Gedulgt is a hidden cocktail bar located in Aarhus set out to raise the bar scene in Denmark. We have talked with one of the founders, Bastian, about their unique cocktail bar concept and to learn more about the fundamentals of building a strong team and why being likeable is essential for hosting exceptional guest experiences.
What is the story about the Gedulgt concept?
The concept of Gedulgt was forged in the backyard of Fredensgade 41 in 2016 by Bastian and his partners Hasse, Njal, and Jonas. After the success of the latter three with the cocktail and food pairing bar St. Pauls Apothek, which opened in 2012, they reached out to Bastian to work together on their new upcoming project of opening a cocktail bar based on the ideas of a hidden entrance, prohibition in the U.S, hidden bars, illegal activities, a shady backyard, and so on. This idea took shape under the name of Gedulgt; an old Danish term for when something is kept a secret, often because of illegal- or frowned upon activities. Nowadays the team behind Gedulgt is formed by Bastian, Njal, Jonas, Hasse (Co-founders) and Mads (Barchef), Mattis (Sous-chef) and Tanne (PR & Staff Manager).
The people working at Gedulgt is quite a unique group of people. I listen to every single one of them. I don’t care if the staff member has one day of experience or ten years. I listen and talk to each and every one of them. We are all on the same team, and a lot of restaurants and cocktail bars forget that quite often. We have clear military-inspired communication with each other, and we respect each other. I believe that you can feel that when you walk into Gedulgt. That is a unique feeling. And the concept of a leader that listens is sadly still very modern.
What is unique about our working dynamic between us (Mads, Mattis, Tanne, and Bastian), is that we respect each other's forces and weaknesses, and we are open about it. We do not share all the workload each day, but instead, we divide the tasks between us. The typical functions are administration (Bastian), production (Mattis), creativity (Mads), and public relations (Tanne).
Our primary communication is through computer tools. We communicate through our group chat, an online task schedule, and an online working schedule. We are by far the most productive workforce in a Danish cocktail bar - and that creates excellent results fast. It allows us to be effective and control the number of hours we are working. We aim for a maximum of 40 hours per person during the week.
Every second Wednesday the partners (Njal, Hasse, and Jonas) are swinging by Gedulgt in the morning for a cup of coffee and a chat for about an hour with Bastian with the goal of exchanging ideas, suggestions, or opinions regarding Gedulgt with each other.
What is the best part of owning and managing your cocktail bar compared to just working in one?
That I don’t have the frustrations of wanting to change something about the place I’m working in and not having the authority to do so. Especially because as a person I’m never satisfied, and I always strive to change for the better.
You run Gedulgt in the same way restaurants are run - with reservations, pre-selection of menus, etc-. Can you describe your setup? Do you believe your setup is essential to ensure a great experience today?
We at Gedulgt call our concept “Controlled Chaos”. You can make a reservation from 1 person up to 16 people. If it is more than 16 people, you will have to write us an email. You can also pre-order cocktails or champagne through our booking system, to avoid long waiting-time on your first order.
You walk in through the entrance and are greeted by people from the team and the evening host. They ask you if you made a reservation, and after that, they walk you to your table with menus. A few minutes later, your cocktail waiter swings by with some water and explains the menu and the concept. They will let you read the menu, and return to the table for answering your questions and for taking your order. They punch in the order on the machine and give the ticket to the head bartender. The bartender creates the cocktails, puts them on the cocktail tray, and the waiter returns to pick up the cocktails and deliver the cocktails to the given table.
All tables are open bills throughout the evening. When people want to leave, they ask for the receipt. With this controlled chaos, we have a chance to hear all the guests and talk to all of them. The guests do not feel cramped when they walk into our bar. At Gedulgt here is only room for seated guests. It is a controlled chaos because the vibe of a bar will always be chaos. People are happy, sometimes loud, tipsy, and chatty. But we control the crowd, perhaps without the guests noticing it. In our three years of service, we never needed a bouncer at Gedulgt: we are in control.
Can you describe your approach towards hosting an exceptional guest experience? Why is it important?
Being likeable is super important. If you are not a likeable person, then the guest will not like what you are offering. It is as simple as that. Try to read your guests, and figure out fast what they need.
The restaurant industry is not tough because we work 80 hours per week. It is tough because you try to give as much as possible of yourself to your guests. It is rewarding, but it is also tough sometimes. In my opinion, learning to give yourself to the fullest but still with a professional approach is the trick to host an exceptional guest experience.
You care a lot about your team. Why is taking good care of your team essential to you? And what is unique about the way you manage your team?
We are in a business where the main focus is to take care of people. So it is quite ironic that we often forget to take care of our people, right?
When you come to work, the first rule is that you greet everyone. We demand loyalty from our team members, but loyalty is a two-way street. Therefore we go many miles to secure that our staff members have the best possible workplace. And most importantly - we listen to our employees. If they want to change something about Gedulgt or the working environment, we take action on the situation one way or another. So they know and can feel that they have influence and that Gedulgt belongs to them.
Gedulgt is a secret cocktail bar. How did you manage to build up a buzz and an audience for your new place?
'Just' keep being at Gedulgt weekend after weekend, from open until closing, trying to make sure that every single guest walking through that door had a great experience. In our kind of concept, we need our guests to be our ambassadors, and people in Aarhus love to vouch for you if you are doing a great job. But do not misunderstand, the people in Aarhus are expecting the best.
Opening a new place is an exciting and challenging process where everyone is wearing multiple hats, and that requires a lot of motivation and hard work. Can you describe this journey and share some of the biggest learnings from the opening of Gedulgt?
One of the most important things for me, in that turbulent process, is, to be honest with myself. For example, I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom of Gedulgt, and I told myself: “You are not perfect”. You have to listen and learn from your co-workers, your partners, your friends, your family; everyone who wants to help you. It is not an easy process, and you have to trust your instinct after you have taken it all in.
One of the things I also learned was to prioritize my work. To stop looking at the numbers all the time and to focus at the beginning on what matters: your employee’s matter, your guest’s matter, your place matters. If you are scared, then try to work your way out of that scary period. I spent the first year being scared, so I worked 70 hours per week only to calm myself. Not because I needed to work that hard every week, but it calmed me, it made me feel relaxed. When you are not scared anymore, start focusing on creating a system and a structure in your everyday life. So you can end up working smart instead of working hard.