What’s Your Beer Trading At?

No, seriously.

At this restaurant, you won’t find fixed prices for the beer of your choice. Yes, you will have a menu, but only with the types of beers that are offered.

The concept of a beer exchange that mimics the workings of a stock exchange is perhaps the most innovative and unique thing I’ve heard in a while.  How the beers are priced is based on the simple model of supply and demand. When more people order the same beer, the price of it will naturally rise. Likewise, the price will adjust downwards on beers that are purchased less frequently. The timing of the day as well as the day of the week are also two important factors that largely affect the cost of the beer. A beer that is bought on a Saturday night instead of on a Wednesday afternoon will obviously differ by a higher margin.

So what kinds of beers are sold, you ask?

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To segway into your question, I will first tell you where you can find this beer exchange.

In the United States, a new one that will be opened next week is The New York Beer Company. Located in Manhattan, it can sit up to 300 people with offerings of 40 kinds of drafts, 50 types of bottles, and convenient entrees ranging from pizza to steak. Here, you will be able to find your most common Guinness and Budweiser, as well as local exotic ones like the Brooklyn Local 1, Coney Island Lager, and Ithaca Flower Power IPA. Talk about state pride.

One cool feature is that the website allows you to click on a beer and then shows you its price and point of origination. For instance, Empire Cream Ale from Syracuse, NY can currently be bought at $6.50. Most are priced at $6.50. A more expensive one I found was Delirium Tremens, from Belgium for $10.

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However, the U.S. isn’t the only place with such a system. In Barcelona, there is the Dow Jones Bar that has been in existence since 1995. It’s very popular due to its ability to attract international customers every day and retain a loyalty customer base simultaneously with this system. They offer drinks that are more known worldwide as opposed to The New York Beer Company. You not only have beer, but also mojito, Bloody Mary, Absolut, and more.

And whenever you click on the website, the home page is a table with all of the drinks (even in ticker mode, i.e. WHRUSSIAN for White Russian), the prices they are currently trading at, and a green or red arrow beside it depending on whether it went up or down during closing time.

That’s not all. As a customer puts it: “every 30 minutes or so the stock market suffers and drink prices go down by 30-50%.”

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Thus, customers do not have to worry about highly inflated prices (nor deflated prices, unfortunately), otherwise prices could get really out of hand. The system incorporates a maximum price—which when reached—will trigger the price to crash and drop similar to a market surprise. At The New York Beer Company, beers are typically capped at a price range of $4 to $8.

At the end of the day, the bar will push a button that resets all prices for the next business day.

Whether you’re someone who follows the market all day, this place sounds too good to pass up. It’s like reliving your college days, except in a visibly more sophisticated and clever manner.

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I want to be him too

From finance to food, this guy is my role model.

Ahmass Fakahany, previously co-president of Merrill Lynch, has always been a foodie. He established a niche for himself by building a wine collection for the company.  The wines were mostly bought for himself, but it greatly reduced costs for Merrill whenever Mr. Fakahany brought wine to board dinners.

Unfortunately, his wine collection was sold off when Merrill Lynch got bought out by Bank of America because it was deemed “excessive.”

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Even in the dining room, Mr. Fakahany was the go-to guy for food-related issues. People would ask him to help spice up a plain salad or entrée.

So how and why did Mr. Fakahany switch into the restaurant business?

When Stanley O’neal, the former CEO of Merrill resigned, Mr. Fakahany knew it was over. His resignation making his 21 years at the company officially went into effect as of February 1st, 2008.

Though he obviously received other offers, he decided to exit the banking business once and for all.

His first restaurant investment took place in 2006, when he rode in the same elevator with chef Michael White. They were already acquaintances, but Mr. White wanted to open a restaurant of his own, and mentioned to Mr. Fakahany during the elevator ride that he had found 10 to 15 supporters.

Mr. Fakahany offered to fully support him without any other partners.

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Now, after a series of events, both men work together at Altamarea, one of the fastest growing restaurants in New York.

What’s most interesting to me is how Mr. Fakahany operates the business. Many of his implementations are akin to those of a businessman.

For instance, he offers deferred cash bonuses to some managers to instill loyalty and retain the good staff. Recently, he exchanged a $4,500 dinner bill by several British Airway executives for nine air tickets to give to his staff.

Mr. Fakahany also knows how to cut costs. He is involved in every process of the way, from hiring his former driver for transporting clients and ingredients to negotiating laundry rates based on his physical observations that the machines could be running faster.

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One of my biggest dreams is also to be a restaurant financier, where I can have stakes in different restaurants that I like or deem potential.

But I know as well as the next businessman that running restaurants is not an easy feat. It requires a sharp mind, good sense of humor, and patience all at the same time.

A former trader and now co-owner of restaurants puts it best: “Running restaurants is harder than trading high-yield bonds.”

Wine’s It Girl

She was the youngest woman (29 years old) to be named a Master Sommelier, a globally known credential in the beverage industry that takes four stages to complete and more years of preparation. As of December 21, 2011, there are only 178 master sommeliers in the world, 18 of whom are women. She’s also the owner of Corkbuzz, a wine bar in New York opened just four months ago.

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Meet Laura Maniec, who knows pretty much everything there is to know about wine. She attributes much of her success to building great relationships with her peers in the industry, and of course, commitment to running her place. Prior to opening Corkbuzz, she had been the wine director of BR Guest restaurant group for 10 years. While at BR Guest, she oversaw 20 New York restaurants’ wine lists while simultaneously preparing for the Master Sommelier examinations.

Ms. Maniec’s presence at Corkbuzz 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is dedicated to not only overseeing the service of the wine bar, but also offering various classes ranging from “Pairing Wine with Takeout Food” to “How to Choose a Wine for a Date.”

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With so many kinds of wines to choose from, Ms. Maniec makes it easier for customers by making at least 40% of the brands recognizable, such as Muscadet and Chardonnay. Many people presumably frequent a wine bar for gatherings or causes of celebrations, so Ms. Maniec is careful in that respect to not have customers spend too much time inquiring the staff about the wine selection.

A smart girl operating a well thought out dining strategy in a niche market certainly makes for a successful business. As Ms. Maniec quote when starting Corkbuzz, “I didn’t want a wine school where I ran a tasting and said goodbye. I wanted to teach without being preachy.”