It’s hard to imagine someone excelling behind the bar without making mistakes along the way. Bartending is a detail-oriented job and the clientele can be exceedingly demanding and unforgiving. Throw in the debilitating effects of working in a high-pressure environment and even the most stalwart of individuals is going to screw up. However, keeping the learning curve shallow and mistakes to a minimum will lessen the amount of collateral damage bartenders inflict on guests and the establishment.
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the bartending mistakes that elevate a manager’s blood pressure.
• Disregarding specified serving portions. The notion that great tips result from pouring “heavy” drinks is a costly one. Over-pouring liquor jacks up costs, increases liability and hurts the other bartenders on the staff who pour according to the rules.
• Transferring stress. Crank up the pressure and even common courtesy can quickly disappear. Nevertheless, bartenders must maintain their composure and control their emotions at all times. Stress and frustration must be internalized, not vented onto the clientele or co-workers.
• Serving inferior product. Whatever the reason, if a drink isn’t up to quality standards, don’t serve it. Make sure that mixes are well prepared and juices fresh. Fruit garnishes should be cut daily and be used only in good condition. Don’t take short cuts.
• Cash-handling impropriety. Handling a steady stream of cash has its temptations, but depositing all of the bar’s cash proceeds must be done without hesitation. Bartending is stressful enough without stealing and attempting to avoid detection. Running an honest till is a conscious commitment.
• Unjust treatment. The distinction between guests and customers is crucial. Guests are catered to and should be made to feel welcome and appreciated. Customers are warm bodies with money in their pockets. Treat the clientele like guests, and they’ll return another night.
• Being an order taker. Don’t be complacent just filling orders — make things happen. Energize the guests by suggesting new drinks and products. Recommend the daily specials or inquire whether guests would like to try an appetizer or two. There’s no more effective form of marketing than the enthusiastic efforts of servers at the point of sale.
• Lax professional standards. From a pressed uniform to a positive attitude, professionalism matters. Establish personal standards and refuse to settle for anything less. Along the same lines, bartenders must develop the ability to recall customers’ names and what they’re drinking.
• If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean. There is more at stake to keeping the bar clean than just passing health-code inspections. The bar’s cleanliness also reflects on the establishment’s overall sanitary condition — if the bar is dirty, imagine what the kitchen must be like.
• Scattered priorities. Working a high-volume bar requires the ability to take care of first things first, e.g., waiting on guests before washing a load of glasses or preparing drink orders for servers before chatting with a friend. Prioritizing tasks according to their highest and best use of time is a proven method of wrenching order out of chaos.
• “We don’t make those.” Saying no to a drink request is bad form. Regardless of whether the guest orders a Mojito or Long Island Iced Tea, if the ingredients are available somewhere on property, make the drink. Saying no is not an option.