You’re going to run across some really cool people while working behind the bar. And some that aren’t so cool. You have to know how to handle all of your customers and provide each and every one of them with great customer service. I have provided here about 25 types of customers bartenders deal with on a daily basis.
This list is not all-inclusive, of course, but these are the ones that you will most likely run across on a consistent basis. I’ll list and describe each type – and then provide tips on how to deal with each of them.
By far, most of your customers are going to be great people. It’s a myth that you’re always going to have problems with people when they drink – don’t fall for it. You want to be a bartender to make great money and meet people. Let’s meet some now…
1. The “Best” Type Bar Customer
The very best customers are, really, most all of the people that sit at your bar and order drinks. Sure, some may not be the best tippers, but you’re going to find great enjoyment and personal satisfaction in pouring drinks for everyone.
The very best? Those that are polite, great tippers, and come back again and again. Many times, you will have absolutely nothing in common with these customers – but that’s OK. They’re there to have a few drinks and just hang out. Enjoy their company and go with the flow.
Always treat brand-new customers as “the very best.” That may change, of course, but get started on the right track with a winning personality and great service.
2. Your Regular Bar Customers
Great people, and a wide variety of personalities, tipping habits, and conversations. Some can be a pain in the butt – but they’re regulars. They know to behave or they get cut off.
Most come in almost everyday. Or, for every Happy Hour. Or, after 9:00 to see what’s “available.” You’ll be on a first name basis with this people – and you better be making their drink as they’re heading to their favorite spot.
Do you over-pour for these people? Maybe. You certainly don’t short pour them as they know what’s going on. Provide them with great customer service and they’ll continue being “regulars.”
They pop in and out for a week or two at a time. Maybe even just once. I always liked waiting on tourists because they’re “out of the ordinary” from what you’re accustomed to.
Great people, for the most part, and you’ll identify them as tourists by the kinds of questions they ask. Treat them well, just like you do everybody, and you’ll be just fine.
Tipping habits are all over the place. Many tourists are on budgets, so you might receive the minimum. That’s OK, as there are many others that will grossly over-tip. Nice.
This is not a time to “short pour.” Get in the habit of pouring drinks the same for ALL of your customers! Yes, there are those regulars that require a heavy hand – but be careful.
Maybe dinner on Friday night with a couple of cocktails at the bar beforehand. Nice people, and generally good tippers. Make it a point to get to know them by name.
Some will come in just for Friday Happy Hour. Or maybe just for lunch and a couple of beers on Wednesdays. Usually light drinkers, but you never know. I know many people that visit a different (regular) bar each day of the week.
5. The Sophisticated Drinker
This customer likes his fine wine or single-malt Scotch. May start with a Scotch rocks and then switch to a micro-brew. Price is generally not a factor in his drinking decisions.
Good tippers, generally, but tend to “nurse” their drinks. Rarely gets toasted. Probably well-dressed, quiet, and a bit demanding – but great people.
6. The “Pick-Up’ Artist
You know this customer. Always hitting on other customers – and employees. Or you. Usually the fun type, and sometimes you’ll get a good laugh at his techniques.
Good tippers, generally well-behaved – and fun to watch. A lot of fun. No reason really to keep a watchful eye on him as he’s relatively harmless.
7. The Happy Hour Drinker
Powers down the drinks at the reduced price. Generally a good tipper, stays for only an hour or two – and then you’ll seem him tomorrow. Great people for the most part.
There’s a reason why Happy Hours are busy – reduced drink and food pricing. You might think that your customers here at this time are cheap, but I’ve found the opposite to be true.
They’ll mix in well with your regular customers (actually, they ARE regular customers), but will head home once Happy Hour is over. See you tomorrow!
8. The 3-Martini Luncher
Is “luncher” even a word? Who knows. Yes, the 3-Martini lunch is alive and well. If you’re working the day shift, you’ll get these customers all the time. I love ’em.
But it’s not just martini’s! It’s very common for some customers to drink their lunch. Some order lunch and power down a half-dozen shots with a couple of beers. You’ll get all kinds.
The key here is to keep an eye on them – not because they’re getting drunk, but because they have only so much time to power down those drinks. You need to stay on top of things. Don’t make them wait!
Remember – you’re not their boss! It’s none of your business who they work for, what kind of job they have – or to be the moral/ethics police here. Stay friendly, professional – and neutral!
Of course, general liquor over-serving procedures and policies apply here, but you’re going to find that these types of customers maintain pretty well. And, they spend a lot of money. You’ll notice that many of these same customers will be back for Happy Hour.
9. The Morning Drinker
Yep. Some people drink only in the morning – and you’ll never see them for the rest of the day. Is this the only time they drink during the day? Probably not – but none of my business.
At one bar where I was working the day shift, we started a “Senior Citizen’s Happy Hour.” From 10:00 am to 11:30 am. Very successful.
Generally very nice people. Quiet, older, and a lot of time on their hands. They’re not power drinkers (most of them, anyway), but do want ’em stiff!
10. The Daytime Drinker
You only see these bar customers during the day. Maybe over lunch and then a couple of quick hits during Happy Hour. Or, if they live or work nearby, they may pop in throughout the day.
I’ve meet a lot of regular bar customers like this. They call out a drink as they roll through on their way to the restroom. Upon return, slam the drink – and they’re on their way. Start pouring the minute you see them!
11. The Weekend Drinker
You’ll see these bar customers only during the weekend. There are so many people out there that will not drink during the week. For fitness reasons, a healthy lifestyle – whatever.
Great people, and they like to stop in here and there while they’re out checking off items from their “to do” list. Or, they show up every Friday and Saturday night after 9:00 pm.
12. Really Good Tippers
This could be anybody. You just never know. I’ve had bad experiences with customers and then they leave a $20 tip. Please – never assume that someone won’t tip.
Some customers just like to tip well – for whatever reason. What’s a good tip? 20% is nice. I go much deeper into tipping in a different article: All About Tipping in Bars and Restaurants. For now, just know that the “Really Good Tippers” are going to be those that surprise you.
13. Really Bad Tippers
Yep. You’re going to run across these customers all the time. Again, never assume that someone will not tip you. NEVER WORRY ABOUT TIPS! Just go with the flow and accept the fact that once in awhile you’re going to get a really bad tip – or “stiffed.”
14. The Returning “Cut off” Customer
Watch out for this guy. You cut him off hours earlier, and here he is again. If you have cut someone off at any time during your shift – never serve that customer again in that day!
Why? Legalities, for one. If something bad were to happen, and this guy was involved, the first question the authorities will ask you is why you served him again.
I’m not going to go in any more detail here – you have been warned! You might, however, check out the Dram Shop Laws. Interesting stuff.
15. The High and Mighty
Ugh. Not a common type of customer (probably NOT one of your regulars), but you will run across these types of customers. They simply believe that they are better than you – and everyone else in your bar.
Always tries to impress his friends/dates or whatever. Experienced bartenders know how to handle these types of people – but you need to stay calm and professional when you first start off. Just go with the flow, treat him like everyone else – and stay out of trouble.
This does not mean that you let him walk all over you. Remember, you are there to take care of ALL of your customers. Don’t let this type of person affect your performance.
16. The Social Butterfly
Loves everyone. Always talking, introducing himself to other customers – and knows all of the bartenders and staff by their first names. Good guy – most of the time. Keep an eye on drink consumption as personality may change drastically!
I find these types of bar customers very interesting. Always on the go, and you’ll always know where they are by their laughter. Great people – good tippers.
17. The Bar Owner
Yep. Bar owners like to frequent their own bars. Usually after their day is over and it gets to be around Happy Hour time. Not that the cost of drinks is a factor!
I’ve found most bar owners to be great people. Keep in mind that a “chain type” restaurant and bar won’t have a “bar owner” sitting down for Happy Hour. Not even a manager as that’s probably not allowed.
Serve him like any other customer. Don’t forget to account for his drink consumption on some sort of house bar tab.
I’ve found that most bar owners also tip – the normal amount. They know they’re taking up a bar stool, and will compensate you.
18. Off-Duty Bartenders and Servers
I’m referring here to bartenders and other restaurant and bar employees from other establishments. Great people – and usually generous tippers. Most likely, they’ll let you know that they’re in the business.
They understand “the business.” Usually never any problems, and it’s great fun giving each other a hard time. You’re going to meet a ton of these people as a bartender – and make some great connections.
19. Your Fellow Bar Employees
We’re talking about off-duty employees here. Your co-workers. You. All bars are different. Some bars allow their employees a shift drink after work – some don’t.
Some bars do not allow any employees to drink at the bar. It all depends upon the house policies – and the bar owner. Many of your “chain” restaurants and bars adopt this policy.
If allowed to drink at the bar, most employees behave responsibly and tip well. Treat them like anyone else – and don’t be afraid to pull them aside if they get a bit out of hand.
Yep. Customers are going to get drunk. I go into much more detail on drunks in a different article, but for now just know that you really need to keep an eye on those people who start to get a bit tipsy.
There are drunks and then there are DRUNKS! Know the difference! Many of your regular customers will get pretty well tuned up on a daily basis. The difference is that they know how to conduct themselves.
You will run across that customer who gets really drunk and starts causing problems. Ouch. The key is to stop it before it gets out of hand.
Of course, there are the “happy’ drunks who cause no problems, maintain themselves fairly well in spite of being intoxicated, and are no problem. Usually good tippers, and they’re not offended at all if you cut them off.
21. The Curious Customer
You’ll get a ton of questions from this type of customer. Good people – just curious! Answer their questions politely, when time permits, and go about your business.
They may just be lonely. For whatever reason, they are talkative, inquisitive, and honestly just want some answers to some fairly simple questions. May be a tourist – or a first-timer to your bar.
22. Customers that Cannot Hold their Liquor
Not to be confused with your average, run-of-the mill drunk. Some people just cannot seem to hold their liquor. A beer and a couple of shots and they’re out of control.
Or, is that really all they have had to drink? I know many customers who make trips back and forth to their vehicle in the parking lot to take a few swigs (or whatever), and spend as little money as possible in the bar. Yes, this really happens.
Keep an eye on these types of bar customers. Like any other situation when it comes to over-serving, don’t be afraid to warn people to settle down or inform them that they’re getting a bit too tipsy.
23. “This is My Bar” Customer
Some regulars believe that the bar is “theirs.” “I’ve been coming here for 10 years! Who are you to tell me that I’ve had enough to drink!” You will run across this type of situation at some point in your bartending career. Don’t get me wrong here – almost all of these types of customers are great people.
But, it’s not just about having had too much to drink. Many of these types of customers will get involved in other customer service situations that is none of their business – and try to intervene “on behalf of the bar.”
It’s nice to know that they have your back, but it’s probably just good policy to tell them to relax – you’ll take care of the problem. Of course, if there’s a physical confrontation somewhere – it’s nice to have them around!
24. The “Listen to My Problems” Customer
You’ll get this a lot. Sometimes called “The Weeper.” Just politely listen and go about your work. Very nice people – they just need a little attention!
I actually had a customer tell me one time that I was ignoring him while he was trying to tell me all about his bad life. Then, he stated that my job was to listen to him complain. Ouch.
Don’t get me wrong here – I have no issues with listening to customers describe their lives. It’s just that many times you won’t have the time to spend paying attention to just this one customer. You’ll get used to it.
25. The Very “Helpful” Customer
This guy likes to garnish the drinks you’re making for the cocktail server. Or, provide a brand-new customer with his take on the many kinds of micro-brews we carry. Or, offer to “chew out” someone using excessive bad language.
Really good customers, but can be a pain in the butt sometimes. Go with the flow, and keep them on a short leash.
26. The “Having a Bad Life” Customer
Some people are just negative. Consistently. I stay away from these people in my personal life – but behind the bar you’re stuck. Just keep the conversations to a minimum, provide him with great service – and you’ll be fine.
You’ll identify these people rather quickly as they’ll force other customers to move to a different area. Happens all the time. Hopefully, you won’t get any major complaints from other customers and you can just leave him alone.
27. The Underage Pain-In-The-Butt
All bartenders will deal with this type of “potential” customer. I go into great detail on underage drinking and fake ID’s here. You better learn how to deal with this numbskull.
I’m not going to go into any great detail here – read the article referenced above – but you better understand that your boss has a million dollar liquor license – and doesn’t wish to lose it.
28. The Boss’s Friends
All bartenders will run across this – no matter what type of bar you work at. And, sometimes, the customer doesn’t even know the owner – he’s just testing you.
Careful with this guy. Remember, you are tuned in to what the bar owner wants from his bartenders. House policies, liquor pouring procedures, free drinks, etc. Unless the bar owner specifically tells you to treat this type of customer differently – follow house procedures.
Always stay professional and polite and you’ll be just fine. Who knows? It’s quite possible that the bar owner sends people in to test his bartenders – you just never know!
“I know Bob the owner and he said I can run a tab tonight.”
A: “That’s great! Let me have your credit card and we’ll get you all set up. By the way, my name is Mark – what’s yours?”
“My name is Cory. Well, Bob said that I don’t need a credit card – I can just run a tab and he’ll take care of it.”
A: “I see. Well, Cory, Bob has not informed me of this, so I will have to have a credit card on file. If Bob wishes to reimburse you for the charges – or sign off on the tab – I’m sure he’ll let me know.”
29. The Designated Driver
Popular with groups of bar customers. Or even just the “friend” who is not drinking. Many bars will offer this person a few free non-alcoholic drinks on the house. Or endless soda’s.
Great people, and, generally speaking, take their role seriously. Treat them like you would any other customer.
30. The Dancer
Asks everyone to dance. Likes the attention. One of the “tools” of the “Pick-Up” artist. Nice people, but they’re at the bar to dance – not drink.
31. The “Leave Me Alone” Customer
Very common type of customer. The thing is, sometimes this type of drinker is a bit of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde kind of guy. Quiet one day – boisterous the next. Go with the flow, and you’ll find that these types of customers are really nice people.
Either way, experienced bartenders know when to leave someone alone. He’ll put his drink out when he’s ready for another one. You’ll get a lot of regular customers like this, and they’ll appreciate you not bothering them.
So – that’s it. I started off with 25 types of bar customers and ended up with 31. I’ll probably think of more at some point down the road.
The important takeaway here is that a bartender is going to meet all kinds of different people. Overwhelmingly, the people that go into bars are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.