Path of the Bartender: How 'Ya Doin'?

Hi there. Good evening. Hello, how ‘ya doin’? Howz tricks? There are many ways for us to greet our customers when they belly-up to our bar, and the moment when we first make contact is of vital importance. When approaching guests for the first time on any given evening, afternoon or even morning if you work at a joint that opens early so businessmen can take the edge off before they face the office, it’s good to be aware of what you’re doing. You are trying to make contact.

Wot ‘ya having? What can I get you? The usual? Vodka Tonic? These are not acceptable greetings, no matter how well you know the customer in question. And it’s really bad form to look at a new customer with raised eyebrows, asking a question with your face. You gotta make contact, man. You gotta make contact. Would it help if I told you that, if you make an effort to make contact, you’ll make bigger tips? It’s true.

Each of us has her or his own way of greeting our guests, and I truly don’t want to tell you how to do this, but at the same time I’d like to make a couple of suggestions that you might want to consider.

When you approach a guest, look him/her directly in the eye, and when you deliver your verbal greeting, think about incorporating an inquiry as to their health or general wellbeing. “Hi, Jen, how are you today?” is a simple example. But we’re not finished yet. The next step is of tantamount importance. After you ask the question, keep looking your guest in the eye, and don’t say another word until they answer. Let them know that you really want to know how they’re doing. You’ll be amazed at how powerful this simple gesture can be.

Wanna take this a step further? Do the same thing with the checkout person at the supermarket. When s/he’s finished with the customer in front of you, look him/her in the eye and ask how s/he is doing, then don’t look away until he/she answers. You’ll be amazed at the quality of service you get from that second on, and you’ll be even more amazed when you discover just how good that made you feel.

Next thing you know you’ll be trying this out with the mailman, the butcher and even your boss. This ain’t rocket science, guys. This is a simple act of letting fellow human beings know that you’re concerned for them, and the payoff is gigantic.

There will be occasions when you don’t get the desired response, because some people just don’t want to be doing what they’re doing, and also because some people get treated shabbily most of the time, and they aren’t used to being treated well. They don’t know how to respond. What to do when this happens? Keep being nice to them. They’ll come around eventually. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and eventually everyone responds well to being treated nicely. Everyone.

There’s goodness inside each and every one of us here on this crazy planet of ours, and as bartenders, it’s up to us to try to find that goodness in everyone we meet. Now get me a bloody Manhattan wudja? And be quick about it, too . . .


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