There are plenty of articles out there on how to behave like an ideal guest at a restaurant or bar. These guidelines are good and true reminders of how hard restaurant employees work, and that bartenders and servers have unique skills and deserve to be treated with respect.
Having been both a bartender and a guest as well as in bar operations at the corporate level, I have seen what amazingly talented bar folks are capable of. I have also seen a good dose of attitude and ego. Dealing with the public can definitely be difficult at times, but sometimes the guest deserves a break. Here are seven things bartenders should stop doing or saying:
Being Judge Judy
People go to a bar to feel comfortable and have a good time. They don’t want to be judged or belittled for their order. Statements like, "Why would you drink that?" or "Why would you mix that with Coke?" are a turnoff and make people feel stupid. If someone wants you to shake their Manhattan ice cold, don’t be the cocktail King Solomon. Make them happy in the moment and politely open the door to something new if the opportunity presents itself.
"I hate making that!"
Mojitos and other fresh-fruit cocktails aren’t going away, so muddle up and don’t complain. The really great bartenders can make a quality product no matter how slammed they are and use their social gifts to make guests feel like the wait wasn’t actually that long. And don’t just make a crappy drink in the hope a guest won’t order it again.
Excessively Working Mojo
Bartenders are local personalities that are on stage every night, and they get plenty of attention. A great bar is a place where everyone feels welcome, not just the people that the bartender is trying to score with. The best bartenders can take care of everyone and still use their Jedi powers to get a phone number. (I was usually much better at the first part than the second, but that’s just me).
"I don’t know if that’s any good... I’m not a (insert type of beer/wine/liquor) drinker."
You are behind the bar to give an experience, not to try to convert guests to drinking single malt Scotch like you. A good bartender knows what drinks get favorable feedback and can describe a flavor profile even if they have never had it or don’t prefer it personally. Saying you don’t know makes you sound disinterested and incompetent, not like you are the Righteous Guardian of the Moral Drinking Code.
Hating the Question Master
When you have 50 interesting beers on draft or a specialty cocktail menu, guess what? People are going to ask questions and be curious about them. Save the eye roll and sell what separates your bar from the bar next door. It’s true some people will interrogate you like their drink is going to be the biggest investment of their life. If you are busy and have to break away, excuse yourself and say you’ll be right back with them.
Cleaning the Bar Like It’s Quarantined
Everyone knows bartenders truly work for tips so it makes sense they want to get out of the bar as soon as tip-making time is over. But how often have you been enjoying a drink well before last call and the bartender has everything broken down and is scrubbing the bar like they’re leaving a crime scene? Having bar stools put up around you an hour before closing time doesn’t do much for ambience.
"This place sucks..."
Dealing with the public and co-workers can be frustrating at times. But telling guests about it and complaining makes for an awkward guest experience. With so many choices of places to spend money, why would anyone want to go somewhere that even the salespeople think is terrible? It may make you feel better in the moment but eventually drives guests away and dials up the Suck-O-Meter even more.
Bartenders can be such memorable people and a great part of making someone’s night. To all the hard-working bartenders out there: don’t do yourself a disservice by doing any of the above!
— Dan Imdieke, The Drink Nation
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