The Bar Tip Guide with Ryan

This week in Tales of an African Bartender, Ryan takes a look at a few tips on how to endear yourself to your bartender, get better service and enjoy your night out more. Check it out… 

1) Be Cool

Bartenders notice the little things, even when we’re three deep. It’s easy to be nice to the bartender when the place is dead, but when it’s crowded and the music is loud and people are loose, you’re not as anonymous as you think. Be polite. Buy your friends a drink. Buy the old guy at the end of the bar a drink. Be generous. You’re out to have a good time, not to pinch your pennies. Show some class, even if those around you don’t.

2) Be Realistic

Of course I like shooting the shit with patrons, male and female. But with obvious exceptions, your bartender is not flirting with you and your friends because he wants to make personalized love to each one of you. He’s flirting with you because he wants your money. Know this. If you’re that interested (and he or she just might be too …) give them your number and leave it at that. Flirting excessively in such a way that keeps a bartender from getting their work done will annoy them, whether they’re interested or not.

3) Be Specific

Don’t complain after you get your drink about something that you could have told me before I poured it. If you’re anal about how much ice is in your drink, say something BEFORE I make it, not after. We’re not mind readers. If you don’t like the pour, get a double next time — or switch bars.

4) Be Patient

I know you’re there – I promise. If I’m not helping you it’s for a reason. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Whistling, clicking your fingers, waving money or calling me “Chief” are NOT going to help.

5) Tip

Bartending can be a fun job, but we don’t do it for fun. Most bartenders don’t earn a salary or a generous freelance hourly rate. We don’t get benefits, bonuses or expense accounts. What we have is our hands, our wits and you. We rely on your tips for a living, and you rely on us for … relief. Bartending is a unique, symbiotic relationship. So tip, and tip well. If you’re at an event with an open or cash bar, don’t wait until the end — tip R20 on your first drink, and any bartender worth his salt will remember your name and have your drink of choice waiting when you approach, no matter how crowded it gets. A happy bartender will have your next drink before you even ask and will bump you up past the line. He will make you look good.

6) Be Decisive

Don’t ever ask a bartender to “surprise you.” You’re wasting your time. You want what you want, not what we want.

7) Be Social

If you’re sitting at the bar and we’re not slammed, by all means, be friendly. Talk to us. Ask us how our night is going. Bartenders spend countless hours listening to other people’s troubles. They’ll love you for not being so self-absorbed. You’ll get a free drink out of it, maybe two. Trust me.

8) Don’t Try Too Hard

Be careful trying to impress crowds / your bartender — ordering expensive Scotch or yammering about craft beer. Sure, bar owners love when you order a bunch of expensive drinks, but if you really don’t know what you’re talking about or it’s past 2 a.m., all your bartender thinks is that you’re probably drunk and being kind of obnoxious. Plus, if you ARE extra-drunk, you’re just wasting your own money.

9) Learn Your Drink

“Straight” doesn’t mean anything. “Up” and “Neat” do. I can’t make a Long Island strong because it can’t get any stronger. Don’t ask for a martini “extra, extra, extra, dry.” Just say “no vermouth.” In fact, don’t even ask for a martini. Ask for a gin, up, with an olive. Or a twist. Be specific.

10) Be Loud and Clear

Bars are loud. If it’s really crowded, make eye contact, indicate in some way that you are waiting for a drink and not just leaning on the bar. Some bartenders don’t like cash getting flashed, some do – err on the side of caution and be direct.

In the end, it’s your night. Make it worth something, and accept that a lot of it is just part of the ritual — the sacred ritual of unwinding after a long week, or a tough day. We understand, really we do.

So tip, and have a nice evening.

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