If you're about to begin your first bartender job, there's some need-to-know tips and tricks that everyone needs if they want to be a good bartender. Or if you just want to improve, once you make these habits part of your bartending routine, you'll truly know how to be a good bartender.
1. Learn Your Bar
The first thing to do is to learn your bar. Learn where all the different types of glasses are kept, how the washer works (and how you get it going again when it inevitably fails during a busy shift), learn how to use the till and learn where all the stock is kept.
Then you should learn where all the barkeeping accessories are kept so that you don't disrupt your colleagues' rhythm and flow. Learn where the ice machine is kept and how often it needs to be restocked. Learn where the fruit and knives are kept when not in use and how all the stock on show is organised.
2. Learn Your Drinks
And the other thing you need to learn on your first shift is which drinks your bar has on offer. When you arrive (or pay a visit before your first shift, if possible), make sure that you know which variations of the following staple drinks you have on offer: Lager; Ale; Whiskey and Bourbon; Gin; White and Red Wine.
Once you know all of those, learn the rest of the menu and some background information about your best sellers so that you can give curious customers extra information should they ask for it.
3. Learn Your Prices
Start learning the prices of drinks as opposed to relying on the till to do the maths for you. This will show you know your bar and know what you're doing - making customers trust you and therefore more likely to buy more drinks (and more likely to tip you too!)
It also speeds up the serving process during busy periods.
4. Practice Mental Maths
The second part of learning all the prices is to then be able to add the price of rounds together and work out what change is due to customers. This means you can take payment and give out change whilst the till is in use and get through customers more quickly. This will keep customers happy because they get served quicker.
5. Stay Busy
Even if you're on the deathly quiet afternoon shift, there's always something to be doing behind the bar. And no good barkeepers ever stand still doing nothing or, worse, get caught with their feet up amongst the customers.
Rotate the glasses around the shelves so they all get a good wash - and give the shelving units a deep clean. Make sure your stock levels are all full, see if anything is soon to go out of date and needs pushing to customers, check if there are any deliveries which need sorting. Check over all the tables and make sure they're all set up for when customers do arrive.
If you have a couple of tables full of customers and nobody waiting to be served at the bar, go and see if they need anything and deliver it to their table.
6. But Don't Rush
Rushing around creates an unsettling atmosphere in a place where people have come to relax and enjoy themselves.
Watch your "best" colleague and see how, even when the queues are three or four deep at the bar, they never rush things. Rushing leads to mistakes and mistakes take twice as long as doing it right first time. It also leaves customers feeling undervalued as their bartender is in a rush to just make as much money as possible.
Take your time, be deliberate and try to use less speed but more haste, as the old saying goes.
7. Be Yourself & Don't Be False
Likewise, don't try to put on an act. Don't act like you're an award winning cocktail mixologist if you've only just learned what a lager top is.
You'll soon get found out if you're putting on an act when behind the bar. If you don't follow football and have no interest in the match - don't bluff. You can still show interest by asking questions and checking that your customers are enjoying whatever it is they've come to your bar to do.
8. Handle A Customer's Money With Respect
Meet them halfway when offering your hand to take money and never snatch. When returning their change from the till drawer, present the notes neatly in a flat pile with the highest denomination on the bottom and lowest on the top, with the coins in a neat as possible pile. Tell them the amount whilst handing it to them and say, "Thank you very much."
When it comes to handling someone's card, wait a respectful half-step away from them when they enter their pin and pretend to be looking up at the pork scratchings. Thank them and ask if they'd like the receipt.
9. Be Honest & Respectful At All Times
If somebody asks for a drink which you don't understand or know how to pour, be honest, apologise and tell them so. They'll appreciate your honesty and might even show you how to make it so that you know for next time. They'll look on you (and the bar) more favourably for your honesty.
10. Keep A Clean Bar
As a bartender, you'll have many problems and keeping a clean bar is one of them. Always keep your bar clean and tidy with all areas as free from clutter as possible. Whenever you get a moment during a busy shift, do anything to make your bar a tidier place.
Not only does it make the bar look more welcoming, it helps to speed up the serving process.
11. Be Careful Around Other Staff & Your Customers
Being tidy also helps to keep the bar a safe place to be. The more clutter and mess there is in and around a bar, the more likely it is that accidents will happen and drinks will be spilled.
At best, this can result in an embarrassing apology, maybe an awkward trip to the hand dryer for a customer... but, at worst, it can also end up in someone taking a slip and a visit to A&E in an ambulance.
12. Stay Safe
But, that said, spills and accidents in a bar are inevitable. The mixture of hard floors, wet drinks and sometimes too many bodies (or too much alcohol) means that the floor in a bar is often one of the slippiest places you could ever work.
Make sure that you have sensible footwear on at all times whenever you're working in a bar. When working as a bartender, you need slip-resistant work shoes as they provide extra grip on wet and slippery floors which are common in bars.
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