Being a barman isn’t the constant party most drunken revellers believe it is. 9 hour shifts with no breaks and hours of unpaid labour cleaning all manner of things being par the course in the bar industry. (leave the damn candle wax alone) And no amount of free Coca Cola at the end of a shift will help me get over walking in on two customers having sex in the walk- in fridge...
But that’s not your fault, most people don’t see that, and for the most part, when they do, are too drunk to help it.
It’s okay, we barmen and barmaids forgive you.
What you CAN help however, is correct bar etiquette. Why would someone care about correct bar etiquette? Well, for one, manners cost nothing and secondly, there’s a damn good chance you’ll get served quicker.
Now, there are a number of methods that a bartender might employ to serve their customers. Some just start at one end of the bar and work their way down. For others, a regular gets served before someone they don’t know and friends take precedence. And for a select few, they just serve the loudest guy first, in an effort to get him to shut up and go away. After talking to a few co-workers and fellow bartenders, I think I’ve got it down to a few key concepts.
Manners cost nothing and secondly, there’s a damn good chance you’ll get served quicker.
First things first, we've got to get you to the bar itself. Bar people talk about how busy a night was by describing the thickness of the crowd around their till, with four men deep generally the place is rammed. The best way of getting to the front when a bar is busy is taking the road less travelled, attack the bar diagonally and you're more likely to reach the front quicker. I recommend you try to snake your hand in to where someone is being currently served from an angle and then when they leave and a gap appears, drag yourself forward and fill in that empty space as if I was always there. Be Hugh Grant blundering polite while you push your way to the front and there shouldn't be too much trouble. If the gap is small, use the sharp points of your body to angle yourself some space. An elbow on the bar top goes a long way.
Be Polite To Get The Bartender's Attention
Once you get to the bar top, no matter what you do keep watching the bartender. Bartenders are trained to keep their heads up and acknowledge every customer as they approach the bar. A quick smile when you get their attention goes a long way.
What you shouldn't do, is be brash, rude and a general wanker. You'd think that would go without saying but you'd be surprise how manners go out the window when people want to blow off steam after a 50 hour week.
Please don't bang on the bar. Please don't click or whistle or wave money, you're not in a strip club and it's not the 1830s. Please don't think that because it's your birthday or hen night you are owed free booze. Please don't think that I'll let you have the drink for free because you have your tits out and offered me a blowjob. Please don't play to the bar and talk about how service is rubbish deliberately so I'll hear. Finally, please do not scream how you're next in line for service. In nearly every single instance of a person telling me how they were next, they were no where near number 1 in the queue, and if there were such was the manner of their insistence I knocked them down a few places to teach them a lesson.
Be Hugh Grant blundering polite while you push your way to the front and there shouldn't be too much trouble.
Kill your barman with kindness. When it's busy, most decent bartenders really are working as fast as they can. In fact, if you want to be really cheeky and jump 10 places forward, my advice is to stand next to someone who you know has been waiting long, and then point them out to the bartender. The brownie points you get for thinking of someone else make you stick out and more often than not, you'll get served next.
Knowing Is Half The Battle
There is nothing worse than hearing someone call for service for a few minutes and when I get there, you don’t know what you are ordering. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. In the time it takes you to figure out what everyone is drinking, I could have served two other people. All that time spent yelling for service should be used for figuring out what your group wants.
We understand that if we approach you, we’ve caught you off guard and you may not know who in a group needs what. But if you’re yelling, waving your arms, slapping the bar, trying to get our attention, then we get there and you don’t know what you want, understand that we’re a bit unhappy.
What you shouldn't do, is be brash, rude and a general wanker.
While you wait at the bar, check a menu if one's knocking about. If you can study the taps and fridges for what's on draught and what's offered for bottles. If if takes you 5 minutes to order for the first round, it should only take 2 for the next.
Always, always, tip.
Here’s a tip: tip big on the very first round. One Christmas period I had a customer who handed me £30 after he bought a bottle of champagne as his first drink. I took care of him until he left. He got refills before he was even done with his last one. I take care of him because he’s taken care of me already, and no matter how busy it is, I always have time for him.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. In the time it takes you to figure out what everyone is drinking, I could have served two other people.
Obviously I'm not expecting £30 off every customer, but giving me your change when you pay in cash helps stick in the memory. A bartender never forgets. Also, your phone number does not count as a tip….