By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
Having taken a few pictures that others think are "wonderful" does not make you a photographer. Nor does serving drinks to your friends at a home party make you a bartender. There is one difference between you being a professional photographer or the bartender at your local pub: Training.
The spark that gave Hank Belden the idea to start a hospitality training school - a female bartender he hired when he opened the Marker 32 in 1984.
He thought he was going to get swamped, even though he now had three bartenders. That night he had an assistant do the things he was going to do and decided he was going to help the new girl when she "got in the weeds" (bartender talk for getting swamped).
As he observed they indeed were very busy and he expected any minute to have to step in and help her. He saw that all the customers had a drink, but he guessed people weren't drinking their drinks was the reason she wasn't busy.
But, Mr. Belden said, "At the end of the night, I rang out her cash register and she'd doubled the sales that all three (bartenders) made two nights before."
After he got over his initial shock he asked her how she did that. She said, "That's my secret. I like to work smart, I don't like to work hard."
Mr. Belden agreed with that philosophy but he'd been in the business 20 years and said, "I don't know how you did that." She said she'd give him another secret. She said that she could have done that all by herself two nights ago; the other two bartenders just got in her way.
The upshot was Mr. Belden would not let her leave until he learned her secrets. She worked with him for several years and after Mr. Belden learned her "tricks" he started the school.
That was 30 years ago and today he teaches prospective bartenders much more than how to mix a drink. He teaches how to relate to the customers, the proper placement of your "tools" behind the bar and how to get a job.
Upon walking into the Institute you are immediately transported to a bar, set up the exact way a bar should be set up. Students are trained in the "classroom" by Mr. Belden personally. He said he teaches how to do all the "little" things, as well as all the "secrets" he learned from his "inspiration" plus his own wealth of knowledge from 40 years in the profession and working all over the world. A recently added portion of the course is called "Flair" bartending or "flairtending." Flair was made famous by the movie "Cocktail," starring Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise.
As for his perfect student - it isn't someone with some bartending experience whom he has to first "un-teach" all his or her bad habits. His preference is "people with good attitudes that like people, that have an easy smile and good conversation. It's not only speed and accuracy, it's time and motion and having the bar set up correctly. Half of the battle is getting the drinks out, but the other half is customer service."
Perhaps the most important feature of his business is job placement, a service Mr. Belden provides to any graduate, no matter how long it's been since the student became a bartender. "Job placement to me is just as important as signing up a new student," he said.
The course costs $998, and when asked about the length of training Mr. Belden said the short answer is, "As long as it takes." The course goal is to teach a person how to be a "super star." Each individual class is for two hours.
The training school is the only one in the Ormond Beach/Daytona Beach area. There are several in Orlando. But his course syllabus is so complete and covers so many unique secrets that Hank Belden stands alone in the world of hospitality training.
It is not greed, but reality speaking about the most important thing his school teaches - "How to make money," he said.
Hank Belden's Hospitality Training and Bartending Institute is at 1132 West Granada Blvd. The website is bartendersplus.com. Day and night classes are available.