Patrick Abalos has an idea about how bartenders should help promote themselves and their brand.
When it comes to building a beverage program, Patrick’s philosophy is simple, “Every cocktail and spirit has its own unique story.” He goes on to relate this philosophy to bartenders who might be interested in building themselves as a brand, “We, as the bartender, have our backstory to tell, and it comes through in our actions behind the bar.”
By Abalos’ definition of a “personal brand,” individual characteristics are intrinsic to the bartender, by which they represent themselves in their work or personal life. What you do and how you carry yourself both behind and not behind a bar is a reflection of your “brand.” Building yourself as a brand through reputation, social media, resume building, and professional development all tell a story about the type of bartender you are.
“I am known as more of a softer spoken and reserved individual. My background is heavily corporate influenced. I have been through many training programs about bringing “brands” to life and how to hire individuals that represent those values. One thing that still sticks with me to this day was training with one of my directors who came from Disney. He would always say, “remember you are always on stage.” It’s true, even more so as bartenders. We play host to a wide array of individuals.”
“One thing that still sticks with me to this day was training with one of my directors who came from Disney. He would always say, ‘remember you are always on stage.’ It’s true, even more so as bartenders.”
– Patrick Abalos
“When I am on the floor as a manager or working behind the bar on a station, I want my guests to feel welcome. It’s our job, after all, to play host. I will normally start a quick conversation with them, and if they have any questions, guide them in the right direction. One thing I try to train my bartenders in is the fact that we are storytellers and experience makers. We can create unique experiences just by introducing a guest to a new item they might not have tried before. Seeing their reactions of excitement in finding something new they enjoy should be a goal.
Along the same lines, experiences are boosted when you build them with higher knowledge. “My grandfather always told me that knowledge is important to have. Once you become closed-minded and think you know everything, that’s when you lose your positive light of influence. No one is an expert. They might be well versed, but those who accept that learning never stops are the ones with true influence. I like to say that I learn something new every day.
Patrick’s Tips on How to Build Yourself as a Brand
Knowledge is Important: Brands are always looking to educate us about their products. Take advantage of it even if you might already know about the brand. It is our job to finish the story for the guest. Go to industry events and brand-sponsored dinners. Learn about the spirits you serve.
Join Bartender Groups: Keeping up with what’s new in the industry through networking is always helpful. I am currently serving as one of the Education Chairs for the Houston Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. This has been one of the ways I feel the needle could be moved to continue elevating the craft and inspiring the bar community to continue its growth. I am also a member of the Chilled 100, which is an excellent networking tool for bartenders. (To join a Chilled 100 chapter near you, please visit Chilled100.com).
Stay Humble: When you start becoming well known in your markets, it’s always important to be yourself. I have seen bartenders who have made it “in the spotlight” but start losing sight of what is intrinsic to them. Don’t become that person. Be humble. Support others who might not have the same support you did to get where you are.
Talk to Everyone: You never know who might be sitting in front of you at your bar. They could be a food writer or a rocket scientist. Take time to listen. It makes a huge impression. I always try to learn something I hadn’t known before from each guest. There are countless times I have had different individuals from all walks of life show or explain to me something about what they do. It is fantastic once you get a person to connect with you and start opening up about what they do for a living. There are never two days alike in this industry. Help create a positive experience.
Reputation is What You Put into it: As bartenders and industry professionals, we should be networking with all suppliers, vendors, media, writers, and bar guests. I know that small talk can be hard, but it’s still a great way to start building a repertoire with new people. Always put your best foot forward.
Social Media Don’ts: Don’t bash another person for your own personal gain. More importantly, it is very hard to recover from doing damage to your social media reputation. Think of it this way—If you crunch a piece of paper, you will never be able to get it to appear the same again no matter how hard you try. I am always in experience mode and ready to “be on stage,” make sure your personal life follows suit.
Think Before You Act: One thing that took me a while to understand as I stated in this field is the need to take time to assess the situation you are in. Don’t make quick and drastic decisions when you are upset or frustrated at the moment. Don’t make a lifelong decision during a moment of deep feelings. Situation awareness is a critical skill to develop. We can all be opinioned and passionate individuals, but sometimes others can interpret things differently. Be sure to take the time to sort your thoughts and project them in a way that others can understand. You would be surprised how quickly a message can get misconstrued. Be open to criticism. Don’t take it personally. Grow from it.
About Patrick Abalos
Patrick started his career in hospitality in 2006 when he worked under the tutelage of highly respected chefs in the industry and realized his passion was for food and beverage programs. He then went on to complete both the state and national levels placing in the top tiers with the ProStart Program both in Culinary and Restaurant Management sections of competitions. Then after contemplating attending Culinary school, he went on to get his degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management at New Mexico State University.
Abalos has overseen the development of entire property beverage programs, including securing, on the first try, the Wine Spectator Award for the property master wine list, and being awarded Bar Of The Year in the Woodlands, Texas. He is heavily involved in the competitive bartending scene, most recently USBG World Class Sponsored by Diageo.