Q. Will this section help me get a bartending job?
A. Absolutely. You have no bartending experience. The interviewer knows this, so knowing a little bit about customer service will definitely help you here. And that includes experience with customer service in ANY industry and/or prior job.
Q. Will the interviewer ask me anything about customer service?
A. Most likely. Bartending is all about providing a great customer experience so that those customers return again and again.
Bartender Customer Service
This introductory lesson is a bit long – but I cover a lot of subjects here. There are a few more lessons on Customer Service following this first one where I get a bit more specific about tipping, types of bar customers, common scenarios, and customer service techniques.
Here’s what I’ll cover in Lesson One:
- Providing a Great Customer Experience
- What the Customer is Looking For
- The Interview: What the Bar Manager is Looking For
- Finding the Sweet Spot – Staying Out of Trouble!
So, let’s take a look at each of the above items:
Bartenders Must Provide a Great Customer Experience
It’s the bartender’s job to provide a great customer experience so that customers will return time and again. That is the bartender’s job – to work hand-in-hand with the bar owner to provide a great customer experience. Period.
Everything depends upon the bar’s profitability. No profits – no business. And exceptional bartenders understand this completely. If the customers have a poor experience – ouch.
Without this teamwork, you’re left with inconsistency, unhappy customers, and poor profits – if any.
Notice that I didn’t say “provide great customer service.” I want you to pay particular attention to this: Great customer service is a simply a tool to help provide an awesome customer experience. A tool that is just as important as the proper lighting, reasonably priced food and drink, and a winning attitude. Customer service is completely different from the customer experience. Let me explain.
It’s the bar owner’s job to make people aware of the bar. To get them in the front door. To provide a safe, comfortable environment with great food and drink. In other words – to have a great experience.
The Bar Owner hires bartenders, and other employees, who understand his priorities – and do whatever it takes to help him achieve his goals. The most important of those goals is to ensure that all customers are having a great experience.
Of course, bartenders do have a job description – many bars will have this spelled out, in writing, upon hiring you. However, it took me a few years to understand what I was really doing behind the bar during a shift. And it’s simple.
I was simply hanging out with people. Blending in. Having great conversations. Anticipating their needs, and providing suggestions and solutions to their requests. Being nice! I just happened to be making drinks and maybe serving some food while all of this was going on.
Music blaring so loud that customers have to yell to each other in order to be heard? Lower the volume!
Drunk regular customer knocks over someone’s drink? Replace it with a smile!
Steak overcooked? Really? Fix it – now, and with a smile.
Acknowledge customers immediately. Actually, anyone who walks through that front door. Not after you’ve made those drinks. Not when you get done washing glasses. Immediately. Sometimes just a glance with a nod of the head works wonders.
Customers good-naturedly giving you a hard time? Give it back!
Always, always, always, invite your customers to come back and see you.
Too hot in the bar? Get the manager to turn down the heat.
Customers celebrating their 25th? You know what to do!
Fellow employee in the “weeds?” Help them out – graciously.
Customer doesn’t know what to order? Make the perfect suggestion.
All of the above, in some way, contribute to a great customer experience – and an exceptional bartender knows this. It’s not just about what’s going on at the bar. It’s the big picture.
The ultimate goal of an exceptional bartender is to have a brand-new, first-time customer return to your bar, and address you by your first name while calling out his drink order. And then continuing to come into the bar on a regular basis – and spend his hard-earned money. That’s it.
You’re doing exactly what you’re paid to do. Through your diligence, you have assisted the bar owner in creating a great customer experience.
If you, as a bartender, can consistently help provide a great customer experience – you are exactly what a bar manager is looking for. You’re hired!
What Bar Customer’s Are Looking For
Generally speaking, the below list is what most restaurant and bar customers are looking for:
- Friendly employees
- Great food and beverage products at a reasonable
- A nice, safe, and comfortable atmosphere
- Efficient service
- Clean, sanitary environment
I could go into great detail here on all of the above – but it’s really not that necessary. When you first get hired, the Bar Manager, or your trainer, will go through all of the things that the bar will want you to focus on.
Top Complaints Bar Customers Have
There are all kinds of studies out there that reveal what customers are looking for – and what they hate. Below are some of the top complaints that customers have revealed:
- Failure to be acknowledged in a timely manner
- Waiting too long for the check to arrive
- Poor customer service
- Lack of cleanliness
- Small portions of food and drink
- An extended wait time for seating
- Incorrect orders
- Errors in the check
Again, I could go into great detail here, but I think you get the picture. Just know that most restaurant and bars take the above very seriously. On the other hand, some bars just don’t seem to care.
The Interview: What the Bar Manager is Looking For
I go into much more detail on all of the things that the bar owner (or whomever is interviewing you), is looking for in Sections 15 & 16 – the Job Preparation/Job Interview sections. l’m going to jump ahead here on this specific topic on what the interviewer is looking for as it pertains to customer service.
Here we go…
Remember – you have no experience! So, what does this mean when it comes to customer service? The interviewer is going to be looking at your resume. Obviously, he sees no bartending experience. But what about experience in another position in the Food & Beverage Industry? Were/are you a food server? A cook? A busser? This counts!
You already passed the first test – you are being interviewed, so this particular bar is obviously looking at inexperienced bartenders to hire. Congratulations, as getting an interview is the biggest obstacle to landing that first bartending job. What this also means, though, is you’re going to be asked a few questions about customer service.
Where else have you worked? As a barista slinging coffee? Maybe at a phone bank in a customer service department? How about retail? Did you work at a Wal-Mart or a Circle K/7-Eleven? How about a grocery store? Anything involving customer service is going to help.
You’re going to get customer service questions about your previous employment. Here’s where you can shine by pointing out some great customer service you have performed in the past or in your current job. I’ll give you some great examples in one of the lessons coming up – “Examples of Great Customer Service.”
When a Bar Manager is looking for experience, it’s not necessarily experience pouring drinks. As you have heard me say many times before, knowing drink recipes and pouring a drink is 10% of the job. The interviewer is going to try and determine if you can handle simple customer service situations.
Finding the Sweet Spot – Staying Out of Trouble!
Sometimes it seems like there is always tug-of-war going on between customers and the bar’s policy. Honestly, this is constantly happening, and I point out many of these issues in Section’s 11 and 12 of this course: “Bar House Policies” and “Bartender vs. Customer.” Those two sections are going to be real eye-openers for you!
As far as customer service goes, this is one area where being a bartender is very different from what other food and beverage employees deal with. Why? We’re talking about alcohol here. It’s a whole new ballgame when we’re dispensing liquor. Short-pouring, over-pouring, cutting people off, free drinks, and so on. And keeping the bar profitable!
The bar is there to make a profit. Many times customers do whatever they can to “get a deal,” creating problems in hopes of getting a free drink or meal, or generally throwing a wrench into the day-to-day operations of the bar. You’ll find that customers asking for stronger drinks is a constant battle. Again, I’ll go over that situation in much more detail in later lessons.
There are also things that happen in this business that are not the fault of anyone. Stuff happens! Being able to handle any type of customer service problem is what it’s all about.
The important thing to remember here in this lesson is that great customer service provides a great customer experience. Experienced bartenders know how to handle so many more situations than you do – simply because they have been behind the bar for a number of years. But, don’t worry! You’ll eventually get to that point, and it really doesn’t take that long. This section of the course will help you do just that.
If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:
Next Lesson: Types of Bar Customers
Previous Lesson: How to Wash Bar Glasses
Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course