The life of a professional bartender is the life of a celebrity, minus the fame. Parties, music, drinks, people, scandals, secrets and (of course) hangovers. Doors will open and opportunities will knock, and you’ll gain valuable contacts in many industries. However, this status doesn’t come naturally. You have to work hard to learn how to be a good bartender.
Learning how to be a good bartender is not all about knowing every popular cocktail, nor is it simply knowing about every type of spirit or liqueur and how to drink it ‘properly’. Being a good bartender is a combination of a number of things, most importantly two main factors: excellent customer service and a laser-sharp positive attitude.
It’s a benefit to know how to make drinks, match food and even throw a few cocktail shakers over your shoulder, but what’s the point if you can’t satisfy the basic needs of your number one reason for employment – the customer? Bars, pubs, wine bars, cocktail bars, sports clubs and nightclubs are strategically built and maintained for guests to forget their worries. With this in mind, the perception of bars are dependent on the type and quality of bartender they possess – if the bartenders in a bar are below average, this will be reflected in the overall perception of a bar.
If the bartenders in a bar are excellent, offer great service and are thought leaders for their chosen niche, this will be projected onto the positioning and perception of the bar and will contribute greatly to the success of the establishment. For this reason, most of the famous and respected bars of the world pay much attention towards hiring the ‘world’s best’ bartenders (in every respect). In order to become ‘world’s best’ bartender a person must have some specific qualities in him/her that would attract the customers towards the respective bar in which he/she is working.
If you are looking for bar work and are successful in gaining a trial, or just need a few tips on how to improve your game, the following should help. Listed are a few power techniques that will increase your bartending game exponentially. You’ll make better tips, your fellow bartenders will want to work with you (instead of bitching about you – yes, it happens – I’ve seen it all before) and overall you’ll be regarded as a succinct professional. These are the tips that’ll lubricate your career advancement in the drink making game.
Serve Two Or More Customers At Once
Serving more than one customer at once is a great trick that boosts your game on a number of levels. Firstly, it keeps your mental health in check. I know what it’s like to roll with seven deep at the bar and only you serving that section. It’s fast, and you can hold it together stylishly, but man it can get mindnumbingly repetitious.
So, challenge yourself. Try and remember two or three drink orders at once. This’ll spice things up, and hey: you’ll make better tips too. People love to be ‘wowed’ and you could quite possibly impress a few using your mind tricks. You serve people faster, and you look pretty smart too. This equals tips. Everyone wins.
Help Your Fellow Bartenders Prepare Orders
A good bartender will keep his or her ear out for the drink orders of fellow bartenders. Doing this allows ‘joint order preparation’ – if you are walking past the beer fridge and you hear a fellow bartender take an order for a beer, grab that beer for them. Do this for any product you are near. Or, if you are between orders and you hear a fellow bartender take an order for something, instantly help them prepare that order.
To summarize, take orders as a team. It looks great from a customer perspective. It also reinforces and boosts morale, and hey, you could even make some good drinking mates out of the process (after work, of course…).
Good manners is a basic quality that fewer and fewer people possess nowadays. I’ve seen far too many extremely skilled bartenders who screw things up by being rude and cocky. What’s the point, man? Why are you even working here if you are going to piss customers off? So: a powerful bartender will be the combination of skill and expertise coupled with immaculate, proper manners. Trust me – this’ll greatly swell your tip jar before the night is through.
Remember, there is no excuse for poor manners, but when you use them, you earn a great deal of respect (and… tips). Having great manners will get you far – impressing the right person with your manners and etiquette could open a door of opportunity you didn’t think existed. You’ll know what I mean when this happens to you.
Become The Walking Encyclopaedia Of Alcohol
Knowing the products in your game is an extremely important skill to have. Firstly, knowing your products will help you upsell – when you upsell correctly, it generally increases the total bill amount – and this means your chances of a greater tip increase. Becoming an unofficial encyclopedia of alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) products in the industry also earns you a heap of respect from your peers. They’ll come to you for questions about certain little things. I hear you ask: How do I become this encyclopedia you speak of? There are a few ways:
- If you can, try a new product every day.
- Find a spirit type or product you are passionate about. Research it as much as possible. This’ll fuel other new passions.
- Read as much as you can. Read books and blogs.
- Visit breweries, distilleries, and wineries.
- Visit premium cellars and speak to the staff there. Ask them were they learn new stuff.
Be A Team Player
Be a total team player. Be the person that motivates the team. No, this isn’t just the manager’s role – by motivating a team you earn a truckload of respect. And most people see this respect you earn.
Be Fast At Cleaning Up
Be fast at cleaning any mess up. If you make a cocktail, clean up your tools immediately. If you spill something, clean it up immediately. No one likes working with a bartender who is messy and obviously doesn’t take pride in their work or work ethic. Clean your mess up, quickly. Enough said.
A powerful bartender will exceed expectations in almost task or challenge they are presented with. If a customer asks for directions, a good bartender will go out of their way to make sure the customer knows exactly where to head to reach their destination. If a customer asks for a cocktail that tastes nice, a powerful bartender will ask a few pivotal questions and produce the greatest cocktail the customer thinks they have ever had. If you exceed customer expectations, your customers will say ‘wow’. And when they say wow, they’ll tip. Plain and simple.
Go out of your way to exceed expectations. Doing this will produce a good rep for yourself, you’ll feel confident in your work (and your tip jar will look niiiiice and healthy).
Have A Positive Personality
Lastly, have a positive personality. Don’t be doom and gloom, don’t be nervous about anything and don’t be the negative one. Be positive! Be positive if you are unsure about a situation. Be positive in the face of adversity. Stay positive even if you have just run out of ice, you are a bartender down, you cut your finger with a paring knife and your manager is in a shithouse mood.
Because really, the situation can go either way. You can be negative and gloomy, and trudge through. But trust me, your customers will see your bad mood; and this will not be good for your tip jar nor will it be good for the business. Alternatively, you can remain positive, motivate your fellow (remaining) bartenders towards fixing the situation and eventually get through the bad spell probably making more tips in the process. Positivity breeds positivity.
Move with a sense of urgency. Move like you are on a mission, all the time. This will help you in a number of ways. Firstly, you’ll get stuff done faster. Easy. If you move from A to B faster, you can serve customers faster. And if you can serve customers faster, they’ll be happier (and you can serve more at once) which ultimately means: more tips. Easy. Secondly, if you move quickly, it keeps your manager off your back, and gives the impression you are working fast, hard and efficiently. Take a look at a good bartender the next time you are out. Chances are, he or she will be moving at a lightning pace.
Conclusion: How To Be A Good Bartender
Learning how to be a good bartender isn’t something you stop doing. You must continue to refine your craft on an ongoing basis. You might be interested in reading these:
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