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The Need For Speed

 

Two of the most frequently asked questions that I am asked as a bar trainer is What makes a good bartender? And how can I become a better bartender? Suggestions for the first have included personality, confidence and sense of humour - all well and good but I can't see managers holding a personality training session can you? In fact there are four basic skills groups a bartender must practice and master. Firstly knowledge of products, recipes and the tools needed; secondly the ability to make good drinks at speed; thirdly to make the drinks with a defined style; and finally to be aware of the etiquette of drinks, drinking and service. The answer to the second question above lies in the answer to the first... identify your weak skills and work on them!!. Lets help you to become better bartenders, lets look at how we can make you guys faster!

 

THE NEED FOR SPEED
As we are all aware customers have a different sense of time to real people. One minute in real time feels like five minutes of customer time. So an unacknowledged customer or one who waits whilst the bartender leisurely makes drinks is an unhappy customer which makes unhappy managers which leads to unemployed bartenders. This is not good.
Of course a good bartender will always acknowledge a guest (if you remember that shops have customers and bars have guests and treat them accordingly you are already on the way to bartender heaven) to make them feel welcome and important. This is common sense. But the tricks of the trade about making drinks quickly are less obvious for the novice and in many cases the old pros. Put at their basic level the 10 commandments of quick drink making are:
1. use both hands. God gave you two so use them both. Freepour simultaneously, add a straw whilst filling up with a mixer, start ringing the order  into the till whilst pouring.
2. Freepour or die. No system in the world is quicker than the freepour, as long as it is done accurately ( and if not accurately then not at all).

3. The Set-up. Everything in the bar has its place and it should always be there. The secret to devastating speed is not having to look for anything because you know where it is (blindfold bartending anyone?)

4. Clean and prep as you go. You may think it is quicker to just bang drinks out and wait to clean shakers, get more change etc ... big mistake. A good bartender knows that they should be as close to perfect set-up all the time and will try to keep it like that.

5. Consolidate orders. Ask two or three customers for their orders to allow you to make drinks simultaneously. If you consolidate then you do the same actions less times which equals more speed.

6. Consider the 'working order'. Drinks which take the longest should be started first (blended ones especially) and the ones which take the least time should be done last.

7. Keep busy. Steady beats Busy's arse every time. If you work quickly and steadily all night rather than 'turn it on' when you have to then you'll do better... after all you don't go from first gear to fifth straight away in a car do you? work smart not hard, you need to have time to have fun.

8. Remember that it is efficiency of movement rather than speed of movement that matters... teamwork when it comes to moving in a busy bar is important or multi-tasking and only making one journey instead of many... the multi bottle pickup from the speedwell is a good example.

9. Always be practicing your speed... look at every order as a challenge.

10. Know your prices, your recipes and your customers...people respect a hardworking bartender who doesn't have to go to the till, doesn't have to look in a book and remembers what they had last time.

 

Speed is one of the most obvious skills needed for a bartender... a drink will always taste better if it doesn't take a long time to arrive and if one follows the basic rules and, most importantly, practice, then you can make great tasting drinks in half the time, make more money for your bar and/or you and in fact keep guests entertained... everyone likes watching a slick hard working bar team and despises a bar filled with sauntering dickheads who couldn't give a shit.


be a better bartender

The 20 Commandments of Being a Bartender

So were chatting the other day over here at Be A Better Bartender about what it takes to be a bartender. We decided that we had to make a list. For four hours we argued. We argued hard. As lists go. We are pretty happy with what we have come up with. Tell us what you think below. Do you agree? Would you change any of them?

#bartending really is about working smart rather than hard Click To Tweet

This is unbiased from the views of both what a manager wants to see and what the customer wants to see from the bartender. We decided to flesh this out after our last post's success.

Make Eye Contact

Be a roving Bartender and keep a wary eye. Greet all guests with a smile and eye contact as they arrive at the bar. On a quiet night there is no excuse for not providing a speedy service, but on a busy night if you can’t take care of a guest immediately, acknowledge them and indicate you will take care of them shortly. Even if you’re very busy, SMILE, make eye contact, nod your head. Human beings are insecure creatures. We all like to be smiled at.

Offer a Cocktail Menu

Greet all guests and offer them a cocktail menu as soon as they arrive.

3 Put Down Beverage Napkins (Beer Mats)

Put a bevnap in front of the customer you are serving, and those you know you will serve immediately afterwards. The bevnap in front of the customer tells other Bartenders that that particular guest is being looked after. It also makes customers feel acknowledged. It saves a Bartender asking ten people in a row, “have you been served?” because a bevnap was not placed in the first instant. If the bevnap’s gone when you come to put down drinks, replace it with another one.

Liqueurs

 

Offer a Sincere Greeting

As a Bartender dealing with a guest you have never met before, you must never appear surly or agitated, no matter what has happened in your personal life. A sincere hello must always be offered, remember: the money the customer spends pays your wage.

Make Sure You Know Everything

You are only as good as what you know. Every bar offers products and talents which are unavailable in most other places. Know all the products that you stock. Understand what the differences between products and techniques are. Learn all new products as they arrive. Be complete on your cocktail knowledge. Train yourself continually. Be motivated.

Up sell Knowledgeably

Offer customers alternatives. If you’re knowledgeable, it won’t sound like you’re up-selling. (‘Have you tried Blanton’s, it’s a rich single barrel bourbon’, etc). Knowledge when up-selling makes the customer trust your judgement, and more willing to be up-sold to.

Rum

 

Be Efficient

Whether it be for drinks, service or acknowledgement, efficiency is key. Never slow down a drinks preparation by carrying on a conversation with a colleague.  Get your priorities straight: take the order, make the drinks then sell the drinks. Remember you have two hands (and forearms). Make drinks in front of the guest whenever possible.

Be Organised

Continuously going back to a guest to re-check an order is highly inefficient. No-one expects you to remember dozens of orders. But you should be able to handle two different orders for mixed drinks. As you are waiting for a customer to hand over their card or pay, look up and ask the next guest what their order is. Organisation is the keyword.

Be Technically Proficient

Be professional and technically perfect. Work on your methods. Get your pouring exactly right. Understand how to shake drinks, how to stir, how to serve. You are a professional firstly and a showman secondly.

 

whisky tasting

 

Prioritise

Certain drinks deteriorate the longer you leave them standing, it is therefore imperative that you organise multiple orders in a systematic way. The long ice filled drinks first, the shorter drinks next, and the martinis last.  A long drink can sit at the bar for longer before it is unservable than a martini, which begins to warm immediately.

Secure Payment Immediately

Secure the payment as soon as possible. It is perfectly polite to ask, ‘Will you be running a tab?’, and if the answer is no, hand over the bill.

Check back on the guest and talk

Are their glasses getting empty? Do they want another drink? How did they like your recommendation? They will be pleasantly surprised. Create a friendly atmosphere, talk to the guests. Talk to them about drinks. Keep an eye on their drinks. Friendliness and conversation are welcome from a Bartender, but avoid long, involved conversations with guests that may interfere with service to other guests.

 

bartending FAQ

 

Be thoughtful and proactive

Look after customers who have little spillages. If someone is looking around obviously, find out if they are looking for the loos and point them out. Pour wine or Champagne ordered by the bottle; don’t let customers pull wet bottles out of their ice bucket, covering the bar and themselves with water.

Offer food

Know what’s on the food menu. Up-sell food, that’s what the food menu is there for. Use it. A bar is most often than not just a place to drink in. People will be able to drink more once they have eaten something.

Be Clean

Constantly check up on the state of the bar area. Check for spillages, dirty ashtrays outside, coasters, straws, napkins, empty beer bottles etc. No customer wants to put their elbows into a patch of spilt beer. Take away empty bottles and wipe at the same time. No more than one cigarette butt in an ashtray. Build it into your bartending behaviour; clean the bar top at every available opportunity.

Work as a team

Your bar team is more than just a collection of individuals. It is essential all bartenders, bar backs and floor tenders work as a team to provide an all-round service to the customer. It is pointless a bartender creating the most amazing looking and tasting cocktails if the customer then has to go and sit at a wet table with empty glasses on it.

 

bartender

 

Offer a sincere farewell 

“Cheers, thanks!”  Even if you’ve been busy and they don’t hear, someone else will. It’s the last thing they should remember about the bar they were in, and they will remember it was a friendly place.

Be as well presented as your drinks

Be clean. Look clean. Clean your fingernails. Guests don’t want orange peel flamed by someone with gunge under their nails. Pay attention to yourself.

Don’t serve the drunk, unruly or underage

If a guest is unruly or highly intoxicated, either upon entering the room or during the course of the evening, indicate this to your manager before offering an additional beverage service. Do not serve alcohol to persons under the legal age.  If you believe that a guest may not be old enough to drink, ask for identification.

Be helpful, be cool, take pride in who you are

You are here to turn difficult guests into friends, to make great drinks, to help people have a good time and even on occasion to teach people how to have a good time. Take pride in who you are and what you know.

All #bartenders need to read this! Click To Tweet

 

So what do you guys think? let us know below