10 Customer Service Tips for Bartenders

It takes 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 as much as your skill behind the bar.

by Colleen Graham
Among other things, you need to be a drink mixer, a server, an organizer, a cashier, a friend, a psychiatrist, and a bit of a neat freak. Customer service is key because most of your income comes from tips. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to this part of working the bar.

Have a Good Attitude
This is the hospitality industry, and every bartender needs to remember that. To be successful, you need to maintain 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.

Keep the Bar Clean
Nothing says unprofessional bartender (or one who simply doesn't care) more than a dirty bar. Many of the best bartenders are constantly cleaning, and it can do wonders for improving your patron's experience:

  • Use clean bar towels to wipe down the bar top any time you see water or spills.
  • Keep ​the back bar 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 on your way back to the tap. You'll probably hear it from the boss too, but it's true: "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

Make Suggestions
Suggesting drinks 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 five minutes, you should suggest something off the menu.
  • If a couple sits down and looks indecisive, you should make a suggestion.
  • When you are greeting someone, set a cocktail napkin on the bar and tell them about the day's drink specials or a cocktail you're excited about.
  • 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 10, the customer is going to take your advice because you are an expert. Quite often, customers will also show their gratitude with a better tip.

Train Your Memory
You are going to have waitresses yelling drink order after drink order, guests 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. Good short-term memory is one of the keys to being a successful bartender. It also helps keep a busy bar under control.

You should be able to retain:

  • Multiple drink orders and associate them with the party, so they go out together.
  • Recall what every person sitting at the bar is drinking for the next round.
  • Remember the names (and possibly other personal details) of your regulars along with which drinks they prefer.

Have a good stock of drinks in your memory bank. Begin by learning the most popular and any local favorites, then add new ones as you go along.

Anticipate Everything
As a bartender, you need to be aware of everything in your bar and be prepared for the unexpected as well:

  • How is ​your stock of lemons and limes?
  • Do you need clean glasses or the beer restocked?
  • Is the keg or ice bin getting low?
  • What about the drinks at the bar? If you see that a drink is down to the last few sips, ask if the customer wants another.

If you anticipate the needs of the bar, everything will go nice and smooth.

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. While you're working, continually scan 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 out. If you ignore one person, that tip will reflect the neglect.

Be Honest
Every person who walks through the door is entrusting you, as the bartender, with a good experience. One of the worst things you can do is to break that trust.

Underpouring and overcharging will quickly get you a bad reputation that might cost your job and possibly impact future prospects in the area. Inflating tabs for money in your pocket or a drink for a friend is purely unacceptable and unprofessional.

Don't Fixate on Tips
It is true that in the bar your tips will probably make up the majority of your income. If you are obsessed with everyone giving you the best (or even the customary 15% to 20%) gratuity every time, then it will show on your face.

If a customer leaves a dollar on the bar after ordering three mixed drinks in two hours and you give a look of disgust, other patrons will notice, and their perception of you will likely not be favorable.

Take the tips you are given, do your best every time and the pay will add up. Some people are stingy, and you can't help that. Other customers are perceptive and may try to make up for the miser.

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 adult, 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 that 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. It can cost you and the business a lot of money, and it might put you out of a job.
Younger drinkers will often get offended by 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 20s and 30s.

Most of All, Be Professional
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 that patrons and management alike will appreciate. Bartending is a profession and, even if you are using it as a temporary gig to get through college or whatever, you need to treat it as such.

Colleen Graham is a seasoned mixologist and writer with a passion for creating and sharing great cocktails and mixed drinks that enrich everyday life.Contact Colleen at drinkstudio@scgrahamphoto.com.alert-info

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