Bartending can be a fun and rewarding career or side job, and requires a TABC permit. If you like being around people and are a good listener, chances are you’ll enjoy it. You also need to be sharp enough to memorize over a hundred drink recipes and have the stamina to be on your feet for a few hours. These bartending tips for beginners will help as you find your niche in the bartending world.
Leave Your Emotions at the Door
This might be one of the most important bartending tips, although it really applies to any job. If you’re having a bad day, nobody should know about it but you. A good attitude is key to enjoying your job, and customers will be able to tell if you’re not entirely focused on them. If a patron gets annoyed or angry, don’t take it personally. Empathize and use expressions like, “I understand,” and “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”
Don’t forget to bring your ‘bartender’s friend’ or drink recipe book. Many bartenders swear by the Mr. Boston bartender’s guide, and you can pick one up online for eight bucks. Check that your bar fruits are fresh, and throw them out if necessary. You never want to give a customer a drink with a soggy lime or lemon. Fill up your ice bin and stock extra beer while it’s slow so you’ll be ready when the rush hits.
Be Aware that You’re Setting the Tone
Treat each customer as if they are an honored guest. Apologize if you’re out of something that they want, and always be ready to answer questions and make suggestions. Politely listen to patrons that want to talk, but avoid adding your opinion. And make sure to spread your attention around the bar. Excellent bartenders make each guest feel particularly welcome. When you exhibit excellent manners to your patrons, it’s more likely that you’ll get the same in return.
Maintain Your Appearance
Be aware that you’re setting the tone for the establishment. Your uniform should be clean and neatly pressed. If you wear an apron, it should also be crisp and clean. Men should have neatly trimmed facial hair, and long hair should be held back from the face.
There are a couple of bartending tips and tricks that will help you to always maintain a favorable appearance. If your apron gets soiled and you don’t have a spare, just turn it around and wear it backward! Also, make sure that your shoes are clean and polished. You may think no one sees them, but they do, and bar shoes can get pretty grubby after a few shifts.
Even if you’re slammed, make it a point to acknowledge everyone who approaches the bar with a nod and the words “Be right with you.” And don’t forget to smile! This is one of the best ways to make people feel welcome, and it makes you seem friendlier. Phrases like, “It’s my pleasure,” and “I’ll be glad to” should roll off your tongue when a customer has a request.
Remember that Cleanliness Counts
One hallmark of a good bartender is that they’re continually cleaning when not waiting on customers. Start your shift with fresh bar towels soaking in a bleach solution, and grab them every time someone leaves the bar or there’s a spill. Don’t touch your face when you’re behind the bar, and make sure to wash your hands frequently.
When you break down the bar at night, it may be tempting to take shortcuts, but a clean bar needs to be constantly maintained. Remove liquor bottles and wipe them down, cleaning underneath as you go, and make sure the back of the bar is as clean as the front.
Listen More than You Talk
This is an important bartending tip for beginners. You may be excited with all your newfound knowledge about crafting drinks, but resist showing off to customers. Their experience at the bar is all about them, and they expect a well-made drink, good service and, perhaps, a listening ear. When customers want to talk, be upbeat and affirming or sympathetic, as the case may be. However, professional bartenders refrain from sharing ‘me too’ stories or otherwise talking about themselves.
Provide Excellent Customer Service
Part of giving great service is anticipating your customers’ needs. Your goal should be that no one has to ask for an extra napkin or another drink because you were alert enough to see what they needed in advance. As soon as a guest leaves the bar, wipe that spot down and make it neat. When someone else sits down, be there with a drink coaster to ask them how they’re doing.
Be ready to go the extra mile for your customers. If someone wants to eat dinner at the bar or asks you to split a drink into two glasses, fulfill their requests with a smile. If you don’t know how to make a drink, look it up and expand your repertoire.
Deal Diplomatically with Inebriated Customers
Cutting someone off is one of the hardest parts of being a bartender. After establishing a rapport with a guest, you now have to refuse to serve them more alcohol. This is where diplomacy and grace play a part in bartending. There are a few tips for preventing the situation in the first place, though. You can offer a “free round” that’s especially weak on alcohol or provide pretzels and peanuts so that your guest has some food to counteract the drinks.
Keep Learning Your Craft
Make sure that you’re up on all the new craft beers and their alcohol volumes. Be able to quickly and easily explain the difference between an ale and a porter, or an IPA and a stout. Some drinks have more than one version, so continue to learn the different ways of making them. It also doesn’t hurt to learn the popular fads like the Moscow Mule and Pink Flirtini.
If you start with these bartending tips and tricks and continue to learn as you go, chances are you’ll become a pro in no time!