Better Bossing through Beer


Sean Kenniff
Caroline Hatchett
Chef Brian Huston of Boltwood - Evanston, IL
Chef Brian Huston of Boltwood - Evanston, IL

Shift drinks are one thing—a Natty Boh with a shot of Jim Beam in Baltimore, a Letherbee Negroni in Chicago, the El Jimador's Shifty at New York's Mayahuel, or a shot of Fernet anywhere—but kitchen beers are an entirely different animal. At Boltwood in Evanston, Illinois, Chef Brain Huston has tamed the beer-as-gratuity concept and turned the idea into profit for the restaurant and a morale booster for staff.

It all started with a good problem for any kitchen to have. While Huston was the chef at The Publican, an effusive clientele showed its appreciation by sending beers back to the talented cooks on the line. However, this act of gratitude resulted in the inevitable: tipsy cooks. Alas, management called off kitchen beers, and the line revolted.

For his own restaurant, Huston came up with a simple solution. Now listed on Boltwood's drink menu is “Kitchen Gratuity”—a $10 six-pack of High Life for the kitchen to be consumed after service. It's Huston's way to not only reinforce and nurture this benevolent connection between guest and staff, but to create a modest new revenue stream à la Miller High Life. Boltwood's bottom line increases, the staff is sober when they need to be and buzzed when they want to be, and the boss is a hero.


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