In a bar, you will find an interesting and diverse community of people who will seek out fine bartending, not only for the relaxation and camaraderie, but also for a familiar and comfortable environment where they are recognized and accepted. For many people, in this competitive and aggressive world, a bar may be a sole source of sustenance for those basic things that are so essential to us all as humans. We are, after all, social beings.
Who doesn’t recall an episode of the television series “Cheers” when every time one of the leading characters would walk in, the entire bar would erupt in the chorus of “Hey Norm?”
Few of us are entitled to such a universal form of recognition and instant acceptance from bar patrons, but an excellent bartender can provide almost the same sort of experience for customers.
I bartended to work my way through both undergraduate and graduate school, and have gone back to it several times when I grew weary of corporate life. The money (if you do it right) is about the same anyway, and, admittedly, it is tiring and demanding, like any job, but it is a heck of a lot more fun!
Every bar is different in its nature and appeal (strip bar vs. a restaurant’s cocktail lounge), so this is not a “one size fits all” but, for the most part, if you follow these few words of advice, you can make it both enjoyable and very profitable!
1. Welcome all of your customers as though you know them and introduce yourself. Remember their names and welcome them, using their names, the next time they visit. (Keep a legal pad if you need too, “gray beard, thick glasses, name George, drinks Bud”…and any quirks you can note that will help you recall. Failing that just say “Hey good to see you again!” Just think of it like if you were having a party in your own home.. It’s easy!
2. Always keep in mind what their drink of choice is and be prepared to offer them their preference. You should already know the names and preferences of your regulars.
3. If a customer comes accompanied by a date or companion, treat them both as if they are royalty, address the customer as in “Wonderful to see you again, Mr. or Ms so and so (if they are a regular). And what can I do especially for your guest?” Be sure to use the finest glass for their friend. If you treat them with that sort of respect, you cannot only expect a nice tip, but you can bet that they will be back over and over, and looking for you.
4. Yes, do remember jokes. Remember them when you hear them and study them on the Internet. Internet jokes are so boring that most of us just delete them, but ahhh…the telling of a joke is just that, it is the delivery and the story telling that makes it both interesting and amusing. Be prepared to have at least two new ones on every shift.
5. Your smile and your obvious enjoyment of both your job and your customers are worth a lot more than tossing bottles about or doing circus tricks. If you can do it, well it doesn’t hurt, but most folks are there for a drink, company and the respect and recognition that they don’t receive in day-to-day life.
6. Depending on the policy of your employer, when customers come in for the first time, and have just one beer while reading the newspaper or looking around, and then start to leave, slide them a free beer/drink and say “I am glad that you came in and I have enjoyed your company,” (calling them by name, of course). “My name is so and so, and please do come back.” Pay for that beer/drink out of your tips if you must; you will get it back, ten-fold.
7. Remember that these are customers. They are not really your buddies, so stay professional.
8. Though you will have many opportunities for intimate encounters, stay focused on your career and that you are there to make a living. Don’t ever forget that “one night stands” are never just that in the bartending world; the customer you became close with will likely be sitting on the other side of the bar, within a few days, regardless of how much you regret that moment.
Tips 9-13 are not listed due to article length constraints. Please visit our website listed in the resource/bio box for part two of these bartending income generating tips or look for Part 2 of this series on this website titled: Bartending Pro Tips Part 2: How to Make Money and Have Fun With a Career In Bartending!