What Does it Take to Be a Bartender?

Many up and coming bartenders make the mistake of thinking that preparing a good drink and tossing a few bottles through the air makes a good bartender. Although this stereotype is based in truth, it doesn’t quite cover what it really takes to handle the mental and physical requirements of bartending. Quick hand-eye coordination, a resilient positive attitude, and the ability to receive drunk customer after drunk customer for several hours on end is a more accurate list. We added a few more in this article and discuss the specific characteristics of a top tier bartender. Having the right personality for the job may even be more important than mixology abilities you possess as an applicant.

Ability to Maintain Control of Your Bar

Maintaining control of your bar may be the most important task to perform as a bartender. With loads of customers vying for your attention at once, you could easily fall behind and create a hectic environment. Staying on point and taking drink orders in sequence is important to maintaining good flow of service. Make sure you don’t leave out a single customer longer than others as this creates hostility. You may not always be responsible for serving the entire bar area. When you are, work your way from one side of the bar to the other for best results. At times you may run out of popular alcohols. Keep your bar full and clean glasses in supply with the help of your barback. Organization is not extremely important, but being proactive when necessary and staying composed at all times is. If something needs to be done other than serving drinks, first attempt to do it yourself. When a bar is busy and you are constantly making demands, you can cause unnecessary conflict with coworkers.

A Positive Attitude is a Must

Sunny Day

Addressing customers with a smile and positive attitude goes a long way. We say it again and again here at Bartender Mixed, but your personality is worth more in weight than your mixing skills. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to be efficient behind the bar, far from it. However, the ability to carry a positive attitude for hours on end can be a challenge, but it draws the line between the best and worst bartenders. It keeps customers in good spirits which converts to better sales and tips. This affects the bottom line of the bar. It can also make up for a customer’s long wait on a busy night. You can’t always control what happens around the establishment, but when customers encounter the bartender they appreciate being treated well and with respect.

Body Language for Bartenders

Never Cross Your Arms

Your body language is actually a significant component of providing a customer with great service. In fact, 95% of what we say is not actually the words we use, but rather the body language and emphasis we use when saying it.

For example, if a customer asks for another drink and you fail to make eye contact, smile, or even gesture towards making the drink they requested, it doesn’t matter what you say. They won’t be happy with your response. Their mood will go sour and they may retain negative memories from their experience at the bar.

However, if you respond in the opposite manner by smiling, making eye contact, turning your body to face the customer, and begin moving to make the drink, they will be much more delighted with the service and likely tip you to show appreciation.

Hand gestures, visual appearance, eye contact, facial gestures, and body position will all have an impact on the message your customer receives. The following are some rules of thumb to remember. Avoid crossing your arms as this is often conceived as closed and a feeling of discomfort. Holding your chin too high and looking down upon someone is often received as disrespectful and an attempt to dominate the other party. Try to keep open palms and shoulders facing the customer when possible which almost across the board holds a positive meaning throughout all cultures.

Working Late Nights

bartenders work late nights

The ability to work late night hours may not be considered an imperative personality trait for a potential bartender. However, you’d be surprised to the number of newcomers who have to leave the profession because they can’t cope with the high energy environment for hours into the night. It simply isn’t for everyone. You may at times have to work back to back closing and opening shifts and eventually you’ll feel the taxing effect on your mind and body. To some it just isn’t worth it. To others, it simply takes an adjustment period.

Maintaining a calm and collected mentality in order to handle wild customers and fast-paced work environment can get to be a challenge when 12am turns to 2:30am. One of the benefits of working late nights is that some bars are only open late Thursdays – Saturdays. Which means the rest of the week is an open schedule. Another benefit of working nights is that your bank account tends to naturally grow since you can’t go out and spend as most of your friends might do on the weekends.

You can test your ability to handle a late night bartending environment by going out with your friends … SOBER! Loud music and busy settings are much different when you aren’t relaxed after a few drinks. How do you handle everything after a few hours? Do you think you can work night after night, week after week? Remember to be honest with yourself.

So Remember

Many bar owners invest a tremendous amount of time and money to research what products they’ll stock in their bar and how much money they’re going to invest in the design of their establishment, all of which have a dramatic effect on the customer’s experience. However many tend to ignore the fact the individual who directly interacts with the customers and can determine if they have a good night or terrible one is the bartender!

What Does it Take to Be a Bartender?Lesson 1: Mixed Drink Types


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