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Tips for Tips: The Bartender Edition

Krista Fredrick

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Krista Fredrick | February 18, 2013 | 0

A good bartender is many things.

The smiling face behind the bar that provides drinks and sometimes a sympathetic ear.

The walking encyclopedia of mixed drinks and all the beers on tap.

The cashier who keeps track of numerous tabs.

The amiable host that remembers the regulars, as well as their orders.

All this, of course, is done while delivering quality customer service, without which the bartender might as well kiss the tips goodbye.

So how to keep the money coming?

Be nice. Nobody, unless you’re 5 years old or under, loves a grouch. While this is one of the more obvious tips, it can be difficult sometimes. So no matter how busy or slammed your day has been, give a warm hello, a friendly smile, and a sincere thank you. You’ll be rewarded for them.

Channel Mr. Clean. You can be nice all day, but if the bar top is a cesspool, the white bar towels are multicolored, the glasses are toxic, and the napkins have long flown south for the winter don’t expect tips from your customers anytime soon. Keep a tidy, tight ship. It would make the boss happy and the customers generous.

Embrace fun. This works the same way as being nice, but it’s different qualitatively.  This is about enjoying your job enough that your positive energy rubs off on your patrons. You exude cheerfulness and good humor. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but you do have to have a sense of humor (and learning a couple of jokes wouldn’t hurt) and the good sense to appreciate somebody else’s jokes.

Be attentive.  Customers tend to look up to the bartender as the drinks expert, so act (but not overact) as a knowledgeable one. Suggest (careful not to push) a drink whenever the situation calls for it—like when a customer is taking a long time choosing a drink, don’t hesitate to make a suggestion. He or she will most likely appreciate it. When a customer comes in, put down a cocktail napkin or coaster and offer the day’s drink special or newest beer on tap. He may decline it, but it’s the offer that counts. And you’ll probably be doing some counting too when the tip arrives.

Remember. A good memory is one of the keys to good bartending. First, you have to have a wide mental store of drinks, from the most ordered to local favourites to the newest trend. Next, you should have a memory that’s able to retain many drink orders, so they go out at the same time (and correctly); remember what each of your customers is drinking for the next round, and associate the names of your regulars and the drinks they favor.

Be democratic. That’s not about the political parties, of course, but about spreading service and charm fairly and evenly. Don’t favor one customer (say, the attractive one), but show equal degree of concern and attention to each patron, whether that person is a newcomer or a regular. And don’t overindulge any conversation—you’re sure to miss a glass that requires refilling or a napkin that needs replacing.

Be honest. If you’re not, you’re bound to lose tips and customers sooner than later—and your job even quicker. It’s simply unacceptable to under pour, overcharge, or inflate a tab.

To see more tips for tips, check out last month’s blog for servers.

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