How the processes are organized in the largest hookah bar in the Kiev region.
Mikhail Shevchenko is the founder of Bearloga Lounge (Ukraine), a regular participant and winner of many Hookah Battle competitions:
Bearloga Lounge team – has the highest status of “Legend of Hookah Battle”
Bearloga Lounge is the largest hookah lounge in the whole Kiev region, we decided to talk to its founder.
Hi Michael! Tell us about your establishment, where is it located, how many halls and total footage, how many employees work for you?
Hey! Our institution is located in the very center of Bila Tserkva, the largest city in the Kiev region. We have at our disposal 3 main halls, as well as a karaoke hall, the total area of which is about 400 square meters. We also have 3 spacious summer terraces for the summer, the square of which is also close to 400 square meters. In addition to all this, we have the opportunity to organize additional seats using soft poufs and sun loungers. As for the number of personnel who work for us, in the summer, my team consists of 20 people, sometimes a little more. In winter, when only our indoor halls are open, my team consists of 12 people. With the help of so many staff, I try to provide everyone with a decent salary, which, by the way, is the largest in the city and there are sufficient weekends.
Tell us, how did you decide to go in for hookahs and got into this field?
Initially, hookah was for me as a hobby and just as one of the options for a pleasant time with my friends and wife. Then this whole topic was just beginning to gain popularity in our city, and in Ukraine, in principle, too.
The level of the hookah industry in Belaya Tserkov, the number of establishments where it was possible to smoke more or less normally, the choice of tobacco and hookahs left much to be desired. This was the case when, of all evils, one had to choose the least. And one day I had an idea that I discussed with my wife Ruslana: “Why don’t we ourselves make a place where people can come and spend time pleasantly and comfortably, where they can have a tasty meal, drink where you don’t need wait for a hookah for half an hour at best, where you will have a wide selection of tobaccos and hookahs on which you can smoke? “
Frankly, Ruslana was initially not enthusiastic about this idea, since she believed that the hookah business is not an area that can generate income. I listened to her opinion, agreed, but still decided to do it my own way and I don’t regret it to this day.
Having weighed all the pros and cons, I decided to go into the hookah business, although I did not initially consider this project as the main source of our earnings.
Bearloga.Lounge is your first project? Was there something before that?
No, before that I had not been involved in such a business and could not even imagine that one day I would be engaged in the hookah industry. Since 2010, I have been successfully engaged in advocacy and opened my own law office, which was my main place of work and source of income. Bearloga.lounge is my first project and it turned out to be very successful. At the end of the quarantine, we are considering the option of opening establishments of this type throughout Ukraine, with quality control and uniform rules for all establishments of our franchise.
How many seats do you have in total?
During the summer season, we can comfortably accommodate about 350 people at our sites, plus, as I said earlier, there is an opportunity to organize additional seats.
What is your record for the number of hookahs cooked for guests in 1 day?
We always give the largest number of hookahs on the day of the city – this is the second Saturday in September! At this time, we have all the halls and our spacious summer terraces functioning. We set a new record in September 2020 – then a team of my masters delivered more than 200 hookahs in one shift. All four hookah masters were on shift and, frankly, at the end of the shift it was already hard to look at them, but they continued to work with dignity and their characteristic ardor – they did not know the number of hookahs they made, but understood that today there could be a new record. and perhaps it was this passion that helped them work out the shift at the highest level.
Plus, a lot was decided by well-coordinated teamwork – they were clearly aware of what they had to do, strictly observed the timing of the rounds, and even with such a load, they kept the time for issuing the hookah.
How long does it take to prepare one hookah from the moment of ordering to the moment of taking it out to the guest?
When our work is “in full swing” – the time from the moment of ordering to taking out the hookah to the guest is 6-7 minutes. We try to adhere to this rule. The only exception can be the time when we have just opened, when there is still not enough finished coal, or when a large number of orders are received. But even in such cases, the delivery time can increase by 1-2 minutes maximum.
Tell us how your work process is arranged so that you can quickly and efficiently cope with a large number of orders?
Look, we have 4 hookah masters on our shift in the summer, each of them has his own role, but they are not tied to any separate process. Two masters take orders for guests, prepare bowls and then bring out ready-made hookahs, provided at the table. One master is responsible for serving hookahs in the hall, but he can also take orders. In the process of disassembling and washing hookahs, everyone is involved, depending on how busy they are at a particular time.
When winter comes, we close our summer terraces, only our 3 main halls and a karaoke hall function. During this period, every day we have 2 masters per shift, who give 70-80 hookahs per shift. On some holidays, 3 hookah masters come out in order to simplify the workflow and, most importantly, not to lose quality.
What assortment of tobacco brands do you have in the hookah bar?
Our hookah cuisine is represented by the following brands:
⁃ Darkside (50+ flavors permanently)
⁃ Tangier (45+ flavors on an ongoing basis)
⁃ Element of the line air, water, earth (25+ tastes on an ongoing basis in total, but with the element there are more of course the tastes of the lines water and earth)
⁃ Black Burn (20+ flavors permanently)
⁃ Duft (20+ flavors permanently)
⁃ Chabacco (30+ flavors)
⁃ WTO (Perique and Nicaragua 10+ flavors)
⁃ Daily Hookah (15+ flavors on a regular basis)
If there is no interruption in the supply of tobacco to Ukraine, then I try to adhere to the assortment described above. I always follow the novelties of the hookah market and am ready to take new products for work if they suit us in terms of quality and characteristics.
What assortment of hookahs do you have?
Now our hookah park has a little more than 100 hookahs from different manufacturers. If we consider in more detail, then in our work we have such hookahs:
⁃ Alpha Hookah (Model X, S, Beat)
⁃ Mattpear (simple, mini)
⁃ CWP (Razor, Razor 2)
⁃ Korres Hookah (model K1, K2, K3)
⁃ Union Hookah (Fibonacci, argument)
⁃ Nube (Unique)
⁃ Totem Hookah (Idol, Elixir)
⁃ HLGN Hookah (Pudge edition, Bullet)
You regularly participated in Hookah Battle, tell me was there any practical result for the hookah from your multiple victories in battles? Does this affect the loyalty of guests / visitors of the establishment?
Yes, there really are advantages from systematic participation in events organized by Hookah Battle. Participation in Hookah Battle introductory fame both in Ukraine and outside of Ukraine. These are certain acquaintances, and proposals for cooperation with manufacturers, communication with industry figures, bloggers. For example, after our participation in the competition, it became possible to invite Yegor Chigridov and Davu Dym to our master class and open shift. I guess these guys need no introduction. We are working on our mixes, which we are working on at Hookah Battle, but of course we do not tell them the mix itself.
We compare the opinion of our team about the mix with the opinion of our guests and friends. It is also important to attract new guests to the institution: the guys come to us with other cities to just chat, smoke, learn more about our institution.
What would you like to criticize Hookah Battle for? What do we need to improve?
To criticize, to improve? First of all, you, as a company that is engaged in such a successful and large-scale project, should improve the objectivity of refereeing, work out clear rules that will be the same for all participants, and not as it often happens with you – there are always loopholes in the rules that some use. And then it’s funny to read your comments on a particular issue. You must understand – you are risking your reputation. I would like to thank you for the fact that despite such a difficult time, you came up with an online format for holding competitions, and made it possible to take part in new, interesting events.
How do you choose employees for the institution? What qualities and successes should be?
When choosing people for my team, I always look at the person’s interest in this job, his human qualities, professionalism and work experience, and why he needs this job.
More than once I hired guys who came either with no experience at all or with minimal work experience, but I was satisfied with their attitude to business. And after only a month or two, working in a team of more experienced colleagues, they showed very good results and, as a result, they turned out to be qualified masters of their craft. I am recruiting a team of the best – and the guys who come to us should also strive to be the best. It’s simple.
What advice can you give for hookah bar owners?
I don’t know if it would be right to give someone advice, because every owner of a hookah business has his own approach – for someone it is profit, for someone it is a hobby, lifestyle, desire to be the best.
Try to constantly update your establishment, hookah park, add new positions in tobacco, gather a team of the best around you, be interested in the life of your team, make it clear that they are important to you. And they will definitely thank you! Teach your team to help each other, the coherence of work helps a lot with a huge flow of people: hookah workers collect dishes when they return from the hall and can take an order in the kitchen and bar, waiters remove hookahs and help light hookahs, bartenders can place guests at their tables – they are not tied to their position, they are one, holistic mechanism!