Top 4 Bartending tips for beginners

For those of you looking to get into the industry, here are our top 4 bartending tips for beginners.

Best beginner bartending tips #1

Bartending is not just about making drinks

If bartending was just about making drinks, then the person who memorized the most drink recipes would be the greatest bartender. It would just be a numbers game, right? Wouldn’t it be great to just write somewhere on your bartending resume, “I know 300 cocktail recipes,” and you would be one of the most employable bartenders. Well, until someone else applied and boasted 301 memorized cocktails.

That is certainly not the case. Bartending is first and foremost a service industry job.

A bartender using a hawthorn strainer to pour drinks for waiting customers

The practical skill of pouring drinks is absolutely important but comes after the softer skill of hospitality service. You don’t have to know 400 drink recipes to be a great bartender. In fact, the average bartender makes between twenty and thirty different cocktails on a regular basis. Usually it is going to be in the lower range of those numbers.

In the beginning, it can feel like there is so much to learn, and there is. But your focus in learning to bartend, shouldn’t be solely on drink recipe memorization.

Bartending is about customer service! It is about creating a unique and memorable experience for each customer. That is what brings people back. When people enjoy the experience you provide, they are going to spend more money, tip better and come back again and again.

This makes you valuable to your employer and makes you more money too.

Best beginner bartending tips #2

In bartending, customer service is king.

Bartending is a hospitality industry job. Learning to do that well is super important. In fact, it is the key to success in this industry.

It means that you have to do your job well but also keep your cool under pressure.

You will find yourself in a situation where you have drink orders to fulfill but also an upset customer in front of you. They may have gotten the wrong food item with their order or the service isn’t fast enough for them or maybe they are just having a bad day.

Telling them you know 300 drink recipes isn’t going to make this situation better.

As an experience provider, it is up to you to help them, improve their experience or, hopefully, change their mood. Get them to relax and enjoy the experience of being served by you. Try to smile through it, keep your cool and offer solutions.

“The customer is always right,” is probably a truism you’ve heard before. This works as a good guideline insofar that what the customer feels is true for them. It doesn’t matter if it is objectively true or even reasonable. Usually it is totally out of our control. Part of being a good bartender is recognizing that and working towards providing a different experience for the customer; one that leaves them feeling better.

In a worst case scenario, where the customer is abusive, it is important that you respect yourself and just walk away. Don’t take it personally because it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you in the first place.

As a professional in the hospitality industry, the best you can do is try. It is really up to them to decide to enjoy themselves. We have to accept that some people just can’t. At least we tried our best.

Best beginner bartending tip #3

The best bartenders are team players.

When your coworkers know they can rely on you, you will be so much more valuable because they see you as a team player.

If you have a moment and notice someone else needs help – the bus boys are struggling to keep up or food needs being run to a table – pitch in! It will only build goodwill and boost morale. And it costs you nothing. Help clear a table so they can seat the next group of customers. Bring food to a table of hungry customers so they can enjoy it while still hot. Your coworkers will notice, I guarantee it.

Being a successful employee in the hospitality industry comes down to being valuable to the establishment. The more you can contribute to helping your customers and coworkers, the more people will want you around. This translates into opportunities and longevity in this business.

Best beginner bartending tips #4

The best bartenders know the locals

As a bartender, you will see many of the same faces over and over again. This is a great thing because it means that they already enjoy the service and atmosphere you provide.

Great bartenders take that enjoyment to the next level by learning the names and favorite drinks of their regulars. You can also learn about their regular food orders and anything else about them, really. Every detail you can pick up and weave into your interactions makes people feel welcome. 

Building healthy relationships is at the core of great hospitality. It creates repeat business, higher table cheques and bigger tips. They will become loyal to you! You will be top of mind when they think about doing something enjoyable because of the experience you have provided over time.

Don’t be surprised when they ask, when are you working next? What is your regular schedule? They are asking because they want to see you again, to pay you for the unique experience you provide. People will come in during your shift just to see you because you are familiar and comfortable.

Getting to know the locals creates a sense of community. They are part of your tribe. Regulars feel like they fit in there, like part of a family. You are a big part of creating that feeling.

This is great for everyone! The boss is happy because the establishment is successful. Your tips will increase because people are loyal to you. And your customers feel at home.

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