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Bartender at Large Erick Castro

Upserve powers the data and analytics behind two iconic San Diego bars: Raised by Wolves and Polite Provisions. Learn how busy bartender and podcast host Erick Castro continues to craft creative cocktails with help from the platform’s:

  • Repeat guest reporting
  • Menu insights
  • Inventory management tools

Like many people working in bars and restaurants, bar owner Erick Castro worked his way up from bussing tables.

“I started when I was about 14 years old and just fell in love with the industry, the vitality and the energy that goes on putting on a production for the night and creating an experience,” he says. “From there, I started hosting, serving, and the next thing you know, I was bartending. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was just pouring beer and shaking up cosmos and lemon drops for people. It took me years to find out what was really possible with the craft cocktail.”

His passion for cocktails led him to become a bartender and proprietor at two iconic San Diego bars: Raised by Wolves and Polite Provisions.

“It’s a really sexy place,” Castro says of Raised by Wolves. “The space is about 2,800 sq. ft. with 1,200 sq. ft. of retail space.”

Castro describes Polite Provisions as “a neighborhood bar that happens to have amazing cocktails.” With a Main Street USA vibe, Castro says the 2,400 sq. foot bar is a place for everybody. “We want people to be able to feel comfortable there, as more than just a place for special occasions, but a place where people can stop in two or three times a week and have a sense of community.”

This sense of community that Castro strives to create is made possible with the data and insights he gets from Upserve.

Why Erick Castro Starts His Day with Upserve

Some people wake up with a cup of coffee. For Castro, the Daily Digest email from Upserve is the only way to start the day.

“I go over my reports every single morning. They’re the first thing I look at, the first email I check.”

Castro stays on top of server performance, sales, and guest activity in Upserve HQ. Before making any business decisions, he checks out his reports.

We’ll look at our menu and we’ll consider ‘oh, maybe we should pull this drink off the menu,’” he says. “We’ll actually be able to track it down and see that there are that people come in just for that one drink, like that’s their drink. It allows us to get really nerdy on the data.

This routine helps him keep tabs on his bar businesses while maintaining a busy schedule. When he’s not whipping up gorgeous craft cocktails in his bars, Castro hosts Bartender at Large—a podcast about all things bartending. Each episode takes listeners behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest names, whether they be bartenders, distillers, spirits experts or cocktail historians.

Guest Insights from Upserve Keep Customers Coming Back

Like any good bartender, Castro knows the importance of getting to know customers on a personal level. Tracking the drinking patterns of his regulars is key to maintaining a connection with customers.

“I love being able to track our customers that are spending the most money in Upserve,” he says. “That’s especially helpful for us in regard to drinking habits and what to look out for.”

With a retail space in the bar, Castro has even more of an opportunity to pay attention to what his customers are drinking and leverages that knowledge to cater to guests.

“In our retail space, there are customers that come in often and we’re on a first-name basis with them,” he says. “Being able to know: ‘oh we just got a shipment of Japanese whiskey in, we have to reach out to Pete because Pete loves Japanese whiskey,’ is amazing.”

How Systems and Infrastructure Let Castro Stay Creative

As a podcast host, stakeholder, and bartender in two busy San Diego bars, Castro doesn’t let the “boring” parts of his job stifle his creativity. When it comes to infrastructure, it’s no surprise that Castro relies on Upserve for support.

“All of the costing efforts and costing functions on Upserve are amazing, especially in regard to inventory,” he says. “I feel like there’s so much of this admin stuff that’s just a pain, it can be kind of draining if you allow it to distract you from what you’re doing. Upserve does such a good job of making it so streamlined and so easy, you can knock that stuff out faster than if you were trying to do it manually or trying to do it on your own with an Excel spreadsheet. The sooner you can get done with that, the sooner you can go back to focusing on your guests and making amazing cocktails.”

Beyond making cocktails, the admin work is crucial to making a business thrive—dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s is what ensures his bars are successful. His advice? Have the tools in place that help direct your team toward a common goal.

“Focus on building an infrastructure and getting systems dialed in from the beginning. If you build an infrastructure, you don’t have to manage your people as much because the system perpetuates itself,” he says. “You can tend to the system, rather than tending to each individual employee. As long as everyone has a common goal, you don’t constantly have to keep telling them which way is north because we all know where we’re headed.”

At Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves, it’s not just the cocktails keeping customers coming back. It’s streamlined operations that don’t interrupt the guest experience.

“Having a good product—having good food, having good cocktails—that’s just the bare minimum. That’s just what gets you in the door,” he says. “How are you going to translate that into effective training, a strong host department, strong servers on the floor, strong inventory systems in place? How is that going to translate from you just knowing how to make a good cocktail in your kitchen?”

Systems like Upserve are what allows Castro to enjoy the creative parts of his job.

“The only way I’ve been able to accomplish what I have and be involved with this many projects is because I’m very big on systems doing the work for me. If you try to do everything yourself and try to be involved with every single process, that does not scale,” he says. “You will not be able to keep up that pace and you’re going to burn out. Sometimes these systems take a little longer to set up, but once they’re set up you can pull back, and let the systems work on their own.”

Listen Now: Upserve Customers on Bartender at Large

Ross Simon — Owner of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Lounge in Phoenix, AZ  

Simon and Castro bond over the latest bar trends. Listen to what they love and hate about the current state of the bar industry:

David Kwiatkowski — Owner of Sugar House, Buhl Bar, and Mutiny in Detroit, MI

Kwiatkowski and Castro discuss managing multiple locations: maintaining a strong culture, promoting from within, and everything in between. Listen to how Upserve helps them get it all done:

Julie Haase — General Manager of Sugar House in Detroit, MI

Haase and Castro talk cocktail development, creating menu concepts, and the “aha!” moment that comes with finally finding the perfect cocktail name. Listen now to learn how they stay inspired:

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Holly Everett is a five-year restaurant industry veteran turned small business marketing specialist. After working at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island throughout college, she entered the world of marketing where she led B2B marketing initiatives at companies focusing on growing small businesses.
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