As the bar has evolved into one of our premier eating and drinking destinations, operators need to be prepared to execute a higher level of hospitality there than ever before. The bartender is the new, most visible symbol representing many dining establishments and guests today expect a high-quality interaction in almost any restaurant.
Preparation is the key. Bar staff needs to set up all service stations properly, know the full range of drinks selections they offer and feel comfortable describing them in an accurate and appealing manner. What this means is that fresh garnishes need to be prepared prior to service on a daily basis, all service wells must be stocked with ice and par levels of all beverages should be checked and maintained.
The truth is that few guests know exactly what they want to drink until you engage them and present them with a compelling reason to order it. Because menus often generally offer too much information and there are too many distractions at a bar, it’s the bartender’s responsibility to make the printed selections come alive.
Follow the Leader
Depending on the cues you get, walk the guest through your beverage menu, and point out where the various categories are located. If you have proprietary wines, spirits or beers, if you offer tasting flights, if your cocktails are created using fresh-squeezed juices or exotic ingredients, if you have a favorite aperitif or starter that is not featured everywhere, if there is a local micro-brew or seasonal selection that is new, point all of this out quickly, but only if the guest appears open to hearing it.
Know what the differences are among the styles and flavor profiles of differently tiered beverages in a category, and how you would describe them with accuracy—a Single Malt Scotch, versus one that’s blended, or an $8 chardonnay, as opposed to one you’re offering for $12—remembering to make each sound appealing. Use evocative language to describe the higher priced products (the “artisan” single-barrel Bourbon or the “estate-bottled” cabernet sauvignon). When making a cocktail, adhere to the specs; don’t freelance (or “free pour”) as this will result in inconsistency. The drink will rarely taste as good as if you followed the recipe.
Preparation, knowledge, enthusiasm, keen observation and quick delivery: these are the keys to making it happen at today’s bar. Remember: it’s about the experience and your bar staff can set the restaurant up for success, being prepared, hospitable, knowledgeable, accurate and efficient. ·
Step by Step
1. The bar represents the face of your restaurant.
2. Preparation also means knowing the full range of beverages you offer and how to describe them accurately.
3. Don’t “upsell,” listen!
4. Know how to compare different drinks in the same category.