Costly ways to answer common questions.

Bartenders beware: the wrong answers to seemingly simple questions can cost you dearly!

Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2015


As a bartender we understand you deal with a lot of dumb questions, and when you get asked the same ones over and over, well, that gets really old after a while; but it’s essential to keep in mind the customer's point of view:  To them their questions are unique and important and merit a substantive answer, regardless how inane they sound to you.  Examples include:


What's your specialty?

Costly answer: "Everything I make is special!"

The only information you’re providing is that, like most bartenders, you think quite a bit of yourself.   Their question isn't rhetorical; the customer doesn't know what he/she wants and this is an easy opportunity to steer them in a profitable direction, ie. toward big ticket specialty cocktails.


Can I have a Margarita on the rocks, no salt?

Costly answer:  "Sure, coming right up!"

By simply reaching for the well brand, you've again missed an easy upselling opportunity.  When asked for something generic, like a Vodka Tonic, Bourbon Rocks, Cosmo, etc, always first ask something akin to, "Any particular kind?" or in the case of Tequilas, "Silver, Reposado or Anejo?".   Upselling to more expensive name brands is generally very easy to.


How long have you worked here?

Costly answer: "Too long."

You're joking, trying to be self-deprecating, but everyone knows that most jokes are truth veiled in humor.  If a customer picks up on the fact that you're unhappy at work, it detracts from their experience.  It's hard to let loose and enjoy yourself in the face of unhappiness.   Don't throw a wet blanket on a customer's experience by conveying professional dissatisfaction.  As much as possible, maintain the illusion that you work in an amazing place and enjoy every minute of being there! 


How do you like [insert: menu item]?

Costly answer: "I'm not crazy about it, honestly."

Blunt honesty about disliked items on the menu is not a smart way to go; it highlights venue flaws and negatives are more focused on  by guests (and God help you if your comment gets back to the Chef!).  Diplomatic honesty is a better strategy... you don't need to insult a menu item in order to steer customers in a different direction.  It can be as simple as "I'm more a fan of..."


I lost my ID, but I'm 22, I swear.  Can you still serve me please?

Costly answer: "Just this one time."

No matter how convincing... or how hot... or how much cash they flash... the answer is, NO.  Minors lie to get served all the time (I'm sure you remember), ABC spies are everywhere, and we here at Barfly love to send in young looking shoppers to see how this gets handled.  Play it safe; insist on ID from anyone who looks close to the age of 21-- and check it over carefully when presented.  


Are you allowed to drink behind the bar?

Costly answer: "When nobody's looking, sure."

If you regularly drink on the job sooner or later you'll get caught doing it, probably losing your job as a result.  And even if it's sanctioned by management (yes, at some places, it is), it's still a bad idea:  Drinking behind the bar too often becomes a progressive habit, inevitably undermining, not enhancing, work performance.  If you have to drink in order to bartend, that's probably a sign you need to look for another line of work.


Can you work seven days in a row and pull a double on Tuesday next week?

Costly answer:  "No problem."

Bars are like black holes to its employees, possessed of an immense gravitational pull.  Shifts constantly need to be filled, new personnel trained, deep cleaning jobs, inventory, etc, etc.  But trust us on this, if you say, yes, too often, it will take its toll.  You'll end up  burnt out and not only less effective at your job, but ironically, less financially secure too, as blowing off steam during your scant free time will usually involve also blowing off all the money you've made. 


Set a reasonable limit to the number of hours you're willing to work, and cultivate other interests and career pursuits during  time off; otherwise you'll end up like:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-signs-burnt-out-bartender-karl-blatt?trk=mp-reader-card.