Mahalo Mentality Behind Your Bar

Image Source: Duke's Waikiki

"It's important to remember that our guests are perceptive and are often noticing more than you think," said Jesse Greenleaf of Duke’s Waikiki at the start of his 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show session.

Obviously the way every aspect of your bar is perceived by guests is important. Everyone who walks through your doors is scrutinizing the environment, atmosphere, employees, service, products, even your brand. Is your venue clean? How does your concept read? Do your bartenders make guests feel welcome? It’s that third question that Jesse addressed in Las Vegas. As he put it, he’s a member of the “generation of bartenders who want to earn their tips.”

Jesse has also been operating in an area so famous for hospitality that songs have been written about their dedication to treating others well: Hawaii. Not only does he want bartenders to put forth the effort to actually earn their tips, he wants them to treat every shift as though they’re hosting a party inside their homes. This is part of the mahalo mentality Jesse promotes. Mahalo is a Hawaiian word meant to express gratitude, respect or admiration, and it’s the driving force behind Jesse’s approach to bartending. In his opinion, the mahalo mentality is defined by tact, graciousness and respect.

So how does one implement this mentality to deliver excellent, unrivaled customer service, translating to guest loyalty and big tips? For one, look at a bartending shift as an opportunity to share yourself. Making a connection is a huge part of service and keeping guests coming back for more, so remember that it’s important that bartenders are permitted to be themselves; encourage them to be authentic with guests. One method that Jesse has used to connect with guests is interacting with them while cleaning glassware and straightening up behind the bar. Rather than focus solely on his side of the stick, Jesse and his team have shared drink recipes with guests while cleaning.

Second, and this should be obvious, it’s the antithesis of the mahalo mentality to be rude. Jesse would never dream of pushing change back at a guest. In his eyes, such behavior is bush league, just as a sarcastic, “Thanks a lot!” shouted at a guest would be. That’s something a bad bartender would do, which can be a blessing in disguise to great bartenders. After all, poor bartenders help great bartenders realize what not to do.

Finally, commit to the belief that the basic idea behind mahalo mentality behind the bar is to view each transaction as an opportunity to connect with guests. If you ask, “Close it out?” when handed a credit card, break that habit. A bartender who asks that isn’t actually asking a question, they’re making a suggestion to the guest: You should leave. Instead, ask the guest by their name (it’s on the credit card, after all) if they’d like to keep it open. To sell that even more, nod while you’re smiling at the guest.

Mahalo for reading!

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