13 Rules to Train Exceptional Bartenders

exceptional bartenders

Sep. 11, 2017 | 4

A great bartender is born not made. Natural bartenders are people-oriented and easy-going and have the instinct to anticipate the needs of others. As the owner of a bar, your duty when hiring new bartenders is to seek out these natural bartenders.

With the right training, you can make customer service professionals, and turn their inherent qualities into well-executed bartending skills that attract loyal bar patrons. Below we reveal the basic rules every bartender should know, and the skills required to have a world-class bar staff.

Basic Rules of Bartending

Start every behind-the-bar training session by reviewing these basic rules, regardless of who you are training. New bartenders need to be introduced to these rules, and even the most experienced bartender could use a refresher course. If any rule poses a problem for new hires, you might not have the right person for the job.

  1. Do all you can to make guests happy, within your given limits.
  2. It’s not your party. It’s not your booze. It’s not your bar.
  3. The bar is a stage. Everyone’s eyes are on you; maintain professionalism.
  4. Don’t become too intimate with guests.
  5. Educate yourself on what the bar serves and why.
  6. Practice, practice, practice. Great drinks are made by knowing the details.
  7. Become an expert cash-handler.
  8. Bartending is continuous, so don’t sweat the bad tips.
  9. Dress the part.
  10. Learn how to manage the environment to appeal to guests, such as, when to lower the air conditioning or change the music.
  11. Practice bantering with guests, have a couple jokes ready and say “hello” and “goodbye” to everyone. Guests appreciate this level of service.
  12. Maintain a clean and orderly bar. Always.
  13. Show that you are a hygienic person; never touch your face, hair, or other parts of your body, and always be seen washing your hands.

Understanding and practicing these basic rules of bartending are the foundation of being a good bartender. But if you want a staff of top-notch bartenders, you need to go deeper in your training.

Know When to Speed Up

Having a slow bartender is the fastest way to lose money for two reasons:

  1. If guests wait too long to place an order, they will get frustrated and leave.
  2. If guests wait too long to receive their drinks, they will get frustrated and leave.

If slow service is given at your bar, customers will not come back. Instead, a bar with faster service will be sought after. Once found, this competitor will have a new, loyal patron that could have been yours.

To avoid this catastrophe, train your bar staff to:

  1. Prepare their mise en place.
  2. Practice until perfect.
  3. Always be alert.

A mise en place is French for “putting everything in its place.” Train your bar staff to return their tools to the same place every time until it becomes a habitual motion. With every item in place, they can respond to orders quickly. A bartender cannot be fast if he or she is searching for his or her tools.

Drink orders should never be met with confusion, but with confidence. With practice, the speed of execution increases triple-fold. Encourage your bar staff to practice making drinks in their off-time or when the bar is slow. Not only will they have the necessary knowledge to make a great drink, they will build their muscle memory. When there is a surge of drink orders, the bar team can execute flawlessly and swiftly, without disturbing the guests’ experience.

From one minute to the next, a bar can go from calm to buzzing. A large group can walk in or professionals working nearby leave work and get to your bar around the same time. By staying alert, bartenders can react in time to changing customer demands. Train bartenders to focus on their customers and to be ready to perform in a busy, peak hour.

As your bar grows its reputation for having consistent, fast service, new customers will come to see how great you are for themselves.

Talk to Guests

Some bartenders spend most of their time cleaning; glasses are always sparkling and bottle labels are turned forward. While this is the ideal setting, a clean bar alone doesn’t bring in sales. Instead of defaulting to keeping a tidy bar, train your bar staff to focus on customers first.

Bartenders play several roles to guests, from servant to fantasy character to sympathetic listener. Encourage bar staff to chat with guests and make connections, while maintaining a professional distance. Bartenders should never pry into the personal lives of guests, yet they should be ready to listen. Through listening, loyal guests are made.

For the perfect final touch, train bar staff to remember the names of guests—especially loyal patrons. (Both William Shakespeare and Dale Carnegie believed that one’s favorite sound is that of their name being spoken.) The next step in giving excellent bar service would be to remember the preferred drinks of patrons.

Lavu Tip: Forbid giving unsolicited advice at your bar, and even when asked for, bartenders should not give feedback. More often than not, guests are seeking sympathy and a good listener, not a solution to their problems. To maintain long-lasting patronage, avoid offending guests or becoming too intimate by giving advice.

Treat Patrons like Guests, Not Customers

The difference is subtle, yet distinct: Customers come and go, but guests are long-lasting.

There is little personal connection with customers, and the experience is mostly transactional—the customer pays for a service offered by the bartender. The guest on the other hand comes to a bar to enjoy a full experience, which the bartender supplies for the guest’s comfort.

To create a guest experience, the best bars embrace two keys points of hospitality: 

  • Creating a warm and inviting environment.
  • Doing whatever it takes to make customers happy.

This part of your training requires your bar staff to be instinctively tuned into their surroundings. Bartenders should always be conscious of how inviting and comfortable the bar is and making adjustments to improve the space.

Additionally, they should be able to recognize the mood of a customer and his or her unique needs. One top restaurant owner even enforces his staff to improve the moods of guests by any means necessary. Go over how many freebies can be given or when it’s acceptable to comp a drink. With the boundaries in place, your staff can go above and beyond to give bar customers the best service.

Developing a team of world-class bartenders takes time and patience. Continue giving feedback and rewarding your staff for jobs well done, and soon you will have the best bar staff.

Once you have the right team in place, start hosting the most buzzing happy hour in town!

Sep. 11, 2017 | BY Emma Alois

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