Bartending is more than just pouring drinks. It’s an art form, and to be a great bartender, you need to have the right skills and qualifications. But what exactly makes a great bartender? Let’s take a look.
The bartender is one of the most powerful and influential components of any bar. Ultimately, they are the ‘face’ of a bar and are the primary interfaces between the establishment and its most important asset: customers.
The Primary Purpose Of A Bartender
Before we go any further, there is a common misconception in the hospitality industry that states: ‘the primary purpose of a bartender is to make drinks and put money in the till’. This is incorrect.
The primary purpose of a bartender is not to simply make drinks and put money in the till. The primary purpose of a bartender is to deliver warm and welcoming customer service, and to give your guests the best nights of their lives. Making drinks is a by-product of this function.
What Separates Great Bartenders From The Rest?
The next thing I would like to clarify is the existence of a fundamental difference between an experienced bartender, and a good bartender. I have come across many extremely knowledgeable bartenders with years of experience, however, in my opinion, they are terrible bartenders because they are missing one vital skill: genuine customer service. Yes, I understand experienced bartenders have been in the game for years, I understand they know incredible amounts of information about the industry and make amazing drinks, but what’s the point if they can’t make somebody’s night the best they’ve ever had?
An experienced, knowledgeable and skilled bartender is not necessarily a good bartender. A good bartender is any bartender with the ability to provide outstanding customer service, using their experience, knowledge and skill.
A good bartender will also possess a positive attitude, and will have a willingness to give their best and constantly learn new skills.
A good bartender will possess confidence, attitude and personality, but always have respect for customers, fellow staff and their venue. A good bartender will take pride in their appearance and be passionate about their craft.
The Top Qualities of a Strong Bartender
A bartender should possess these basic qualities:
The first and most important quality of a great bartender is personality. A good bartender has an outgoing, friendly personality and the ability to make customers feel welcome. This isn’t only important for providing excellent customer service but also for creating relationships with regular customers that will keep them coming back for more!
Patience is a valuable quality for any bartender to possess. Despite the chaotic and busy pace they often find themselves in, good bartenders never show signs of anger or frustration, no matter how flustered they may be on the inside. A bartender must maintain a level composure at all times in order to build loyalty and trust with their customers. They understand that customer service is essential and that an angry bartender can quickly ruin an evening for their guests. It takes great discipline and dedication to continuously practice patience day in and day out as a professional bartender, but it ultimately helps create truly memorable experiences for patrons of their establishment.
Creativity & Passion
Good bartenders don’t just know how to mix drinks; they also have creativity when it comes to crafting new concoctions or giving classic cocktails their own unique twist. Bartenders who have passion for what they do will pay attention to detail when mixing drinks and go above and beyond when providing unique experiences for their customers through their creations.
Knowledge of Beverages
A great bartender is knowledgeable not only about alcoholic beverages but also about beer, wine, and non-alcoholic options. A good bartender should be able to suggest unique cocktails based on the customer’s preferences and provide drink suggestions for those looking for something out of the ordinary. Additionally, they should be able to answer questions about ingredients in each drink as well as how different types of alcohol mix together.
Another quality of a great bartender is organization and preparedness. Being organized means being able to keep track of orders quickly and efficiently so there’s no confusion when it comes time to serve them up. It also means having everything your team will need on hand at all times—from garnishes to straws—so the bar can run smoothly without any hiccups. Being prepared means having all the ingredients necessary for each drink; this includes everything from ice cubes to syrups or bitters.
Customer Service Skills
It’s no secret that customers are the lifeblood of any business—and this holds true for bars and restaurants as well. A great bartender must be friendly and attentive to customers; they should put them at ease if they’re having a difficult night or make them feel welcome if it’s their first time in the bar. Additionally, bartenders must be able to diffuse any customer disputes quickly and professionally before they escalate into anything serious.
A Team Player Attitude
Finally, being part of a team is essential in any job—but especially in bartending since you’ll often be working side-by-side with other bartenders during busy shifts. A great bartender should have respect for their fellow staff members, work together with them on tasks such as restocking inventory or cleaning up spills quickly, communicate clearly with servers when taking orders from tables—and even contribute ideas on ways to make things run smoother during shifts if needed!
More Features Of A Great Bartender
A good bartender will also:
- Listen to what customers are saying. Listen to what they are asking for. Listen to what they are trying to say. Listen for clues to the status of their situation: if one customer tells another customer that they need a glass of water or a drinks menu, a good bartender will deliver one before they ask for it. Doing this will get the bartender a million points (hypothetically, of course), and will greatly improve chances of a tip. This also applies to other staff – a good bartender will automatically help with other staff member’s drink orders and work as a team to deliver individual drink orders.
- Move with a sense of urgency.
- Contribute constructively (and safely) to bar theatrics (bar theatrics is ‘showmanship’ behind a bar – basically using flair and passion when making drinks)
- Read every detail back to the customer, when taking a table or function booking.
- Always carry:
- Pen (three or four)
- Wine Opener
- Beer opener/blade
- Cigarette lighter
- Be punctual, and be willing to stay back late.
- Say ‘We’ instead of ‘I’.
- Understand how to handle difficult situations with intoxicated patrons (they’ll know how to handle such a situation without aggravating the boozy customer).
- Be able to recommend a ‘good’ beer, wine, cocktail, rum, scotch or any other product, and be able to back up their claim with some factual support (i.e. say why the product is so good).
- Have a positive attitude and never forget that we are all in the hospitality industry to be hospitable.
- Show attitude and personality, but always show manners and respect.
- Is chivalrous (chivalry gets you tips… and it gets you noticed – but don’t let the ladies push in!).
- Check dry and wet stock levels at the beginning of every shift.
- Make more than one drink at once, and serve more than one customer if necessary.
- Promote a positive internal culture.
- Understand cultural differences in the industry.
- Have good eye contact, and a firm handshake.
- Is a ball of energy, focused on the customer.
- Goes into detail when a customer asks about the cocktail he or she just made, not just a reply of “it’s a Cosmo”. A good bartender will explain the ‘cocktail making’ process.
- Call customers ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ regardless of the style of their venue.
- Tidy up after themselves instantly (I push my bartenders to clean up their used cocktail shakers before moving onto the next customer, if you don’t already have bar-backs to do this).
- Leave their personal life at the door.
- Be knowledgeable in the products their bar sells.
- Upsell at any given chance.
- Pre-empt a customer’s order when their current drink is getting low. They’ll offer just before the customer is about to take their last sip.
- Engage themselves professionally, with a neat and tidy composure.
- Carry themselves with a positive personality! Customers love to see a positive and outgoing personality. This will also contribute to a positive staff culture.
- Serve two (or more) customers at once.
- Know the surrounding area fluently, and be able to give clear and concise navigational directions to customers if required.
- Communicate effectively through:
- Body language
- Be relaxed and confident.
- Do tricks, tell jokes, laugh and be merry (all when appropriate).
- Remember the names and drinks of regular customers (another trick to get a million hypothetical points).
- Be open to the drink selection of any customer, and will not enforce a drink choice on anyone.
- Use their initiative, and try to be one step ahead of any situation.
- Possess a hardy work ethic.
- Take pride in their work. You can always tell a bartender who takes pride in his or her work. Any, the drinks they make will taste supremely
- Apologise to customers if they have waited for more than three or four minutes.
- Understand how to conduct themselves hygienically.
- Always garnish a drink.
- Be warm and friendly.
- Not dwell on a problem. They will focus on a solution.
- Engage fluently with any demographic.
- Always offer a straw to a lady.
- Be honest. Honesty is a golden virtue.
- Always wear deodorant or cologne, but never too much.
- Not gossip or discuss the private happenings of customers – if a customer brings different dates into the bar, it’s no-one’s business why they are doing so.
- Know the location of a First Aid Kit, Fire Extinguishers and the telephone, in case of an emergency.
- Be prepared. One of the golden rules in hospitality is to be prepared.
- Thank customers when they are leaving the venue.
- NOT ask when they can go home.
- NOT gossip amongst other staff.
I also recommend keeping an eye out for the well-being and ‘emotional state’ of your bartenders and waitstaff. On busy nights, they work under high amounts of pressure and this takes its toll physically and emotionally – give them regular breaks and ask them to notify you of any issues that are affecting their ability to perform their duties (don’t say it exactly like that, maybe say: “Is everything okay? Do you need any help? Can I help with anything?”).
Make sure your staff have everything they need to perform at their maximum capacity, especially when it’s busy – your busy periods are when you have the ability to generate the most revenue per hour.
The two most essential ingredients of a brilliant bartender are outstanding customer service skills, and a positive attitude – once you have these, it’s easily possible to train for skill. Your bartenders and waitstaff are your frontline powerhouses – it’s supremely wise to invest in their training and wellbeing.
Great bartenders possess many qualities that make them stand out in their profession. From an outgoing personality that puts customers at ease, to knowledge about different types of drinks, and being organized and prepared behind the bar—these are all essential qualities that make up a great bartender!