Personality, disposition, character traits—these things can make or break a bartender.
In today’s must-be-agreeable hospitality climate, successful bartenders take center-stage with a professional attitude and work hard to establish a regular following.
We spoke to Leonard Lopp, a twenty-year industry veteran who has years of experience managing and training the front of the house staff members. He is currently a managing partner and beverage director of The Keep, an influential cocktail bar in Detroit. Here are Leonard’s tips for becoming a charmer behind the bar.
What are some tips bartenders can use to be more charismatic behind the bar?
Anyone can make a great drink, but not everyone can engage a guest. If you aren’t engaging guests, then you aren’t creating regulars. Regulars will help you look more welcoming to strangers. Diversify your knowledge so that you can converse with people from all walks of life. Those conversations will broaden your horizons and make you more inviting to a broader range of people. Read the news, including the sports section. I’ve made thousands of dollars just because I could talk about local sports teams that I’m not really invested in.
Listen to your guests, ask questions, and get them to do the talking. People love to talk about themselves, and they’ll love you for listening. Then get them to talk to strangers. Regulars will engage customers you don’t have the time or will to. If all else fails, find one thing you have in common with a guest, no matter how small or inconsequential it may be. That is how bonds are built. You should be in the business of building bonds. Finally, if nothing else, be attentive. Seriously, that is the most charming thing a bartender can be.
How can a bartender tactfully diffuse a tricky situation at the bar?
It’s pretty easy to spot the inebriated person during service. I usually try to employ one of their friends once it becomes obvious. If that doesn’t work, I always address the person directly in a calm and friendly way. I try not to call them out, as that can escalate things quickly. The low-key cut off is an art form worth mastering. Be calm, be assertive, do not touch the person, and assure them that it’s an okay thing to have overindulged this time.
There will be those times when the guest is unreasonable, not willing to listen, or is aggressive. Stay calm, be firm, and stay behind the bar. Try to get them one on one at the end of the bar if possible. The last thing you want is to make a scene. Arguing with a customer or overtly cutting them off in front of other people will only escalate the situation.
If they are causing a scene, think of it akin to a child throwing a tantrum. Let them tire themselves out. Silence and patience can be powerful weapons when dealing with the inebriated. If they are aggressive, call the cops immediately, don’t think twice. It’s never worth the risk of getting involved with an aggressive person.
Leonard’s Quick Tips to Becoming More Charming Behind the Bar
Diversify Your Knowledge: The more information you know about broad topics will help you chat with many different people. Read current events, sports sections, learn about music, movies, and information about the spirits you serve. Any way in which you can make a single connection with a guest through even the slightest common interest will help you build a bond.
Do More Listening Than Talking: You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. Get guests talking about themselves, and they will enjoy the conversation tremendously.
Be Attentive: This is the most charming attribute a bartender can have. Be sure each guest feels well taken care of and treated special.
Master The Low Key Cut Off: Do not embarrass a person who has over-indulged. Be patient, kind, calm, and order them an Uber or call a cab.