We know it’s the middle of winter. And, just like you, we’re counting down the days until it’s once again acceptable to frolic along the beach devouring juicy lobster meat. But how much longer must we wait for the frost to clear before enjoying fresh seafood by the harbor? The answer is this: No time at all.
In Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood lies an urban respite offering that Cape Cod summertime feeling we’re so dearly missing. It’s a well-known seafood haven among locals and even visitors. Delivering the dream of year-round summer eats, it’s The Barking Crab to the rescue.
The Barking Crab has been a Bevspot customer for a while now, so we sat down with Matt White, the General Manager, to inhale a quick lobster roll and see how his beverage management program is going.
Margarita in one hand and king crab claw in the other, here’s what he told us.
How did you get into the beverage industry?
Matt started waiting tables in New Jersey when he was 14 years old, "I worked at a family-owned Italian restaurant for three years, and then got a job at a pizzeria/sports bar that was legendary on the Jersey Shore. The owners there really took me under their wing; they made me an Assistant Manager and I was bartending full time.”
Then one day, at a party in the restaurant he was running, Matt’s uncle departed some industry wisdom: “He said to me, ‘If you’re going to stay in the restaurant business, you’re not going to make anything of yourself in Central Jersey, so why don’t you come up to Boston and open up Summer Shack with us?’”
Matt spent 12 years at Summer Shack in the role of Bartender and Bar Manager, managing the bar’s operations, inventory and ordering, and developing a cocktail program.
He then came to The Barking Crab in the summer of 2013 and never left.
Favorite cocktail to make?
“Coming from a casual seafood restaurant, a good margarita—fresh lime, any type of Hornitos, Cointreau, and a splash of Grand Marnier (with salt on the rim, of course).”
Favorite cocktail to drink?
“I’m mostly a wine drinker, but the John Daly was my summer cocktail this year—lemonade, iced tea and vodka.”
Favorite wine, then?
“California chardonnay is my favorite, but during the summer it’s rose.”
Favorite food and drink pairing?
“White wine and charcuterie.”
Top must-have bar tool?
“A hand juicer. We don’t even have Rose’s lime juice on our bar. Everything’s gotta be fresh.”
Best bartending or customer story?
When Matt was working at Summer Shack, which is right near Fenway, he had to deal with some interesting customer situations.
Summer Shack is the pre-game and after-game boozing spot, he says, so happenings like the story below weren’t uncommon.
“One day, these three older customers came in (two men and a woman). They were so drunk, annihilated. They sat down and ordered some food, and then the woman began to dry-heave. I thought to myself, “Here we go.” They grabbed their lobster bucket, put it on the ground, and pushed her head underneath the table. And they just continued to eat while this poor girl is vomiting all over the middle of the restaurant! They’re just sitting there, eating their seafood dinner, while the servers are collecting all their drinks. Come on! Be a friend and at least take her to the bathroom!”
How do you keep a fresh spin on menu items?
The Barking Crab’s menu changes seasonally. During summer, everything on their menu is fresh and locally sourced throughout New England.
“We’ve got our basic year-round items, of course, but our crab is not from New England because the only crab here is Jonah, so Snow Crab and King Crab come in year round. But we go back to basics during winter because there’s not a lot of local produce around. However, as the summer opens up, what’s available is what we sell.”
What are your top sellers?
Fresh lobster and crab, fried seafood (fish and chips are the big one), and the lobster rolls are The Barking Crab’s most popular menu items. “Our Fisherman's Platter was actually featured on Man vs. Food six or seven years ago, which is pretty cool.”
Your best piece of advice for aspiring Bar Managers or General Managers?
Matt believes the most successful managers are those who cross-train every position in their restaurant, “This means the door guys know how to host, the hosts know how to bus, and the bartenders and servers are all cross-trained.”
Staff promotions and professional growth are also important at The Barking Crab.
“And, in all fairness,” Matt says, “The most important thing is to treat your staff like adults. I would never ask my staff members to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Generally, if you take care of them they’ll take care of you, which is only going to make your job easier.”
Do you read any industry blogs?
“I do bounce around on blogs. I always read Eater, Curbed (for real estate), and Bostinno.”
What does the future look like?
Matt has been in Boston for 14 years now.
“You get so invested in the restaurant scene here, and I’ve built so many connections that to start over in another city would be crazy. The General Managers all bounce around and we all know each other...Boston is such a small city.”
He also prides himself on building strong relationships with his staff members.
“I’ve had staff follow me because they’re loyal and they’ll go with you wherever you go. And often the regulars follow, too. It’s all constantly revolving,” he says.
“Now, I just have to wait another 10 years until I'm into consulting.”
Favorite thing about BevSpot?
Matt has been taking inventories for 14 years, and, like most industry professionals, he was trained to do them in Excel.
“When I came to The Barking Crab, they were using another inventory software system, which was terrible. It was so inaccurate that we ended up making manual adjustments all the time, so I pulled that out and we went back to using Excel.”
He then sat down with his colleague, Josh, for a demo with BevSpot.
“Afterwards, I turned to Josh and said, ‘This is the best thing in the world.’”
We set up The Barking Crab’s account with Josh, but Matt wasn’t able to attend the onboarding session.
“I wasn’t even trained on how to use BevSpot, but you don’t need to be—it’s so user-friendly.”
At the end of the month, Matt pulls Josh’s inventory from the BevSpot system. “I go right in and export his inventory to Excel, which is amazing, and it goes straight into my month-end summary and picks up where I left off. Even POS systems don’t do that… Why can’t it all just sync in, like BevSpot does?”
It wasn’t long before they started doing all their pricing in BevSpot. Matt says the second his owner saw the sales reports and data visualizations, he was really happy. “Your developers—when they’re done perfecting the whole beverage management thing, they need to get started on the food side of this technology.”
It’s all in the works, Matt. We’re perfecting the art of bar management software first, but we’re moving incredibly fast. Industry domination is all in the plans.
Want to find out how BevSpot can revolutionize your bar? Schedule a quick demo with one of our product specialists. We’d love to tell you all about it.