Yes, bartenders are human. We all make mistakes, and bartenders are no exception. But, what about those annoying little habits that bartenders display behind the bar that drive you nuts? You know – texting, doing shots, ignoring your empty glass, and generally displaying an apathetic attitude?

Show me a bartender engaged in the above behavior on a consistent basis and I’ll show you a bar that’s missing out on a ton of sales. I’m going to discuss 10 Annoying Habits My Bartender Could Do Without here is this article.

So, where does the blame lie? Management. Period. I know that this statement may be a bit controversial – everyone is responsible for their own actions – but the failure of management to set the standards leads to the staff’s very poor habits.

There are so many fantastic bar owners and managers out there that understand what it takes to maintain and increase bottom-line profits. Kudos to them. Then, of course, there are managers that seem to be oblivious to good customer service. This includes properly training their bartenders in professional service in order to create a great experience.

So, what’s a bar customer to do? Complain? Chew the bartender out? No, I would take a much more aggressive approach by taking my business elsewhere. Unfortunately for many bars, this is exactly what many people will do – without hesitation.

I see many new bartenders that just don’t seem to understand that they’re ‘on stage’ when they step behind the bar. There’s no place to hide, and customers can seemingly detect even the most minor faux pas. Be the most professional bartender you can be and you’ll do just fine.

I ran across a great article, recently written with citable sources at Customer Thermometer, about customer service, experience, and satisfaction. Kind of blew me away, and you might wish to take a look at that. We, as bartenders, must be aware of our customer’s needs – and displaying behavior that turns them off just isn’t going to cut it.

Listen – I’m not the ethics police here. Nor am I ‘Mr. Customer Service.’ What I’m trying to accomplish here is to give aspiring bartenders a general idea of what customers find annoying and offensive in the habits of bartenders that wait on them.

Brand-new bartenders entering their first week of ‘real bartending’ run across a lot of new ‘stuff.’ Pointing out some of the more blatant examples of bartenders’ annoying habits will help give you an idea of what’s really going on out there.

If you’re interested in what Bar Managers are really looking for in their new bartenders, then read about the 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

Let’s look at the main problems, and then offer some solutions. Yes, I know that all of us can have our own little pet peeves, but the ten behaviors that I’m discussing below seem to pop up on a consistent basis. How do I know this? Because as a bar manager, I have been approached by customers complaining about these very same things.

One final thing: What is annoying to me may not be annoying to you. Or, there may be other things that bartenders do that really tick you off. I understand this and would love to hear your comments.


Problem: “Yeah, I’m such a great bartender that you should consider yourself fortunate that I’m making your drinks.” Really? Amazingly, I see this arrogance mostly in very brand-new bartenders. “I went to Bartending School, therefore I know everything.” Please don’t exhibit this attitude!

Solution: Stay humble, my fellow bartenders. The very best bartenders I have ever worked with have a very good understanding of what great customer service is. Being arrogant isn’t one of them. You must understand that it’s a privilege to wait on people – they’re paying your salary. Be friendly and professional.


Problem: Your bartenders just doesn’t care – or gives the appearance of not caring. Apathy is like a virus in the Food and Beverage Industry and it starts with management. I find this attribute in many bartenders that have been on-the-job for many years – and no management oversight.

Solution: You cannot change someone’s attitude. Nor can you change the fact that a bartender may hate his job. It happens. Effective management needs to take a good hard look at this and make some changes. There’s plenty of bartenders out there, brand new as well as experienced, that would love the job.

Do You Need Change?

Problem: You have looked over your bar tab and pay with cash. Your bartender picks up the bill and cash and says, “Do you need any change back?” I know that there are many bartenders, and servers, who are going to disagree with me – but it drives me nuts.

Some bartenders will simply say that it ‘saves steps’ and allows them to be more efficient. Yes, it may accomplish just that, but it ticks off your customers. How do I know this? Because I would get this complaint all the time.

Solution: Don’t do this. A much better way of handling this is, “Thank you very much, and I’ll be right back with your change.” Simple. You’re giving the customer the chance to say, “No worries – keep the change,” or something similar. Of course, they may say nothing – in which case it probably means that they are expecting change back.

Many bartenders will object to this by saying, “Yeah, but I make more tips in this manner.” Sure – you might. But at what cost? And, are you really making that much more in tips? Is this really good customer service? You make the call.

What if they’re paying by credit card? Simply take a look at the receipt and ensure that they have totaled and signed it. Hopefully, they have added a nice big tip. Please, do not say something like, “Oh – you forgot to add in the tip.” Really? Relax – they’re most likely going to leave you some cash.

Over-Serving Customers

Problem: “Would you tell this guy to please quit bothering me?” What if your bartender responds with something like, “Hey lady, grow up!” Or something like that. Not good.

Many obnoxious bar customers are that way simply because they’ve been over-served. Yes, I know that that they may be obnoxious people even when they’re not drinking – but having a snoot-full can certainly speed up the process.

Solution: Bartenders need to stay on top of this. Not only are there legal ramifications, but this is a situation where “The customer is not always right.” We’re dealing with alcohol here, and intoxicated customers bothering others is never a good situation.

Failing to Acknowledge Customers

Problem: I was recently meeting some family members at a restaurant for dinner. As I walked up to the hostess stand, there were three employees standing there – one of them was on the house phone, and the other two were busy on their cell phones either texting or looking at some website. Standing three feet away, I waited for almost a minute before one of them acknowledged me. Sound familiar?

Many bartenders do the same thing. Whether they’re hanging around other employees or deeply engaged with a customer – I’m neglected. Geeezzzz… I’d like another drink sometime tonight!

Solution: There’s no excuse for this, and it’s just poor customer service. Yes, I know that experienced bartenders will say something like, “I couldn’t get away from this customer,” or “I had to straighten something out with my fellow employee.”

Hogwash. You’re there to take care of all customers. Most customers understand that you have a job to do. A simple, “Excuse me – hold that thought and I’ll be back in a minute,” is all it takes. And, a simple nod or wave at the customer in need goes a long way.

Drinking On the Job

Problem: Many bars allow their bartenders to have a drink or two behind the bar during their shifts – where the law permits it. I don’t have any problem with that, but when I run across a bartender doing shots with his buddies at the end of the bar it makes me wonder.

Bartender Drinking With Customers

Solution: To be honest, it’s really not your business if a bartender is drinking behind the bar. Unless you work for Alcohol Beverage Control. Just be aware of the fact that it is common in some places, and if the bartender is having a shot at the end of his shift – who cares?

That being said, bartenders have been known to get s**t-faced behind the bar. Not good. If this bothers you, and it’s affecting your customer service – then maybe say something to management. The kind of bar you’re sitting in will also have an influence on your decision. Tread cautiously, no matter how much this bothers you.

And then, of course, there’s that whole thing about giving out free drinks. I wrote a very informative article on just this subject entitled ‘When Should a Bartender Give Out Free Drinks?’ Some customers may feel neglected that they’re not getting a free drink, and seemingly having favorites is probably not a good idea.

Cell Phone Usage

Problem: I’m really starting to have a problem with this issue. Way too many bartenders are using cell phones behind the bar. I know that most bar managers have a strict policy against this – but it doesn’t seem to be enforced. Ugh.

So, who’s fault is it? In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter who you want to pin it on – the customer suffers. Waiting for a drink while your bartender texts his buddies is a bit annoying. And, it’s not as though the bartender is unaware of your needs.

Solution: Now, I get that a very brand-new bartender may wish to look up a certain drink recipe once in a while – but that’s it. I also know that some bars and restaurants have apps where employees sign in and out. Obviously, that’s OK. For most of us – leave your cell phone in your locker.

Counting Tips in Front of Customers

Problem: You’re waiting for a re-fill on your Black ‘n Tan and the bartender is standing at the back bar counting his tips. Kind of unprofessional, wouldn’t you say? Yes, I understand that there may be times when he may need change and the bar manager is nowhere to be found. That can happen, of course, but not in most cases.

Assorted Paper Money Bills

Solution: Please don’t do this. Count your tips when the shift is over – or on your break.  And, if I’m leaving a few dollars on the bar as your tip – don’t stand there and count the bills. Pick it up, say thanks, and throw it in your tip jar.

The very best bartenders never worry about tips and certainly don’t make a big deal about counting them. Acknowledge the tip, of course, but don’t make a production out of it.

Personal Appearance

Problem: Did you just wake up ten minutes ago? Hey, I get that you’re not a fashion model, but how about at least tucking in your wrinkled shirt? Appearance means a lot in the food and beverage industry, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by looking like a slob.

Solution: Again, where is management? Sure, every individual is responsible for their own personal appearance – but who’s enforcing the standards? Does your bartender even know that the bar has personal appearance requirements? You know – well-groomed, proper uniform, clean hands, etc.

This is a topic that I feel like I shouldn’t even address because it’s basic common sense. However, I have received more complaints about bartenders’ personal appearance that almost anything else.

Poor Sanitation

Problem: I’m not talking about simple disorganization here – although that can be a minor annoyance. I’m referring to bartenders touching the rims of glasses, putting their hands in the ice, smoking around the corner (yes, it happens even in smoke-free bars – especially banquet bartenders), or handling plates of food in a careless manner.

Solution: Get it together, man! Read an article on proper bar sanitation procedures. Ask your bar manager or fellow bartenders the best way to keep things clean and sanitary. Check your personal appearance – what may be acceptable to you may not be all that appealing to your customers.

There are many states that now require everyone in the food and beverage industry to take a class on sanitation and get certified before they can work in a bar and restaurant.  I’m all for this. Take this seriously, as your customers will notice.

Final Thoughts on Annoying Bartender Habits

No one expects you to be perfect – I’m certainly not – but please get back to basics and understand that it is the customer paying your salary! Leave your personal life, annoying habits, and questionable sanitary and hygiene habits at home. Get down to the business of providing great customer service.

And, learn how to deal with all types of customers that will frequent your bar. Most people are fun and interesting, and learn how to deal with all of them in a friendly, professional manner.

Finally, I’m not the fashion police. Nor am I your significant other. I find it hard to believe that bartenders aren’t aware of basic sanitation procedures. No shortcuts here! Keep a clean, well-organized bar, adjust your personal appearance – and you’ll be just fine.

Related Topics

What if I see a bartender obviously intoxicated behind the bar? That’s up to you. As you’ll hear me state over and over again – I’m not the ethics police. That being said, you might wish to ask for a manager.

Just one thing: Are you SURE that he’s intoxicated? Could it perhaps be medication? Is this bartender normally kind of an “off” type of person? You better be sure – no sense in rocking the boat. Who knows? Maybe the manager is aware that the bartenders drink excessively behind the bar and simply doesn’t care. In that case – what else does management not care about?

What if I, as a customer, see a bartender blatantly ripping off the house as well as other customers? Tough question. For starters – it’s really not your business; however, you may know other customers in the bar that are being ripped off. By all means – let them know!

Unfortunately, there are bartenders out there that are in the business of ripping off customers and their boss. I recently wrote an article discussing the topic of some bartenders ripping off customers. Check it out if you’re interested.