?
The cocktail program that we've put in place and we've been batching every single day just to be ready for the night and it's been tough, there's been a lot of prep work, but the execution has been phenomenal and the response has been great. You can serve that high-end cocktail in five seconds, so what's really nice about it is that we can be competitive with all the price points in the neighborhood and serve a better drink, so for us that's our future, that's our path to success.
Can you tell me a little more about the cocktails?
Sure. The whole process and the name behind "Batch" was the question of how do we serve a better quality product faster, being able to combine quality and quantity and passing on some savings to the consumer. What we were able to do was basically reposition when we're prepping and when we're making drinks to before the shift as opposed to during the shift. So now, instead of going to the bar and ordering five different drinks that take a couple minutes each, you can make them all at once. So what's really cool is the barrel-aged cocktails - which is not a significantly long prep-time drink, it's three ingredients - but by barrel-aging it, we make it even better, and now we have all the ingredients combined so it's even faster than before. It's the same process with all the house made sodas, the tap cocktails - it's all batched out with fresh ingredients that we're making either that day or a couple days prior and they come out beautifully, so we can serve that 8-10 ingredient drink and we can serve it in a couple of seconds.
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