Tips for Tips
Bartenders are often grossly underpaid in the hourly wage department. In some states they can get as little as $2.30 per hour, and are expected to make money by their tips. That’s great for the bar-owner, but it means that you have to be damned good at your job to make a decent living.
Being good at your job is a great thing. The best bartenders are the ones having fun, enjoying themselves, and showing everyone a good time. They stand out; they often “put on a show”; they’re fun to be around. They’re sympathetic, friendly, or clever; they can often be the focal point of the whole bar. They know all the drinks; they’re faster than a speeding bullet; they remember you from last month when you were here for a conference; they are the engine that drives the entire bar experience.
How to Make Great Tips
- Put your tip jar somewhere prominent; decorate it. Put some “starter” cash in it. An empty tip jar, even at the beginning of the shift, reduces customers’ expectations and lowers tips. If it gets too full mid-shift, have another one ready (with starter cash), and swap them out.
- Keep your area clean and sparkling – nobody, and I mean nobody likes a wet, sticky bar. As a customer, if I put my expensive-suit-covered-elbow in something awful, not only won’t there be a tip, but I might make a fuss.
- Remember your regulars and their favorite drink. Olive? Onion? Lemon/Lime? Cherry? The more personalized the experience for the customer, the better your tips are going to be. Learn to keep four different drinks in mind simultaneously when you’re busy.
- Learn the Nod. People come up to a busy bar wanting a drink. They see you’re busy and are prepared to wait (briefly) but make sure you look them in the eye and give them “The Nod”. It is one of the most vital tools in your bartender toolkit. If people know you’ve seen them, and that they’re on your to-do list they can tolerate more waiting. Nothing is worse than being unacknowledged.
- Be efficient. Minimize wait time. Ask if a customer needs a refill when you spot an empty glass, and garnish everything unless you know your client doesn’t like them
- Tell a joke, or have a fascinating skill; listen and sympathize with someone who is a bit down, but don’t neglect other customers. Excuse yourself, serve your customers, and then come back.
- Have fun. Do some magic, if you can. If you’re enjoying yourself, others will too.
- Flirt if appropriate – it increases tips.
- If you control the music, play something cool, depending on your venue
- Dress well – to impress! Looking good = better tips
- Look your customers in the eye when speaking. Connection/intimacy = tips
- Conjure up something special for an indecisive customer; if you’re not busy, make them something complicated and beautiful. Ask questions to steer them to a decision. “Is it a rum-night tonight, or are you thinking more Bailey’s/Sambuca?” Or even something simple such as “Have you ever tried a Mai Tai?” (My personal “go-to” is what I call a Farmer’s Daughter martini. It’s stark and beautiful. 1 ½ ounces vodka, ½ ounce Goldschläger (remember to shake the bottle—the objective is to give them some actual gold in their glass), and apple juice sufficient for the large martini glass. In the shaker, with cracked ice, strain it out then pop the lid, and give them some ice chips to float on top.)
- Be approachable and sport a friendly demeanor. “Hey! How are ya tonight? What can I get you?”
- If it’s a fun, casual bar, put a little dollar-store basketball hoop over a tip jar near the bottle rack and offer free beer if someone gets a balled up bill inside.
As you can see, there’s no end to the things you can do to increase you tips. If people come and go and you don’t have time to build rapport, figure out a way to slow them down. Try starting a dart competition, with a $5 entry fee. All fees are divided amongst the winners (nothing for you!). It keeps people engaged; they stay in the bar for a couple of hours instead of a few minutes; you serve more drinks and get more tips.
The key is to be creative. You will know your environment; figure a way to make it more desirable. The more customers you have, the better your shift will be.
If you want a profitable job in the service industry, where you can meet new, interesting people all the time, this could be your perfect opportunity. Bars are where people get rid of their worries, drop the pretense, and just be themselves.
Enroll now to our online bartending school! Do it now while you’re thinking of it and don’t let this opportunity get away.
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