We're underway on the Buyback Project, Eater's investigation into the integrity of buyback programs at various NYC bars of note. One sentence primer: a buyback is a free round of drinks offered to a patron after he or she has purchased several rounds prior. Some bars are extremely generous with their buybacks, others are not. Hence, the Buyback Project.
So this Buyback Project. Seems it's rustled some feathers around town. Mostly there is a fear that in celebrating the best rated bars, they will go away. To the mailbag we go:
1) "The Buyback Project is a little bogus, don't you think? As a current restaurant manager, former bartender and server and hostess, and all-too-frequent bar patron, I know that buy backs have far more to do with the customer than the establishment. Tip well, be courteous, attend frequently, and you will get your buyback no matter where you are... if not on the first visit, then eventually. Don't expect your buybacks, people--earn them!! Beware: the minute a manager/owner sees your list, the buybacks will be kaput."
2) "Many managers will set a buyback limit of around $100 a night. That doesn't get you very far when you're serving from 8pm to 4am and it certainly isn't enough to get any bartender the reputation for being "generous" with them. Other managers don't allow a buyback limit at all. So basically, most buybacks are unauthorized. When managers find out, bartenders get in trouble. Or, worst case, they get fired because it's cake to turn around and find another unemployed good-looking actor to fill their place."
3) "I am a little worried that Buyback project could really backfire. While we
all love generous bartenders, in celebrating them we could land them in trouble. While they know that a great bar, where you feel some give and take, will get more of your hard earned cash over time it could be interpreted differently. Bar owners may not be that happy about a barman who rewards good tips with buybacks. Widely celebrated for being generous with your bosses booze could raise some tricky staff meetings. So tread likely. It is a fine balance and those who reward us should not have their integrity questioned."
4) [And then there's this--Ed.] hey eater: will there be some discussion about the "cute-girl factor" in the whole buyback sitch? [i'm not talking about "pretty people VIP factor", that's a different story.] this was true at PIPA on 19th street recently, wine and champagne appeared when i was drinking water. or Baggot Inn a few weeks back, again drinking water - bartenders bought me Guiness. wine at OTTO and LUPA and MARSEILLE without me ordering a drink at all. actually these aren't buybacks but buyfronts. not to brag, just a few instances of the cute girl factor."
· The Buyback Project: Bartender Roundtable [~E~]
· Introducing the Buyback Project [~E~]
We're just getting started. Nominations for the Buyback Project being accepted now, via the tipline, svp; additional thoughts on buyback culture earn extra brownie points—and, who knows, maybe a free round.