A career in bartending can often feel a little overwhelming when you first jump into it, which is a very reasonable reaction.
Having numerous orders, drinks that require varying degrees of care while being prepared, knowing who the regulars are… The list can go on. But at the core of bartending is attitude and being able to assess your situation for what it is – you’re new. In this blog, we will offer some simple tips that all new bartenders should remember.
1. Be professional and ask questions
Regardless of how confident you do or don’t feel, it’s important to remember that professionalism is key. No slouching, no trying to avoid customers. Go up, ask them their order and if you don’t know how to do it, ask one of the experienced bartenders to show you how. Chances are a certain bartender will take you under his/her wing anyway and will be happy to show you the ropes.
2. Keep yourself busy
When you’re new to a job – especially if it’s your first bartending job – your employer may have you working quieter shifts at first. This is great for allowing you to get a feel for your job and developing your skills with less pressure, but it also means you may face less crowds and a generally quieter atmosphere. This can lead to some moments where you could have no customers.
During these times, it’s important to keep yourself busy. Ask your experienced co-workers if there are any tasks they’d like you to do – such as cleaning the bar or mopping the floor. Or, maybe you can pick their brain and ask them for some guidance on making certain drinks. What’s important is that you’re constantly proving how invested you are in your job, even if you’re only at the learning stage.
However, if your other co-workers are also busy with other mundane tasks that need to be completed when there are no customers around, ask them for a number of tasks to complete so that you don’t keep taking up their time or distracting them.
3. Don’t get caught up in conversation
If you have a patron who is fairly talkative, chances are they may want to have a lend of your ear to discuss anything and everything. Whether you’re invested in the conversation or listening because you know they appreciate it, it’s important not to get caught up in conversation and forget about your other duties.
When other patrons come in, politely excuse yourself from the conversation, serve them, then return to the patron you were having a conversation with. If you have other tasks that need completing, let them know and tell them you’ll be back soon. This is a trap that even experienced bartenders can get caught in because building a rapport with your customers is such an important aspect of the job – but it’s not the only aspect.
4. Don’t take anything personally
You’re working at a bar. Things will get busy, some patrons will get intoxicated and your co-workers may become a little more abrupt than usual when they’re in a rush from patron to patron. It’s important to not take anything your patrons or co-workers say during such times to heart.
You co-workers could be stressed – just like you could be – and intoxicated patrons could say certain things they don’t really mean. Of course if it does seem like a certain patron or co-worker is being directly malicious towards you, stay aware of it to see if this is something they continue to do over time. If this is the case, you should let your boss know. There’s a difference between temporary abruptness and outright bullying.
5. Be aware
Bars, clubs and pubs can shift from being quiet to a complete rush in a matter of minutes, often due to after work drinks or popular times such as happy hour. During these rushes, this is where you need to be more aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your patrons to make sure none of them are causing trouble. If it is also part of your bartending job to clear tables, be sure to do that. Look for spillages, broken glass or other hazards that could lead to injury.
Rush periods can be a cacophonous affair, but as long as you remain alert you’ll be helping make everyone else’s job easier.