Being a good bartender is more than just knowing how to mix drinks; it’s about providing excellent customer service and creating an enjoyable experience for your customers. Since tips are the primary source of income for many bartenders, it’s essential to know how to maximize your earning potential. While you’ve got to provide a great time for your guests, you’ve also got to make sure you boost your income, too. Let’s look at some tips on how to make more money as a bartender.
I’ll start with key high level concepts and work downwards into some fun (and money-making) tactics and tips.
- The Three Main “Tip Boosting” Strategies
- How To Make More Tips – Some Additional “Golden Rules”
- Want More Tips?
The Three Main “Tip Boosting” Strategies
There are three key disciplines you’ll need to master if you wish to make more money from tips:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Bar Theatrics And Flair
- Great Drinks, Great Service
Let’s unpack each of these below.
Strategy 1: Use Emotional Intelligence To Make More Tips
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ, is the ability to accurately recognize and interpret emotions in ourselves and in others. It also involves being able to use those emotions in a productive way. One key component of emotional intelligence is having empathy towards other people’s feelings and perspectives—which can be used to help you impress your guests and ultimately make more tips.
People with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to build strong relationships, improve communication skills, regulate their own emotions, maintain healthy boundaries, effectively work through challenging conversations, and manage stress. Ultimately, understanding the concept of EI can help us become more emotionally aware individuals who are conscious of both ourselves and those around us. So, what does that mean for bartending, and how does it help you make more tips?
How Emotional Intelligence Helps You Make More Tips
Here are some specific ways you can use emotional intelligence to help you make more tips:
If an energised individual or group comes to the bar, match your body language and vocal tone to theirs. Realise that they are there to have a good time—so do what you can to deliver great service and contribute to their night in some way. Try and work out why they are partying (this could be for a birthday, or promotion, or other event) and contribute to the celebrations. Leaving a positive impression on the whole group may trigger certain individuals of that group to leave you a bigger tip.
- If a “sad” person comes to the bar—that is, someone who doesn’t seem happy to be there, or are expressing emotions that may suggest they are feeling sad or upset—match your body language and vocal tone theirs. They’re there either to process or forget something. Be polite, courteous and professional. Don’t use body or vocal language you’d normally use for partygoers. You could try engaging them with small talk to see if they want to open up and chat about their concern. Otherwise, treating them with the quiet mental space they need may be enough to impress them enough to deliver a handsome tip.
- If a couple who seem to be dating come to the bar, once again, match your body language to theirs. You’ll pretty quickly determine if it’s a first date based on the tension and language used between the couple. Both individuals may be leaning on you to push the conversation forward. Remember, they may be nervous, and your disarming language and conduct unique may reduce this. If the date goes well, and you create a memorable first occasion for the couple, you may be rewarded with a bigger tip.
- If a person has been waiting some time, because your bar is busy, acknowledge the fact to them directly. Offer your apologies and describe how they may be feeling. Validation of their emotions may be enough to help you get a bigger tip, even though they’ve been waiting some time.
- If someone has been deliberating over your cocktail menu for a while, ask them if they would like any help. Ask them what they like and what the don’t like, and guide your recommendations from there.
Overall, use your emotional intelligence to analyse a situation, change your conduct accordingly, and do what you can to create a positive and memorable occasion for your guests. This will naturally increase your chances of a higher tip.
Strategy 2: Use Bar Theatrics And Flair To Make More Tips
The premise behind this tip-making strategy is simple: Your patrons want to be entertained. Now, this isn’t the same as flair bartending (where you throw bottles around over your head and under your arms and stuff). Instead, this involves putting on a show for your patrons as you work. This includes:
- Working together as a team to make drinks
- Making drinks with passion and style
- Reacting to the bar’s music, and demonstrating that you’re having a good time too
- Interacting with customers as they are waiting
If you can work solo or as a bartending team to put on a show for your patrons, you’ll boost your chances of making more tips.
Follow these strategies if you’d like to know how to get more tips in tip jar:
- Let your customers try new things. Give them a taste-test of something. You might need to clear this with your manager first.
- Write a personalized message on a customer’s bill. If you have no common ground with the customer, write ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’ or something similar. If you have something in common, write something that will make the customer smile (about whatever it is you have in common).
- Look for ways to connect with your guests. Look for windows of opportunity, or something in common. Try “I like that sweater” or “I like your bag”. Try and find common ground which will help you connect. Remember – people tip people they like.
- If it looks like some of your customers are leaving, ask questions like, “Can I help with anything else? Anything at all? Can I give you directions to another venue? Do you need a cab? Or tips on the best places to go tonight?”. Provide extra value.
- Serve two customers at once. It looks great when you do this, and you serve your section faster too.
- When a customer asks for a drink, ask if they’d like a ‘good’ one and make it look like you are putting extra effort into it.
- Be funny – make your customers laugh!
- If you can, make conversation with your customers. Be sincere. Talk about something that’s happening in the news (but only if you have time to chat!).
Strategy 3: Provide Great Drinks And Great Service To Make More Tips
Follow these strategies if you’d like to know how to get more tips as a bartender:
- Repeat your customer’s order to them.
- Choose one wine, one beer, one cocktail, and one spirit on your menu that you consider as your ‘personal recommendation’. Memorise the following things about the product, so you can do your best to sell it (and demonstrate that you are on top of your game!):
- Where the product is made
- Where the product’s ingredients come from
- When it was made (if it’s a maturable product)
- What’s in the product (ingredients of a cocktail, or grape varieties of a wine, or brewing ingredients of a beer)
- The flavour profile of a product
- Any foods the product may be matched to
- The price of the product
- Always offer eye contact (in moderation). Eye contact + smile = winning combination.
- Introduce yourself. Say hi, and say that it’s great to meet your customer. ALWAYS say your name in your introduction.
- When your guests sit down, sincerely say, “please, make yourself at home – my job is to make sure you have a good time. If there is anything extra I can do to achieve that please let me know!”
- Call customers by their first name, or Mr <surname>, Ms <surname>, Mrs <surname> etc.
- Remember each individual customer’s drink preference. Offer the same drink to them when they return to the bar. For example, “another <beer name>, Mr Smith?”, or “another Mojito, Ms Smith?” Remember the fine details about how customers like their drinks. For example, “another dry, dirty vodka martini Mrs Smith? With a twist of lemon instead of an olive?”.
- Know your menu, inside out. Try and learn every detail about each product on your menu – so when you are asked a question about something, you are armed with extra information to go above and beyond with your answer.
- Check back on customers. Ask them how their drinks are. Ask them if they are enjoying everything. Ask if you can get them anything else.
- Look the part. Look professional. Remember you are always on show.
- Have manners – super manners. Say please, thank you, sir, madam, yes sir, no madam etc.
- Carry a pen and paper, in case a customer needs it.
- Call customers by their name.
- If you have customers sitting at the bar, give them a small glass of water each. Keep it topped up. Make sure the glass is never empty!
How To Make More Tips – Some Additional “Golden Rules”
- People tip people they like. So, be likeable. Be warm, professional, light-hearted but attentive, prompt and results-focused.
- Always provide extra value. Always go above and beyond for anything a guest may need help with. For example, if a customer asks for directions, print them off a map and give them a run-down on how to get to their destination (not just “go two blocks down the road, second left, etc.”).
- Remember “reciprocity”. When some people receive genuine acts of kindness and generosity, they feel like they have to return that generosity. So, if you can demonstrate that you can go above and beyond for people (especially towards the end of their experience at your venue – near the time when they are going to pay), chances are they’ll be generous in return (with a tip!).
It’s clear that bartending is not just about making drinks; it’s a craft that requires creativity, skill, and knowledge. A truly great bartender can artfully craft drinks to match a person’s unique tastes and preferences. They are knowledgeable about mixology, flavor combinations, proper drink presentation, bar etiquette, and more. And when YOU can do this, your tips will flow, too.
Making more tips as a bartender is about providing excellent customer service and ensuring customers have an enjoyable experience each time they visit you. By being friendly and engaging, upselling drinks when appropriate, and learning about your customer’s preferences; you’ll be well on your way towards maximizing your tips! With these tips in mind, there’s no reason why you can’t become one of the best bartenders around!
Want More Tips?
If you’d like more strategies that will help you learn how to make more tips, check out these resources:
- Bartender Magazine
- Some of the best bartending blogs
- Punch Drink
- How to be a good bartender
- How to get a job in a cocktail bar
- How to get bar work while traveling
Or, see these articles: