The BartenderHQ Podcast each week includes a tip to help you make more money behind the bar in our regular Tips for Tips segment. Here’s a summary of a few of the most popular ones I’ve shared, plus a couple of extras!
1: Pick a Shooter a Night.
Shooters are your friend. Before you start your shift, pick a mixed shooter, and that’s what you’re offering every guest at your bar tonight. You only have to offer it the first time you serve each guest, and then the idea is planted in their minds. Don’t just try to sell a shot of Jager or Jack, pick something interesting from the menu or create one, and if you’re still stuck check my top 6 shooters you MUST know! Your guests will appreciate the offer and the thought you’ve put into their service.
2: Be the One Stop Shop.
Do your guests always ask for gum, cigarettes, cigars, lighters or anything else your bar doesn’t sell? Be the person they come to and have everything to hand. Don’t sell them, just offer the guest one of yours, (only buy cheap stuff!) and if they don’t tip you then, you can bet they will on the next round.
3: Be Over Prepared.
Especially for any shift over the holidays, set up your bar to the nines and make sure you won’t be wasting time cutting fruit at the busiest point of the night, make damn sure that when its busy, you have everything you could possibly need to hand and you won’t run out. On really busy shifts, I used to arrive at least an hour before my scheduled start time to make sure the day shift bartender had everything set, and if not give them a hand so I didn’t suffer a hangover from his shift. It won’t make you more tips directly, but it will save you missing the ones that you should be making anyhow. No-one will tip you for cutting lemons when they want a beer.
4: Know Your Locality.
If you’re not working in a nightclub, you should know the local late bars and be able to recommend one or two for your guests at the bar to move on to when you close. If you know the bartenders there by name, even better, and get the guest to tell them you sent them. If the bar charges a cover, see if you can get some free passes to give your best customers – the club will love you sending guests to them and the guests will love getting a free pass and thank you when it comes time to cash out their check. By the same token, if you’re not in a restaurant know a good Italian, Chinese, Grill and Bistro that you can recommend to hungry guests. Be the fountain of knowledge!
5: The Candyman.
The law of reciprocity is the key here. Buy some sweets (Candy) before your shift and simply offer your guests a sweet. Don’t have them in bowls on the bar, just offer one out of the bag or packet. Why? If the bar provides sweets thats an expected part of the service. If you’ve gone out of your way to buy something out of your own pocket to make your guest’s visit nicer, the’ll feel subconsciously like they owe you a favour.
6: The Power of Suggestion.
You should know your menu better than anyone in the building. That’s the manager, the other bartenders, the waiters, everyone. If you don’t, get studying. When you know every ingredient in every drink, you can easily plan the next drink suggestion for each guest, based on what they order first. I sometimes play a game in my head and pick a drink to sell, and try to guide every guest to that one in a natural way from their first cocktail, by creating a flavour path between the drinks. Your guest gets to try a bunch of new drinks and you get thanked with a great tip.
7: Add Some Style.
If you don’t flair, give it a try. Start with easy stuff, napkins, straws, garnishes, then move up to tins, glassware and finally bottles. If you already flair, learn to do it with your eyes shut. Seriously. I don’t expect you to flair blindfolded behind the bar (though I have in competition), but not relying on watching the bottles 100% of the time and simply feeling your flair will allow you to keep eye contact with your guests as you perform and this is insanely impressive!
8: Know Your Guests.
As impressive as flair is, especially for passing trade where new guests are through the door every day, the guests who come back time and time again will appreciate you taking the time to know their name and usual drink. Have their drink ready as they approach the bar and you will be the best bartender they ever met (at least they’ll tell you that!). Use the technique of creating a vivid image in your head of a guest next to a celebrity or someone else you know well with the same name to cement them in your mind, and why not have them holding that favourite drink in the image too!
9: Look Sharp.
Make sure you’re well groomed and looking great every shift. Uniform standards are there for a reason in branded bars at least, so follow them. Looking professional will make you more money than looking like you’ve just dragged your ass out of bed every day of the week. If you’re working in a place where you can wear anything, just make sure its smart and maybe even have a uniform for yourself, always wearing a shirt and waistcoat (vest for our American friends) so that you’re easily identifiable as the bartender by your guests.
10: Making a List, Checking it Twice.
Save this list somewhere that you can access at work, whether its the notes app on your phone, noting down the headings on a slip of paper to keep in your wallet, whatever works for you. Share it on Facebook and it will always be on your wall to check back on (and you’ll be helping me get the word out, and helping your friends make more tips too!). Have an eye over the list before your shift to refresh yourself, and if you’re making no money on a given shift, pull it out, read it and ask yourself why.
So there you have it. Some powerful tips to make you more money behind the bar tonight and every night. And here’s a freebie number 11 – SMILE! If you’re having a good time behind the bar, your guests will be having a great time on the other side! Have a tip for tips? email me on David@BartenderHQ.com and if we feature your tip on the podcast or website, we’ll give you a shout out!