In the USA, it is very much the norm to tip your bartender each time you order a drink, or if you run a tab to tip a decent percentage when you cash out your bill.
In the UK however its quite the opposite, and while the UK has some of the most skilled bartenders in the world, they are a tiny percentage of the bartending population in the country. The vast majority of those serving drinks could not mix the most basic cocktail, and generally see being behind bars as a fill in job or pocket money while studying.
How different would that be however, if bartenders could make a really good living by being good at what they do?
If the public demands it, it will happen.
While you’ll see most pub chains offering 8-10 cocktails on their menu, they are truly the lowest common denominator, with the drinks being generally of the format: 25ml Spirit A, 25ml Liqueur B, fill with juice C. There is no attention paid to balance or quality, simply the thought that these are the ingredients so as long as they’re all present, that must be the cocktail.
Go to a quality bar, an independently run business or something like Fridays or Living Room, and you’ll be served a real drink, and the difference is day and night. The bartenders there are passionate, probably paid a little more and tipped far better, all of which means you get a better drink.
The public are drinking less, so help them drink better.
Every study shows that binge drinking in the UK is falling dramatically, and that less young people are opting to drink alcohol regularly, if at all. Assuming you drink in a chain pub, your options as a non-drinker are most likely 3-4 carbonated drinks (cola, diet cola, lemonade, maybe an orange soda), a couple of juices and maybe a J20 or Britvic 55.
Go to a cocktail bar with a bartender deserving of a tip, and they will mix you up a juice creation with homemade syrups, a fruit smoothie, thick custom milkshake – whatever you like. Bear in mind that these are way more work to make, and tip them well – they’ll know you appreciate it and keep creating more!
By the same token, if you’re going for pre-diner drinks or waiting for a movie time, rather than being on a big night out clubbing, you can drink far better quality drinks without spending huge amounts of money – and you can bet that drink quality will improve over time for bartenders who make a decent living and are happy in their jobs as a result!.
Tipping culture raises the skills floor.
If bartenders who don’t make the effort to serve well find themselves poorer at the end of a shift than the guy on the next station who’s having a great time with their guests and making great drinks, there is very little better incentive to raise your game or find a game you’re better at. In industries where service is the whole point, tipping really is the best way to say thank you, or to say you should really see if there’s a better job for you.
Bartenders who want to stay in the industry should really have the financial incentive to be good at their jobs, they should be rewarded for being great, but its almost impossible for this to be administered by the bar itself. Because service is so subjective, it can’t be quantified, and its individual to each customer. Great bartenders taylor their service to each guest specifically, humans don’t want cookie cutter service and to be treated like everyone else.
You will naturally have the best servers and bartenders in your business if those who don’t cut it don’t make money, while the superb members of staff rake in the tips and recommend working there to other great staff they know because they make the money they deserve.
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