R0012521.JPG by Sigfrid Lundberg licensed under Creative commons 5
From the moment a guest walks into the bar, they start to build impressions and pass judgments. If it’s their first time there, they’ll consider the decor, maybe look at the back bar (or maybe that’s just me) and survey the clientele. If they’ve been to your bar before, they may take in the scene to see what the mood is tonight.

They walk up to the bar to ask you for a drink. Here’s where your state of mind can have a big impact on their experience:

It doesn’t matter how your day is going

As a patient, you’d hate to be sat in front of a frustrated doctor. At the checkout, you don’t appreciate a grumpy operator. Walking into your bar, a guest should have no idea what kind of day you’re having. You might have had a fight with a partner, been let down by a friend, or lost your credit card. You might even have won the lottery and be completing your last-ever shift (well, probably not). The visitor should simply feel welcome and well attended, no matter what.

So try to “let go” of your own frustrations and be in the moment. Some bartenders will put on a “persona”, and that helps them play the part. Figure out what works best for you.

You “like” everyone just the same

Apart from your regular customers, it’s very easy to make quick judgments about those you are serving. These can be both positive and negative and to varying degrees. Even among regulars, you may personally find some guests annoying, argumentative or any number of things – some guests may even be your closest friends. But when any guest walks in the door (stranger or regular alike) it should be impossible to know who you “like” and who you don’t.

When a stranger walks in, it shouldn’t be obvious who your favorites are, and those you find a pain. They should see every customer being treated both fairly and with equal respect. If they have to wait for a couple of minutes while you chat with a good friend – and this happens so often without those involved actually realizing it – then a customer may be lost.

Offering a helping hand

Some folks arriving for cocktails in a bar may not know what all the drinks are, or whether they’d actually like a Martinez, Gin Daisy or Flip. After a minute or two, offer to help them choose (without being intrusive) and they’ll appreciate the help. Especially with the increasing number of high end cocktail bars, leaving a customer to decipher a complicated cocktail menu can be frustrating for them, or make them feel embarrassed or unwelcome.

Take the opportunity to “show them around” the menu or ask what they feel like to point them in the right direction. Who knows – you might just convert one more Vodka drinker to the Gin side!

Zen Bartending at its Finest

Setting aside your own feelings, moods and preconceived notions is an important step in offering great service. Your regulars will come to respect you as a great (and predictable) bartender, and new guests will feel welcome and invited (and may even become regulars themselves.)

How do you find your customer service “zen” behind the bar?

Let us know in the comments!

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.