Josh Kopel | Award Winning Restaurant Consultant

Restaurant Ideas: Transforming Cocktail Culture with Alex Day

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Restaurant Margins

It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death. The Death & Co. team has been offering a warm embrace to those who shine after dusk for over a decade now. Its foundational elements are a love of great people and great drinks. Today, we chat with Alex Day, proprietor of the world-famous Death & Co., a bar that redefined cocktail culture for an entire generation.

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  • Dave Kaplan & Ravi DeRossi started Death & Co in 2006
  • Alex was captivated by the youthful, innovative approach to drinks
  • They opened 3 branches of Death & Co, NYC, LA & Denver
  • Early mistakes
  • Not knowing what to do as new entrepreneurs
  • Bars ran themselves
  • “Failing forward”
  • 2 years of growth by luck
  • Difficult neighbour for years
  • Legal implications
  • Biggest lessons
  • It is the owners’ job to find and cultivate good people
  • Provide strong guidance
  • Build a strong culture
  • There is no such thing as smooth sailing
  • Foundation issues in the industry
  • Hospitality workers are not employed or compensated well
  • Astronomical rents
  • High operating costs
  • Poor margins
  • At this time of not operating, they are rethinking every aspect of the business
  • Realigning focus on what the customer wants
  • Avoiding getting hung up on vanity items like perfect cocktail recipe
  • Bringing focus back to the consumer
  • What will they want post-lockdown?
  • Reevaluating how to relate to vendors and improve vendor relationships
  • Improving the bars from an environment perspective
  • Reviewing relationships with landlords
  • How things could be different post-Covid
  • Local cultures in each city
  • Social norms
  • Improving as employers
  • Benefits they already offer
  • Health insurance to full-time staff
  • Wellness credits
  • Potential ideas for future
  • Offering health insurance to part-time staff
  • Creating clearer avenues for staff to grow in the company
  • What set Death & Co apart as a brand
  • Meticulous focus on ingredients
  • Passion about the craft
  • Human, genuine, authenticity in their delivery
  • Being serious about the craft but also having fun
  • Harnessing individuality throughout the business
  • Allowing bartenders to be creative
  • Each bar is not a copy of the other
  • Individual menus
  • Different appearance
  • Using social media as a marketing engine
  • Industry typically focusses on bragging or nice photos of food/drink
  • Creating a more community based social media presence

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