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Thursday
Nov152007

How to Get the Bartender's Attention

It's the weekend again and it's time to prep you for an all-too-common-but-easily-avoidable situation: getting the bartender's attention in a busy nightclub. It's almost a cliche, standing in a busy bar, waiting for drinks, and wondering what the hell you have to do to get some service around here. The sad part is that it's actually really easy if you know what you're doing.

First and foremost, in a busy bar, belly up to the bar. I mean it. If your belly isn't touching the bar, if you're standing behind people at the bar, don't be surprised if you're waiting 20 minutes for a drink. Every night some joker waves his hands like he's drowning and tries to order from 5 feet away from the bar. And once a night I actually serve him and immediately remember why it's a bad idea. First of all, the volume of a busy bar precludes anyone from hearing what sweet nothings are being whispered from 5 feet away. And more importantly, once I finally understand the drink order, make the drinks, and set them on the bar, I spend twice as long trying to get this yokel's attention so he can pay for the drinks - apparently the blonde he's failing to impress with his extensive knowledge of bottled water is losing interest and he's too busy spitting pathetic game to pay for his drinks. And even though I know he's waited precious minutes for me to get his drinks, making me wait is the kiss of death. If I have to wait for you, that means everyone behind you has to wait for you. And time, for a bartender, truly, is money. I make $$$ based directly on how many people I serve in a night - and if someone drags that process to a screeching halt, they'll be waiting much longer the rest of the night.

The ideal guest - the one bartenders love and will skip other people to serve time and again - is the one who quietly approaches the bar, money in hand, calmly waits their turn, and knows what drinks they want to order. It's that simple.

Let's hammer home some of these points because they are truly invaluable when it comes to getting good service.

Do's:
Approach the bar with $$ in hand and place your paw on the bar. Busy bartenders may avoid eye contact because people presume it means they're next in line, but we always notice money on the bar. If you're hand is attached to that money, I'm coming your way next.

Tip well early. Such a simple concept - GUARANTEED to work 99% of the time, but so rarely employed. Here's how it works: tip $10 on your first drink. Sound foolish? Try it and let me know what happened. We're legalized drug dealers - we're not above being bought. In fact we prefer it. Someone who tips $5-10 on their first round tells me they "get it." The next time they approach the bar, I'm going to skip 5 people to get their drink first. And I'm more likely to overpour them and probably send some shots their way. I know our culture dictates that you tip your server 15-20% AFTER your meal is over but imagine what would happen if you tipped 30% BEFORE you were served. You'd get hooked up, that's what. Whether that means free product, phenomenal service, or directions to the after party - depends on the bar. But unless the bartender is a total noob, I guarantee special treatment. And special treatment is currency that goes a long way in a nightclub...

Decide what drinks you want before you approach the bar. Ten times a night I approach someone with a smile and a "What'll you have?" and they immediately turn around to poll the group on what they want. They turn around. I move on.

Dont's:
Shout out your order when not asked for it. I'm busy trying to remember the 5 drinks ordered from the morally casual blonde in front of you and shouting out your drinks only screws up my drug-addled brain. How would you like it if people ran past your cubicle while you were typing and shouted non sequiturs at you?

Wave your hands in the air. Trust me, we see you. Waving only makes you look desperate. And desperation is not a good cologne to wear in a bar.

Whistle or yell. I know bartenders who've cut people off, not because they were drunk, but because they kept whistling all night. Save the whistling for the women who won't go home with you.

One-at-a-time me. Any decent bartender can remember 6-10 drinks at a time. Ordering them one at a time turns a 2 minute process into 10. And that costs me $$, not to mention annoys the 5 people next to you ready to order.

All in all, it's not rocket science. It's about speed and money. Be quick, tip well, and you can bet I'll see you at the after party.

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Reader Comments (39)

this is the best yet. every line is working and if you work the line I love you.

November 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKeVroN

Chris, you're amazing, what more can I say? <3 Katie

November 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

I think I am a pretty good bartender but I can't remember more than 5 or 6 drinks.... must be the prescription deoderant.

November 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I love this!! You are completely right.

January 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The more experienced the bartender is at flair bartending, the more elaborate the tricks can get. Some very experienced bartenders are able to juggle up to 6 bottles. They’re able to throw bottles in the air behind their back and catch them in various ways. How to learn like that. Nice posting Chris ,Thanks

April 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Other than the common courtesy stuff, I think you're just proving you're a bunch of jerks. You want $10 for cracking open a bottle and handing it to me? You're insane! One day some bartender is going to discover that he can just install a beer bottle vending machine and then you're all screwed.

By the way, are you reporting all this ridiculous tip income that you insist upon on your tax forms?

August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Nice, my first hater. First of all, thanks for your comments, anonymous. You're completely justified in thinking we're insane jerks - ever talked to a bartender in the daylight? That should be obvious.

I understand your frustration. Tipping is a cultural peculiarity that often doesn't seem to make sense. But instead of trying to justify the sometimes irrational custom of tipping (especially since I depend on it), my post was about learning how to make the system work in your favor. Many people get frustrated in a bar, I'd imagine yourself included, because they can't get these "idiotic bottle-jockeys" to stop ignoring the blonde with big boobs and serve them the drinks they want. It's not rocket science. And I'll never claim it to be moral. Like I said, "We're legalized drug dealers" who put up with obnoxious, drunk, rude customers day in and day out. Bribes are by no means required, but they sure as shit work. And this ain't Walgreen's - we have the right/responsibility to refuse service to anyone. There are actually legal implications to serving our patrons, and when one of them acts like a dick, that's usually a good sign they've had enough and we (as well as the rest of the patrons) no longer want them at our party.

The long and short of it, you're right: ten bucks for opening a beer is nuts. However, I've gladly paid ten bucks to skip ahead to the front of the line all night, or to enjoy a quality cocktail crafted by a professional who can make my taste buds sing.

As for the bar vending machine, they already make 'em - I've seen them at tradeshows. They never sell that well. Something to do with a machine lacking the charm and personality of a real bartender...

December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris the Bartender

aha, lovin the comeback to the hater chris :) (Y)

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRich

haha this is by far the best thread ive ever seen!!
im definatly gonna go for the tip before technique!! i know if someone tipped me before they ordered..man i would high five them there and then and be straight into their order!

June 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Wow, I never thought of tipping big on my first drink, and it's a great idea. I mean I do find myself waiting around for a my drink for a while, and I do tip pretty well at the end, so maybe tipping big on the first drink is a good idea to get me that special treatment. Makes sense.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

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