Here’s a shocking secret: just because a bartender pours a great drink doesn’t mean they are a good bartender. You read that right; the best drink-mixing, beer-pulling bartender skills in the world won’t make someone a good fit for your bar. Great bartenders have great qualities and are what keep your customers coming back for more.
Your barkeeper is the face of your business. A top characteristic is the ability to handle customers on their best behavior…and at their worst. If your bartenders can stay polite, friendly, responsive, and helpful in any situation, it’s guaranteed that your customers will notice, approve…and return to your bar.
Bartenders especially need to display the qualities of friendliness and inclusiveness to all customers, not just their regulars. Nothing makes a customer feel more unwelcome than a bartender who makes it seem like taking an order is a chore that’s keeping them from socializing with their friends. Encourage your bartenders to chat with customers and make the connections that turn a first-time visitor into a regular.
Being “The Great Disappearing Barkeeper” isn’t a skill to be proud of. This goes hand in hand with treating all customers like regulars and providing great customer service. A bartender that serves a guest and immediately returns to the corner with the regulars isn’t providing your customers a friendly, inclusive experience. Being available and highly visible are great characteristics to encourage in your bar staff.
Whether your bar is packed to the rafters or just serving a few guests, a great bartender will move quickly to serve a new customer or to refill a drink. Customers are far more forgiving of longer wait times if they see the bartender is hustling to fill orders, especially if they acknowledge the customer with a simple “be right with you” or an apology for the wait time.
Of course, a top-quality will always be the ability to make a good drink. Great bartenders are always learning and experimenting, whether it’s perfecting a drink, creating a new one exclusively for your bar, or just mastering the fine art of pouring beer without too much head. Your bartenders should also know the best drinks in the house, from whiskey to wine, and be able to recommend them when a customer asks.
It happens all the time: a customer’s credit card won’t go through, a customer is offensive to other patrons, or maybe a guest has had too much to drink. These are all unfortunate situations that your bartenders can face on any shift, and it’s not always easy to deal with them diplomatically. They need to handle these situations delicately and, whenever possible, privately with the guest.
Are your bartenders ready to jump in and help each other? Do they keep up a friendly banter behind the bar? Your bar is a stage, and your bartenders are the actors. Encourage them to help their team members serve up drinks when things get busy, and to interact with each other (and their customers) in a friendly way to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
Remember that developing a team of great bartenders means more than focusing on the way they make drinks. Make sure to watch for these top qualities while they interact with customers, and provide them with feedback on ways they can master the top qualities your guests are looking for. If they have these skills, there won’t be an empty seat at your bar.