13 Rules to Train Exceptional Bartenders

Exceptional Bartenders and How to Train Them

A great bartender is born with a natural affinity for connecting with people. Often easy-going, they have an instinct to understand others’ needs. This is a key aspect of being a great bartender. Secondly, they will need training in customer service skills and creating drinks.

The inherent qualities along with fine-tuned bartending skills will attract and sustain a loyal customer base. There are basic rules every bartender should be trained to understand. Every training session should include a review of the basic rules. When onboarding a new bartender, note that when a rule poses an issue for the bartender, you may not have the best person for the job.

Basic Bartending Rules

  • Do what you can to make guests happy, within your given limits.
  • It’s not your party, booze, or your bar. Treat it as such.
  • The bar is a stage, maintain professionalism.
  • Don’t become too intimate with guests.
  • Educate yourself on what the bar serves and why.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Great drinks are made by knowing the details.
  • Become an expert cash-handler.
  • Bartending is continuous, so don’t sweat the bad tips.
  • Dress and act the part.
  • Learn how to manage the environment to appeal to guests, such as, when to lower the air conditioning or change the music.
  • Practice bantering with guests, have a couple of jokes ready and say “hello” and “goodbye” to everyone. Guests appreciate this level of service.
  • Always maintain a clean and orderly bar.
  • Keep personal hygiene tip-top clean. Do not touch your face, hair, or other parts of your body, and always be seen washing your hands.

Understanding and practicing these basic rules are critical to becoming a good bartender. But if you want a staff of top-notch bartenders, you need to go deeper into your training.

Keep Service Quick

A slow bartender is a surefire way to lose customers fast for two obvious reasons: customers don’t like waiting too long to place an order or receive their drinks. Customers who experience this once might come back, but the second time will be the last. Bars with quick, friendly service are sought after and will always win over the competitors.

To avoid this catastrophe, train your bar staff to:

  • Prepare their bar area, mise en place (everything in its place). Tools should always be returned to the same place. Over time, this will become a habit, then tools are easily found, and drinks can be prepared quickly.
  • Practice until perfect. Preparing drinks can also become muscle memory and practice creates efficiency. Encourage your bar staff to practice making drinks in their off-time or when the bar is slow. Not only will they have the necessary knowledge to make a great drink, but they will build their muscle memory. When there is a surge of drink orders, the bar team can execute orders flawlessly and swiftly, without disturbing guests’ experience.
  • Always be alert and pay attention to customers with drinks nearly gone.
  • Use a bar POS system that offers features to speed up order entries and payment processing. Use touchscreen features that take orders and submit reorders in just a few clicks, and program multiple menus that automatically switch between happy hour deals and other promotional pricing for drinks.

From one minute to the next, a bar can go from calm to buzzing. This can be because a large group just walked in or it’s the end of the business day and several people show up to your bar around the same time. By staying alert, bartenders can react in time to changing customer demands. Train bartenders to focus on their customers and to be ready to perform in a busy, peak hour.

Be Friendly…Talk to Guests

The difference between treating people like guests and customers is subtle, yet distinct: customers come and go, but guests are long-lasting and become regulars. As your bar grows its reputation for having consistent, fast service, new customers will come to see how great you are. Over time, regular guests will become noticeable, and it’s important to remember their names and their go-to drink in order to provide excellent customer service.

Some bartenders spend most of their time cleaning; glasses are always sparkling, and bottle labels are facing forward. While this is the ideal setting, a clean bar alone doesn’t bring in sales. Instead of defaulting to keeping a tidy bar, train your bar staff to focus on customers first.

Bartenders play several roles to guests, from servant to fantasy character to sympathetic listener. Encourage bar staff to chat with guests and make connections, while maintaining a professional distance. Bartenders should never pry into the personal lives of guests, yet they should be ready to listen. Through listening, regular and loyal customers become guests.

 It is highly suggested that providing unsolicited advice at your bar, even when asked for, should not occur. Often, guests are seeking sympathy and a good listener, not a solution to their problems. To maintain long-lasting regular guests, avoid offending them or becoming too intimate by giving advice.

Remember that when there is little personal connection with customers, the experience is mostly transactional—the customer pays for a service offered by the bartender. The guest, on the other hand, comes to a bar to enjoy a full experience, which the bartender supplies for the guest’s comfort. There are two key points to providing a full experience:

  • Creating a warm and inviting environment. If you have ever watched Cheers, then “Hey, Norm!” could occur at your bar. Staff should be friendly and interact with a caring attitude. This part of your training requires your bar staff to be instinctively tuned into their surroundings. Bartenders should always be conscious of how inviting and comfortable the bar is and be prepared to adjust to improve the space.
  • Doing whatever it takes to make customers happy. Additionally, they should be able to recognize the mood of a customer and his or her unique needs. One top restaurant owner even enforces his staff to improve the moods of guests by any means necessary. Go over how many freebies can be given or when it’s acceptable to comp a drink or snack. With the boundaries in place, your staff can go above and beyond to give bar customers the best service.

Developing a team of world-class bartenders takes time and patience. Continue providing feedback and be sure to reward your staff for jobs well done. With the right team in place, you will soon be hosting the most buzzing happy hour in town!