A barkeep’s code

Aug 29, 2018 at 8:42 am
service industry
I was recently perusing my social media threads when I was stopped in my (finger) tracks by the status of a friend lamenting over a bartender being glued to their phone during dinner service. It’s true, really, as servers and bartenders we shouldn’t be on our phones in front of guests — phones can be quite germ-ridden, and using them can often be perceived as rude. I am, however, guilty of popping my iPhone out of my bag from time to time. I wondered for a moment how many folks may have rolled their eyes at me as I checked my cell during a lull behind the bar or even between filling drink tickets. I pondered whether anyone may have penned a status about me and my precious cellular device, and I felt my entire body cringe. Barkeep Confessions has often talked about the unacceptable behavior of drunken patrons or unruly bar guests, but have I ever taken a closer look at what we, as service industry folk, can be doing to make our service better and make our guests feel welcome? I suppose, in the end, respect and decent behavior go both ways!

Leave it at the door

We all have that coworker. The one who comes to work completely disheveled, puffy-eyed and crying from some sort of incident that may have only just taken place. Or the one who carries their bad attitude on their sleeve, perturbed about the job in general, hopelessly and completely “over” the industry. Or, perhaps, that’s been you or me a time or two — we are that coworker. None of us is perfect. We have lives outside of inventory and Old Fashioneds, and things happen, days will get us down, relationships fumble, financial or family issues seem to escalate just moments before the start of a shift. That’s what makes us human. However, it’s important for us to remember that we are in the hospitality business, and we do need to make a practice out of checking our proverbial shit at the door. I like to remind myself that there is absolutely nothing I can do about this issue while I’m mixing martinis, so why am I going to spend energy fretting about it now? Easier said than done, but it’s a practice we should all follow for the sake of our patrons and our pockets.

Get off the high horse

As bartenders and libation enthusiasts, many of us have worked years to hone our craft and have become well-versed in the knowledge of wine, beer and spirits. It’s hard not to take pride in what we know, as we’ve spent countless hours delving into such delicacies. With that being said, we do need to take to heart the notion that not all patrons who belly up to our bars are knowledgeable about spirits or even their own palate. I’m guilty of getting frustrated with guests when they aren’t sure what they want, or are unwilling to try something new, seemingly stuck in their own Bud Light ways for years to come. It’s frustrating when we’re proud of something, and folks aren’t interested, but we have to work to maintain compassion in every circumstance, even when we may not agree with what constitutes quality or palatability.

Be the welcome wagon

It may seem like Bartending 101 to inquire with guests about who they are, where they’re from and if they’ve been in before. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed a barstool, only to be ignored, or even made to feel like I was bothering the bartender simply by asking for a beverage. What could have changed my entire experience at those watering holes is a simple inquiry into what brought me there that evening. As a guest, I don’t expect to occupy all my bartender’s time, but I do expect kindness and genuine care. As a bartender, I love getting to know new people from all walks of life, so chatting with folks I’ve never met before is perhaps the greatest job perk of all. It’s our job to make people feel welcome, to let them know they’re at home here at this sweeping bar, to leave an impact as an experience. To cultivate an inviting, welcoming encounter is what keeps butts in barstools and, even though it may line our pockets, it’s important to remember — especially in our line of work — kindness is free.