Mike Ryan and his 15+ years in the industry

Pro bartender talks about work-life balance, career bucket lists, industry trends and more!

Mike’s innovative cocktails seem to be a press favourite! They have been featured in People magazine, Whiskey Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and Redbook magazine, and Mike was also named Nightclub & Bar’s “Bartender of the Month.” Under Mike’s direction, Kimpton’s beverage program was named “2017 On-Premise Player of the Year” by MarketWatch. 

In his career, Mike received a coveted 2009 scholarship in the Cocktail Apprentice program at New Orleans’ annual Tales of the Cocktail®, the world’s premier cocktail festival. Mike was instrumental in helping develop the Cocktail Apprentice Program into one of the world’s most respected bartender and event training programs, from 2009 to 2016.

Needless to say, his journey, his experiences and his knowledge inspired us to deep dive into his mind and understand his insights on the industry.

Could you please introduce yourself for the audience? 

My name is Mike Ryan, I run a bar & beverage consultancy headquartered in Chicago, IL. In my previous role as Kimpton’s National Director of Bars, I oversaw bar operations nationwide, and worked as an integral part of the team concepting, developing, and opening dozens of restaurants and bars across the US, Europe, and the Caribbean.

What does your work entail?

I help restaurant & bar owners and operators improve their operations through training, insight.

What are 3 things you absolutely love about your job?

~ I love the work-life balance

~ I love the constantly new challenges

~ And I love working with a hugely diverse group of people.

What kind of an education is needed to undertake your role? 

Experience is the best education in a role like mine. I went to culinary school decades ago, but I’ve worked in every possible restaurant role in both the front and back of house, which gives me a unique perspective on operations. I’ve also been fortunate to work with some incredibly intelligent directors and executives, giving me a solid understanding of management and senior operations.

What industry trend are you currently excited about?

I’m glad that low- and no-alcohol drinks are being taken seriously, and that the bar for those keeps on rising.

Mike Ryan

How do you stay in touch with industry trends?

The best way to stay in touch with industry trends is to go out and experience them. Social media shows you one very skewed perspective, but actually going out to bars and paying attention to how and what people are ordering is and will always be critical.

What is your way to balance your work with your personal life? 

Work/life balance, for me, is essential. When I’m on a job I’m all the way on—it’s hard to turn it off. But when I’m off I’m completely off. I keep email and other work notifications off my phone, I respond to emails during work hours.

What is one thing on your career bucket list? 

I’d love to spend more time working outside the US; I’ve done a few projects in Europe and the Caribbean but there’s so much more to learn.

What are you drinking right now? 

At the moment I’m having a lovely Pisco Sour in San Francisco, working on a new project!

Interview by Stuti Khetan, Beverage Trade Network

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