Fiction help: Name something a math genius could do to improve a bar.
February 9, 2013 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Writing a script, need a few believable, throwaway lines for a character. A guy running a TGI.Friday's-like bar praises his bartender, a math genius, for giving him an idea that saves money and improves the business overall. An example of outside-of-the-box thinking that enforces that our math-genius-in-disguise really is a genius. Bonus points if the idea skirts the line of legality -- something funky with accounting, maybe?

I'll give you an example. In the movie Phenomenon, John Travolta's character gives a bar owner a sketch showing a way he can restripe the building's parking lot to add extra spaces and make the lot safer at the same time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe the owner could consider the bartenders and other workers like athletes/wasting assets and depreciate them over their useful career life.

He could create some program for the cash register that rounds every food bill up to the nearest dime or even dollar and the amount of additional income would be significant in the aggregate.

He could do some sort of optimization on the seating algorithm that gets more customers into seats on a timely basis than just the hostess trying to eyeball the situation. Maybe even create a Disney like express line for those willing to pay an additional $10. That would move the tip from the hostess to the establishment since that happens a decent amount anyway.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:43 PM on February 9, 2013

Best answer: He could reference an imaginary mental model of the variation in average customer spend and customer time in seats against the actual outdoor temperature and the heating/cooling temperature in the bar. Something like "I've noticed that for every two degrees we heat the bar against each degree over 90, we get an average 10% higher spend on drinks from each customer without changing the time they spend in the seat. Of course, once we hit 80 degrees indoors, the higher average spend per seat minute still goes up, but the total profit is plummeting because the customers leave faster."
posted by jacalata at 3:50 PM on February 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Change bar glasses for those with thicker bottoms, making a former 8 oz drink into a 6 oz drink, but still charging the same price.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think the guy should invent some cocktail --maybe with the help of a chemist/botanist waitress--that keeps the patrons drinking, while keeping them from realizing how drunk they are and how long they've been in the bar.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:01 PM on February 9, 2013

Best answer: Change the placement of TVs so one is visible from every seat (geometry!) resulting in less conversation and thus more drinking.
posted by ODiV at 4:01 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Change bar glasses for those with thicker bottoms, making a former 8 oz drink into a 6 oz drink, but still charging the same price.

This doesn't work unless your math genius bartender is also a professional glass-blower. All new glasses for the bar is an expensive outlay, and either way restaurant supply glasses like that are standardized. The bartender would basically have to design and manufacture a new glass.

I definitely like the idea that the feat is something to do with liquor margins and drink prices. This blog post, and in fact Jeffrey Morgenthaler's whole blog, might give you some good ideas.

Maybe she runs some numbers and realizes that by tweaking the price of one drink, the bar will make/save serious bank?

I've always been fascinated by the math behind the gold value in a bottle of Goldschlager, but that's specific enough to probably not be worth your while.
posted by Sara C. at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What about the stock market approach, where as people buy drinks, the price of that particular drink goes up? A couple bars are already using it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Alcohol positioning / drink-of-the-week advertising for drinks with high margins, perhaps changing as the price of alcohol available changes.

I think if you want to reinforce that he's a math genius, you'd want to say something like "Three pages of equations and I didn't understand a single line, but since I implemented his pricing recommendations our profits are up 20%!"
posted by Lady Li at 4:54 PM on February 9, 2013

The bar was initially the #2 joint in town. The mathematician knew the margins, and created a new premium drink on the menu that everyone went nuts over. It just so happens that this premium drink fell within the realms of the happy hour special of the #1 bar. The #1 bar lost its shirt that month, changed the happy hour, pissed off the regulars, who then came to the mathematicians bar.
posted by bfranklin at 5:02 PM on February 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

There was a famous case of a supermarket that used customer analysis to determine that they were selling a lot of diapers to male customers on Friday nights. They started putting displays of high end beer in the same aisle. Result- a lot of men popping in for a weekend's worth of diapers on their way home from work also picked up a six pack of beer.

Your math genius could do the opposite- suggest selling diapers, so that working parents have an excuse to pop into the bar on their way home from work.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 5:29 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There is a reality TV show on cable I have seen a few times called Bar Rescue. A 'bar business expert' visits a failing bar and gives tips and tricks to increase sales and save money. Some of his ideas sound ...sciencey. Maybe you can find a few episodes and watch for ideas?

One idea in particular was this metal bar he places in a spot in the floor layout such as the space that a customer would walk while exiting the bar area and leading to the dance floor. The metal bar narrows this space, causing customers to rub against each other and come in contact, hopefully aiding conversation. Of course, the more hot young things you are bumping into and meeting in a bar, the more fun you're having and the more drinks you'll buy. Maybe your character could do some hasty calculations on a napkin and estimate how much square footage leads to how many people meeting each other per hour which leads to $XX.XX of increased sales.

The way a bartender pours his drinks also leads to saved money. Spillage between pours can cost dollars in spilled liquor, which isn't cheap. Your character could notice the way the other staff spills liquor between pours, estimate how much money is lost in liquor per drink, per hour, per week...
posted by daisies at 5:39 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cant put my finger on how to describe it, but something like this.
posted by timsteil at 6:13 PM on February 9, 2013

The bartender drains 1/4 of every bottle, replaces it with water, and adds the drained-off liquor to inventory. Liquor revenue rises 25%. Yes, it's an old trick, but figure out an angle.
The bartender suggests a reallocation of the payoff. Keep paying off the cops, but instead of paying Luigi make overtures to Paolo. Let them work it out.
The bartender sets up a dual account. So much can be done with that.
The bartender proposes selling to underage kids. Not much underage, just a little, but it's the only place in town that will. Big money.
The bartender offers to burn down the place for insurance money.
posted by LonnieK at 6:36 PM on February 9, 2013

Best answer: I'm certain that it's already done in reality at a lot of places, but making change on cash payments to maximize tipping - perhaps work in some profiling as to which set of change to give out. Perhaps your disguised mathematician is preternaturally good at this?
posted by porpoise at 7:01 PM on February 9, 2013

New mirrors for the restrooms. Very slightly curved so almost nobody notices the curvature. The distortion for the viewer is to make them appear very slightly taller and thinner. The customers will love your bar.

(could swear I have actually seen this but maybe I was drunk)
posted by bukvich at 9:16 PM on February 9, 2013

Measuring the time each kind of specialty drink takes to be made, then raising the price on them to make up for the time the bartender could be pouring/making faster drinks.
posted by blueberry at 2:30 AM on February 10, 2013

Some math genius already figured out how to put RFID chips into pour spouts so that each pour is tracked and pour "integrity" can be tracked. However this leads to being unable to help out the customers who return and pay the establishment's bills.

Another (engineering?) genius already figured out how to fill beer cups with almost no foam, which you might think would hurt the bottom line, but in reality helps the business because that foam translates into foam poured off and lost beer and time for the business.

Really the basics come down to getting a customer to return. Bottle display, placement, specials, pour accuracy, etc are all important but no bar would survive with repeat business.

If you're looking for a great idea for a story, in my opinion, this is akin to asking "What would be a great idea for a character if they were to completely master the stock market?" Possibly answerable, but why would anyone provide an answer that doesn't have a stake in making money off it themselves? :)
posted by efalk at 3:04 AM on February 10, 2013

Best answer: The bartender knows a lot about integer programming and optimization, and he writes a program that rewrites the cocktail menu daily to use more efficiently the already open bottles, and uses more of the same bottles of cheaper alcohol, so you don't have to keep so much inventory lying around for other employees to steal.

Yes, as a bonus, his program finds that some other employee/partner was stealing supplies.
posted by kandinski at 5:09 AM on February 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Switches to straws like the ones used by McDonalds with wider diameter so patrons drink faster.
posted by maloon at 7:16 AM on February 10, 2013

Best answer: Genius recognizes that parking is a major barrier for patrons, recommend a solution, like buying the unsuccessful business across the street, just for the parking.
posted by theora55 at 8:41 AM on February 10, 2013

Best answer: After observing a shift, the genius goes behind the bar and rearranges things to increase the bartenders' efficiency and amount of movement. Bartenders love him because they're walking/bending/reaching less and patrons love it because drinks come out more quickly. To cap it off he hands the manager a diagram for three months from then when the seasons change and the bar needs adjustment to accommodate the drinks that will more likely to be ordered then.
posted by cross_impact at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I marked the ones that resonated with me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:01 PM on February 10, 2013

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