I don’t want to give the impression I spend all my time in bars. But I am 48 years old, travel a lot, and was in the US Navy. So I have seen a few things.
The one thing I have seen?
Great bartenders pay attention.
Think about what bartenders actually do:
- Bartenders operate in a customer and public facing environment,
- They have to maintain a brand- to be “on”- all the time.
- Bartenders deal with customers in a variety of mental states.
- They have to be mindful of numerous regulations and informal rules.
- In addition, bartenders have to manage stock, drive sales, and maximize profits while monitoring for theft and fraud.
Great bartenders pay attention to customers. Customers come to a bar to be served. Some customers want high contact, some want to be left alone. Some know what they want, some not so much. Some are obnoxious. Bar customers, though, can change over the course of an evening. The same person can walk in with one personality or disposition, and a few drinks later be a totally different person. Great bartenders are paying attention to their customers all the time.
Great bartenders pay attention to their supplies. While many bars have a barback who handles the physical movements of stock from the “back” to the “bar” it is still the responsibility of the bartender to ensure that the items needed for the shift are available and ready for use. A good bartender makes sure to have more than enough stock. A great bartender makes sure to have just enough so nothing is wasted or in the way.
Great bartenders pay attention to selling. A good bartender will have some go to suggestions to help you pick a drink order. A great bartender asks questions and makes something you will like from the the items she needs to move. A great bartender knows bringing you back for five or six sales once a month for years is a better deal.
Supply and demand
The fundamentals still apply. When demand is high, peak times, great bartenders keep the chatter to a minimum, getting drinks to customers as efficiently as possible. Additional staff may be scheduled for peak times. During high demand times great bartenders don’t upsell. They don’t need to. As demand declines, though, great bartenders start making suggestions, upselling.
Great bartenders build relationships. Even at a crowded bar on a busy night, a great bartender makes eye contact and makes an effort to remember your orders. Great bartenders learn just when to give you one “on the house” to keep you coming back.
Great bartenders try new things. They adjust recipes and try new combinations, they test on themselves and their customers.Great bartenders experiment well. They don’t just try a new cocktail and forget about it. They try something new, vary it, offer it to select customers and watch their reactions. They fiddle and adjust. When they have a winner they add it as a special. Maybe it will eventually get added to the menu. But the important thing is, they watched and learned what made the mixture better, what worked, what didn’t.
When you are served by a great bartender you might not recognize what is different. You might not even remember that bartender. But you will most likely remember the overall experience being positive.
Can your business be better if you take a lesson from a great bartender?