Some things I think are critical to getting the biggest tip you can are:
The first opportunity to make a good impression happens with recognition. All you have to do is say hello. Nobody likes to be ignored. If you're busy, ignoring the customer won't make them go away, it'll just piss 'em off. Just say "I'll be right with you" and they'll relax knowing "you'll be right with them".
2. Service Your Tip!
If you want a good tip, give great service. Sounds simple, but it's too easy to be lazy. Give good service or tips will suffer. This is the ultimate server-truth. There are times however that you're not able to give your undivided attention to particular customers. When this happens (and after you've told the customer you'll be right with them), try these "time buyers":
- Give them a cocktail napkin. You should do this immediately anyway...
- Bring them water
- Give them a menu
- give them bread and butter or nuts or whatever you have at hand to give them, even if it's only the beer or wine list, and toss in another "I'll be right with you". Even if you can't get to them right away, making them think you'll be right with them is a far cry better than ignoring them. The only thing you have to worry about now is saving your tip!
Don't give these things to the customer all at once, but space it out little by little so customers know they're not being ignored. As long as you "touch" them, you can buy a lot of time. Again, if you do nothing, and there will be nothing you can do to improve their first impression.
3. Shaker Cans ~ Time to get flashy!
NEVER toss ANY amount of drink down the drain! Ice of course is fine, but no liquid. The only draining that shold be going on is the entire draining of the shaker can into my glass. The next draining is the contents of the glass into my thirsty booze trap. If I'm paying for booze, I want it in MY pipes, not the sink's.
The best way to learn measurements is to fill the the glass you're going to serve the drink in, to a level about 1/4" to 1/2" below the rim then add it to the shaker glass, not the shaker can, and remember that mark. LEARN where your "marks" are. Different glasses are different sizes, do the same the same for each glass, build your repertoire and impress people with your "to the drop" technique. It's easy as hell but people still marvel when I hit my marks, "how did you DO that?!?!"
If you accidentally end up with too much in the can, strain the drink into a glass first, then top it with as much ice as will fit. Short? Add ice. Customers don't like watching you add ice to their drink, so hit your mark. The other reason to add more ice instead of more mixer is because addine more mixer waters the drink down and throws your proportions off.
4. Ice - Pack your glassware
SLIGHT heap over the rim. By the time you get the booze in there, the ice begins to melt. Hit it with a splash of mixer, not too much, and the drink will taste great. Too much mixer waters the drink down and your servers will have a hard time handling the drink without spilling. The sides of the glassware should always arrive at the customer DRY!
5. Pour Spouts
Use them with style and keep the booze in the glass, not on bar mat. See Blog Entry "Pour Like You Mean It" from May 1st.
6. Beer Servicing ~ Good Beer Deserves Good Head
It looks better and helps your pour cost. For a longer lasting head on beers that run flatter (not going to mention any domestic brands here...), pour 2/3 of the pint with "a little too much head", make another drink or two waiting for the head to condense, then come back to the beer and top it off with fresh beer and more head. Get a head on that thing and it not only looks niceer, but helps your pour cost too! It's also a nice thing if you're looking for your table servers to tip you out at the end of the night. Help them look good by being able to deliver attractive drinks to their table customers and they'll make more money, earning you a hopefully larger tip-out (if your crew does tip-out).
Tip-out, if your unfamiliar, is when you tip your door man, chefs and bar-backs. They'll help you earn more money and will help you every time when you're in a bind. Believe me, if you're tipping them out, the next time you need something they'll be there for you.
8. Clean your space after you make every drink. Don't clean and you're one step deeper into the weeds. You'll look like a schlock and you won't be able to work as effeciently.
9. Glassware: NEVER touch the rim of the glass with your grubby mits. Yea, your grubgby, money-handling mits. Even if you just washed your hands, I don't want your fingers touching what I'm going to be drinking from, even if it's sanitary. It just doesn't look good. It's the same as sticking your fingers in my mouth.
Beer glasses - if you see bubbles stuck to the side of a beer glass, that's a dirty glass. Clean the glass and pour beer into it again and you'll see for yourself - NO BUBBLES!
10. Pouring Order
- Shots & wine first - they can sit on the bar forever and still look good when you serve them
- Mixed drinks next - These can stand a while, but will soon start to water down
- Beer last - Serve with a head. A dead head is not only someone with a tie-dye shirt and bloodshot eyes, it's a sign of untimely service (see Tip #8, above)
AIM! When pouring anything, aim for a "gap" between the ice cubes. This pocket will give you something to shoot for but most importantly, it keeps you from splashing the good stuff everywhere. N'er a drop of anything should land anywhere but in the glass. Challenge yourself to get every drop of anything liquid into the glass. You'll look like a pro, you'll help pour cost and it'll keep your bar clean. Win, win, win.
Got a favorite bartending tip or story? I'd love to hear it! Please hit our blog or message board!
Thanks, enjoy, cheers!