The View From The Other Side Of The Bar
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com’s Bar Blogger
As someone who spends a lot of time in bars, I know a lot about what there is to like about bartenders.
I also know a lot about what there is to dislike about bartenders. So here’s my list of Top 10 Etiquette Items For Bartenders. It is, for bartenders, the view from the other side of the bar.
1.) Don’t Talk Among Yourselves, Talk To Your Customers
This is my prime pet peeve, bartenders who turn their backs to customers and talk among themselves. You should be facing your customers, making sure our drinks are adequately full, ready to take our orders for food or beverages. When bartenders gather together, they ignore customers. And how long will customers wait for a drink in a bar? Not long, because there are too many other options. And while we may not boycott the place if we generally like it, we will most certainly hesitate to frequent it, to go there with a group or to watch a game.
2.) Even If You Are Busy, Acknowledge Us
When you are busy, we understand. We know you can’t serve everyone at once. But we lose patience when we never think we’re getting a drink. We’ll move onto another bartender or even onto another bar. Good bartenders establish eye contact with customers – however brief – as if to say “hang loose, I’ll get to you,” or even lean over and say, “I’ll be right with you.” That will keep us patiently waiting – well, most of us anyway, some people are just surly by nature – and we’ll tip a bit better than if we were being ignored.
3.) Know You Customers And Learn What We Like To Drink
Nothing makes a customer feel more comfortable in a bar we visit regularly than having bartenders know what we usually order to drink. This works when it’s slow, and is especially beneficial when it’s busy. I’ve had good bartenders mouth to me “Longboard” over a busy bar and have this tasty lager waiting for me by the time I wiggle my way to the bar. They also know I won’t leave without paying, so they don’t worry about getting the money until later. You bet I’m a regular in that bar, not just when it’s busy but when it’s off its peak times. And customers who go to bars at those non-peak times are what keeps bars in business.
Don’t Ignore Customers When Happy Hour Or Drink Specials Are Ending
Customers, especially these days when money is tight, want a cheaper drink when we can get it. That’s why we go to Happy Hour and take advantage of other drink specials. So when the bartenders ignore us as those specials are ending, we hear the clock going “tick, tick, tick” in our heads while trying to get your attention. Too often, bartenders suddenly tend to the cash register, check over tabs or do some other busy things rather than try and serve thirsty and budget-minded customers. Don’t let that be you or we won’t be back anytime soon.
Acknowledge Us When We Give You A Tip
When I pay cash, I enjoy it when the bartender give me a “thanks” when he or she picks up the tip. Some even tap the tip on the bar with their “thanks,” which is a nice gesture. Customers hate it when we leave a tip and the bartenders grabs it and walks away from us. We wish we could grab back the tip!
Offer Us A New Glass With Each Order
Taking our just-used glass and re-filling it with a beer or cocktail and handing it back to us shows you don’t care about your job or us, your customers.
Act Like You Care And You Want To Be Behind The Bar
Here’s another pet peeve, bartenders who just seem to be going through the motions. You order a drink and the bartender, without saying a word, goes to the tap or cooler, and plops the drink down and turns away from you. Think he or she is getting a tip? Is it too tough to say “here ya go,” to smile? By the way, you have a job. Be happy about it, even if you would rather be a stockbroker or actor.
Don’t Be Texting Instead Of Serving
Leave the face buried into your cell phone for your customers. A bartender should be looking around the bar, eyeballing the level of liquid left in the drinks and inquiring if we need anything. Perhaps we want to see a menu to order food or have a question about a special we saw advertised on a table flyer. Texting is a sign of disinterest. And if the bartender is disinterested in this bar, then I’m disinterested in this bar.
Don’t Look Busy When You Are Not Busy
Bartenders have an amazing ability to appear to be very busy even when they are not busy, when there are no drinks to pour or customers to serve. They clean glasses, wipe off liquor bottles, move things around (seemingly just for the sake of moving things around), etc. All this movement is unsettling for the customers, because it gives us the idea we should be moving around, as well. Like moving onto another bar.
Be Engaging, Friendly And Even Entertaining
The best bartenders entertain their customers. They talk to them, smile, might tell a funny story or two (or a few jokes), dance around behind the bar, whatever. I’ve seen bored bartenders suddenly pick up a couple of bottles and try and twirl them like those flashy guys in Vegas. That has never failed to bring customers – and the bar – to life. If you’re engaging, we’re engaging and we’ll come back to see you at work. And we’ll bring friends.
April Cook says
I like your tip to acknowledge customers even if you are busy. This is a great way to make them feel important and like their business matters. I think welcoming people even if they are not waiting for a drink is smart. It helps to let them know that you are aware of them and are ready to help when they need you. Thanks for sharing these tips!
You’re welcome and PubClub.com appreciates your comment!
Jesse Jamison says
I actually think it is OK to look busy. It is good business to have something to do. However, regardless of how busy you are, customers should come first. It is the first rule of any business and especially when you are so visible.
Taking care of customers should indeed come first! Thanks for the comment. Cheers!– THe PubClub.com team
Tim Robinson says
For proper etiquette, what is the proper term when addressing a bartender? Like calling them to get their attention in a busy bar.
It’s best if you don’t actually call them, unless it’s a “hey” as the pass by your or a quick “hi!” Lean in and have money visible in your hand. If he/she is a good bartender you’ll get a “I’ll get to you in a second” comment but not all bartenders are good bartenders. If others are getting served and you are not, then leave. Thanks for reading the article and the question!
Brent Frayser says
I think it is OK for bartenders to socialize with customers as long as it does not take away from their job at hand. It can be good for the business, showing that you are trying to take a personal interest in your customers. This could lead to more profit in the long run.
“Don’t look busy when it’s not busy.” ? Right , try telling that to my boss. Restaurant owners love the saying “If there is time to lean, there is time to clean.” Aside , slow times are the best time to make sure everything is ready to go in the event that your current shift gets busy, or you are getting stuff together for the dinner shift while you work a slow lunch shift.
Is that it!? Haha. Thanks for the comment.