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Earn More Money as a Bartender - Pt1; Tips

Tips and Customer Service

Okay, okay, yeah I know, I’m talking about the UK scene here. Tips for a Bartender can be pretty much non-existent. Have you ever thought why that is though?!

When you actually look at it, the main reason is not because we’re a tight nation who doesn’t Tip. No. the reality is, the customer service we offer in this country is inheritably bad. As in terrible. Now yes I am making a massive sweeping statement. But for everyone venue that excels in service, you’re like to find 3 to 5 others that are woeful. And as a customer, which ones do we return to. Yup, that 1 that’s great.

This is what Bartenders, Waiting staff, actually most Front of House Staff forget. We are in the Hospitality Industry. Our sole purpose is to give that Customer in front of us, the best possible experience. While I know some Bar Owners, Managers etc will disagree and this the sole purpose is to make that venue money, when you break it down and dissect it, actually as Front of House, you can make that venue money if your Customer Service is not on point.

So how do you earn more money as a member of Staff?!

The simple answer is Tips.

But how do you earn more tips?!

Well here’s my view...

As a member of the Front of House Team, whether you’re in a Pub, Bar, Café, Restaurant, Hotel, you have to treat your position as a Business. Yup, that’s right, you now own your own Business! How cool is that?!

Lets just say you’re being paid £10 per hour. Yeah, I know that’s a dream for a lot of you, but this is for the sake of argument. What could you actually do to turn that £10ph into £20ph without going to the management and asking for a double your money raise, which quite frankly you’ve probably got more chance of flying to the moon.

Do you think you would serve 10 people in that hour. If so, what could you do to just get a tiny £1 Tip out of each customer.

Well the broad answer is just give better Customer service. But what does that entail? It’s all very well, saying it, but if you’re new and you don’t understand, then how are you supposed to know what Better Customer Service is. So here’s the very basics.

1) The Welcome

Quite possibly the biggest part of customer service that is overlooked and yet the easiest to nail. It doesn’t matter where you work. A Pub, a High Street Bar, a Coffee Shop, a Hotel. Not saying hello with a big old smile is an absolute crime. I often hear the excuse, it’s too busy to see every customer as they walk through the door. Well, do you know who are the best at nailing this. Busy Cocktail Bars! Some of the best bars I’ve walked in to are 5 deep, yet the bartender still keeps an eye on that door and nods, or smiles in your direction. A friendly Welcome, sets the first impression. If the first impression is followed by a great experience. Then this leads to Tips!

2) Treat every First time Customer as a new regular

Just because you’ve never met them before, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be as friendly as you would be to Andy that’s been coming in 3 times a week for the last 2 years. Guess what, it was Andy’s first time sometime and he came back because he was made to feel welcome.

One of the very first things to get drilled in to me as an 18yo Assistant Manager. It’s a lot easier to keep existing Customers than to find new ones. Yet statistically, customers don’t become regulars until their 4th visit. And they’re only going to make their 4th visit, if the first 3 have been memorable! Regular, well treated Customers = Tips

3) Get to know people

Pay in interest in them without being over friendly. Learn their names. More importantly, learn their drinks. Learn their tells. You know, that sixth sense stuff, when someone is getting close to the bottom of their drink and want another one. Offer them a little education too. Some are stuck in their ways. But others will look to you for guidance and inspiration. In my Pub Days, I’ve converted some of the staunchest Beer Drinkers into Rum lovers to widen their horizons. And while they still defaulted to Beer as their first couple of Drinks for say £4 a pint. Their next 3 Drinks were Rum, putting extra Profit in the Tills, but more importantly, letting the Guests have a little bit more fun. And Fun = Tips.

4) Be Friendly and Polite

You’ve ALWAYS got be friendly and polite. Always. It’s a non-negotiable. However, you can go above and beyond and I find this is always where Staff let themselves down. Especially in the drinks industry.

I’m a big one for walking into a Bar or Pub on my own. My Weekends are midweeks, so I’m often out with my laptop doing a bit of work. However, I have a very easy to read tell that should be a dead giveaway to Front of House people. My Headphones. If I’ve got my Headphones in, the chances are I’m avoiding conversation as I need to get work done. However, if I’ve walked into a Bar without my headphones, and not even my laptop, I’m definitely open to a conversation. Especially when I have a drink at the Bar. Yet, how many times do you think this happens. Now, I’m not shy in my own environment. I’ll quite happily talk to the guys. I’m also good at knowing when to keep my trap shut. Especially when it’s busy, or tables need clearing, or another customer needs something. However, when I do engage in a conversation, how often do you think it’s reciprocated. Just last week, a Bartender was more interested in an Instagram Notification then he was telling me which was his favourite Rum to wok with behind the Bar.

When you are friendly, polite, put the customer at ease. Engage with them when you can. Guess what, you’ll likely to get a Tip.

5) Go out of your Way to Help a Customer when they need it

This is a lot easier for waiting staff. But there are tricks for Bar staff too. And this involves EVERYTHING from simply clearing and wiping tables. Helping them decide what Drink they want with little tasters or recommendations. Getting some extra Gravy! Looking after their Dog with a Sausage or a Bowl of water…or like my old Dog, a Bowl of Tea! Opening Doors. Giving them directions. Or and old trick of mine…when it’s early ish and a group of people are looking to move on to the next venue, buy them a round of drinks…I lost track of the amount of times that not only kept them for another few hours, but got me included in the next 3 rounds at least!

6) Make their Order Extraordinary!

If you’re just pulling pints. Make sure each Pint looks spot on in the right glass with a decent head. Drinks get served with decent frozen Ice, not the dregs. Glasses are clean and Chip free. Cocktails have correct Garnishes and look uniform. (Don’t do what one Bartender did to me recently. An order of 7 Espresso Martinis, gave us just the one with a Garnish, because “we got the idea from that one cocktail”) Oh and one of my pet peeves…offer a new Drink if a customer really doesn’t like a Drink. Ok, hard to do on a Spirit & Mixer, but a lot of drinks and be done on a simple Try before you buy premise. Bar owners and Managers still think this costs them money and can’t track it for stock takes. But then the bigger picture is always, wouldn’t you rather a customer stays for 2 or 3 drinks they really like as opposed to a half finished one they hated!

You see all this just leads to customer satisfaction. And while it’s not a direct monetary result (I think half the reason why some of our Customer Service is Poor because its not a Tangible reward), it certainly DOES help the Pay Packets.

As a Manager/Boss, I’ve always invested in my Team Salary wise. I’ve always paid above the odds because I know without them, I don’t have a Bar. BUT. I’ve always challenged them to Double their Pay Packets with Tips. Knowing full well that not only is it financially rewarding for them, but if they’re getting great tips, it means your Pub, Bar, Restaurant, Hotel, Coffee Shop, Café….whatever…is delivering extraordinary service and customers are having a great experience.


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