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Sunday, January 2, 2011

10 Service Tips for Bartenders by Flair ology Bar School & Events

It takes some savvy and charisma, along with a knowledge of drinks, to be a successful bartender. This is one of those jobs in which your success depends on your personality more than anything else. You need to a provider of drinks, a server, an organizer, a cashier, a friend, a psychiatrist and a neat freak. Customer service is the key because the majority of your income will come from tips and there are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to this part of working the bar.

1. Have a Good Attitude

This is the hospitality industry and every bartender needs to remember that. To be successful you need to keep a good attitude, no matter how bad your day is going, and treat every customer the same. Simple things like a smile and greeting when a patron sits down and thanking them when they leave can make the biggest impressions.
It takes some savvy and charisma, along with a knowledge of drinks, to be a successful bartender. This is one of those jobs in which your success depends on your personality more than anything else. You need to a provider of drinks, a server, an organizer, a cashier, a friend, a psychiatrist and a neat freak. Customer service is the key because the majority of your income will come from tips and there are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to this part of working the bar.

1. Have a Good Attitude

This is the hospitality industry and every bartender needs to remember that. To be successful you need to keep a good attitude, no matter how bad your day is going, and treat every customer the same. Simple things like a smile and greeting when a patron sits down and thanking them when they leave can make the biggest impressions.

2. Keep the Bar Clean
Nothing says unprofessional bartender (or one who simply doesn't care) more than a dirty bar. Use clean bar towels to wipe down the bar top anytime you see water or spills. Keep the bar back straightened by putting bottles back where you got them right away. Dispose of empty glasses, straw wrappers, napkins and other garbage as soon as you see it. Replace cocktail napkins regularly. These seemingly little things make a great impression and can often be done when you're headed back to the tap empty handed. You'll probably hear it from the boss too, but it's true: "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

3. Make Suggestions

This is one of the things that will tip customers off that you care about their experience. If you see a woman perusing the cocktail menu for 5 minutes, make a suggestion. If a couple sits down and look indecisive, make a suggestion. When you are greeting someone, set a cocktail napkin on the bar and tell them about that day's drink specials. If you have a regular come in who gets the same thing every time try suggesting something similar, or offer the same drink with that new spirit you just got in stock. Eight times out of ten the customer is going to take your advice because you are an expert and they will show you their gratitude.

4. Memory, Memory, Memory

You are going to have waitresses yelling drink order after drink order, drinkers at the bar who hate to see empty glasses in front of them, and about 20 things that you have to check the stock on. A good short memory of a bartender is one of the keys to success and to keeping a busy bar under control. You should be able to retain multiple drink orders and associate them within the party so they go out together, recall what each of the people at the bar is drinking for the next round, and remember the names (and possibly other personal details) of your regulars along with what drinks they prefer. Also, have a good stock of drinks in your memory banks, beginning with the most popular and any local favorites.

5. Anticipate, Anticipate, Anticipate

As a bartender you need to be aware of everything in your bar and be prepared. How is your stock of lemons and limes? Do you need clean glasses or beer restocked? Is the keg or ice bin getting low? What about the drinks at the bar? If you see a customer's drink getting down to the last few sips, ask if they want another. If you anticipate the needs of the bar everything will go nice and smooth (hopefully).

6. Be Fair

It is human nature to give preferential treatment to one person over another, but a bartender has to drop that habit. You should be showing the same amount of care and attention to everyone at your bar, old friend and newcomer alike. Avoid getting into a deep conversation with one patron and not scanning the rest of the bar for drinks that need to be filled, napkins that need to be replaced and tabs that need to be cashed in. If you ignore one person that tip will reflect the neglect.

7. Be Honest

Every person who walks through the door is entrusting you, as the bartender, with a good experience and one of the worst things you can do is to break that trust. Underpouring and overcharging will quickly get you a very bad reputation that might cost your job and possibly impact future prospects in the area. Inflating tabs for money in your own pocket or a drink for a friend is purely unacceptable and unprofessional.

8. Don't Fixate on Tips

It is true, in the bar your tips will probably make up the majority of your income. However, if you are obsessed about everyone giving you the best (or even customary 15-20%) gratuity every time then it will show on your face. If a customer leaves a dollar on the bar after ordering 3 mixed drinks in 2 hours and you give a look of disgust, other patrons will notice and their perception of you will not be favorable. Take the tips you are given, do your best every time and the pay will add up. Some people are just stingy and you can't help that. Also, don't "beg" for tips, this is simply bad etiquette.

9. Card, Card, Card

It is your responsibility to make sure everyone drinking in your bar is of legal age to do so. If you have even the slightest question that someone is 21, ask for their ID. It's a simple question that will save you a lot of hassle if they are underage. At first you may not think this a customer service issue, but it ensures that everyone at the bar is having a good, legal time. Consequences for serving a minor are severe, can cost you and the business a lot of money, and likely your job. Younger drinkers will often get offended at this request, counter that by simply explaining it is a part of your job. For older people who look just a little too young, this can often be flattering, especially for women in their late 20's and early 30's.

10. Most of All, Be Professional

All of the points above allude to this point, but it is important for you to project a professional attitude and appearance. Customers will trust you and come back again if they had a great experience. Keeping the conversations friendly, wearing clean clothes appropriate for the establishment and maintaining a professional attitude will create an environment patrons and management will appreciate. Bartending is a profession and even if you are using it as a temporary gig to get through college, you need to treat it as such. Most of all, have fun as it will show.

Bartending Basics

Bartending Basics

Rimming a Glass - Photo Credit: Colleen Graham
As you begin your journey in the world of cocktails you'll most likely come across many recipes that ask you to shake this and muddle that along with a few other common bartending techniques. These methods are the commonly required in the majority of cocktails. With a little practice, by making drinks for yourself and friends, these drink preparations will become second nature.

5 Steps to Better Cocktails

 1.Upgrade Your Liquor Cabinet
Zyr Russian VodkaThere is a significant difference between the distilled spirits on the top shelf and the bottom shelf of the liquor store. Your drinks will reflect the quality of their ingredients and, because liquor is typically the strongest ingredient in a drink, it is important to spend a little extra money on quality. A Martini made with a 5 dollar bottle of gin is going to be disappointing compared to one made with a 40 dollar bottle of gin. That doesn't mean that you have to spend a fortune every time you go to the liquor store. There are very good mid-range brands available that are perfect for "everyday" mixing that cost around $20-30 a bottle. This simple upgrade will start your cocktails off on the right foot.

2. Use Fresh Ingredients

Ginger Mary Cocktail - Sagatiba Pura Cachaca Rum
Whenever possible choose fresh instead of canned or bottled ingredients for your cocktails. This primarily refers to fruit juices but can also be applied to other mixers such as using a soda siphon as opposed to buying bottled soda water or club soda and making your own simple syrup, sour mix or grenadine. With fruits the answer can be as simple as squeezing lemons, limes and oranges with a hand juicer or getting an electric juicer to make fresh apple, cranberry, pear or any other type of fresh fruit juice. Many of the bottled mixers will include unwanted additives that take away from the freshness of the cocktail.

3. Match the Drink and Glass Temperature

Pomegranate Margarita - Cabo Wabo Tequila
This seems like a simple, possibly unnecessary, step to mixing drinks but it makes a world of difference. When you are serving cold drinks, chilling the glass before pouring will keep the drink colder longer and the experience of drinking is better from beginning to end. This can be as simple as placing a glass in the freezer for a minute or pouring cold water or ice in the glass while you shake and dumping it out before the pour. The same theory applies to warm drinks. If you are making a Hot Toddy, warm up the glass before hand by pouring some hot water inside while you're preparing the ingredients. Nothing ruins a drink worse than getting to the bottom and a cold drink is warm or a warm drink is cold and this simple step can stop that.

4. Use Garnishes When Appropriate

Not every cocktail needs to be garnished but those that do call for a lemon, lime, orange or whatever depend on that addition for flavor and balance. Garnishes also complete the drink's presentation. For instance, a Gin and Tonic without the lime is missing that essential, subtle citrus and a Martini without the olives lacks the soft brine flavor that infuses the drink. Garnishes are important and even if their absence doesn't ruin the finished drink, it certainly is not enhancing it like it was designed to do.

5. Measure Everything

Bar Jigger - Measuring in a Bar - Bar Tools
The importance of measuring cocktail ingredients cannot be stressed enough if your desire is to create great tasting drinks consistently. Many people skip this step because it's time consuming or because they like the show of a free pour. Granted, many bartenders who work in busy establishments rarely touch a jigger, but they also pour a lot of drinks and know the timing needed to pour a shot. Measuring ensures that you are creating the cocktail in the way it was meant to be and an over or under pour of a single ingredient can throw off the delicate balance of a drink. Also, if you are drinking and mixing, your perception of measuring can be thrown off. Chris Milligan has a great perspective on this theory and a fun story.


 

When to Shake and When to Stir Cocktails

 

When to Shake:
Shake cocktails when they include fruit juices, cream liqueurs, simple syrup, sour mix, egg, dairy or any other thick or flavorful mixers. Shaking will create a strained drink with a cloudy, effervescent look at first that will clear up within a few minutes after straining.

When to Stir:
Stir cocktails that use distilled spirits or very light mixers only. Stirring is a more gentle technique for mixing cocktails and is used to delicately combine the drinks with a perfect amount of dilution. Many gin and whiskey cocktails are stirred because shaking is said to "bruise" the spirit.