Bartending, on its best day, can be the most fun you will ever have at work. There are a lot of variances to bartending and many places to work. However, if you’re primary goal is making the most money you can, here are some suggestions that might work for you:
Choose the right place to work. The best place to make the most money as a bartender is in a high volume, cash-only venue. Bartending is great, most people tip $1 a drink per drink.
A Tip Jar Always Helps. Grab a bucket and stuff it with a handful of dollars. Keep the bucket visible. Some venues won’t allow you place a tip jar in a noticeable spot. This is unfortunate, in my opinion. Tip jars remind people to tip and you’ll find them tipping more generously as the night goes on if you take good care of them. Having the ability to place a tip jar front and center while serving a wedding, for example, can turn a low-earning event into a high-earning event. People want to know what to do and they want to do the right thing. A tip jar is a symbol that tipping is the right thing to do. A tip jar flowing with cash says ‘tip more!’
Know your drinks and make them with flair, shake the cocktail shaker with feeling. Look the patron in the eye when you’re pouring their martini. Have a special twist on an old favorite. I made cosmopolitans and poured them over ice, in rocks glasses, only because we didn’t have martini glasses available on one New Year’s Eve. I had a line waiting for my ‘special cosmo’s’ and grateful $20.00 tips.
Keep moving behind the bar. Stay busy cleaning, organizing, preparing while you find time for a few minutes of conversation. I’ve found the more you’re hustling. the more your customer’s appreciate you. If you are slammed and can’t quite get to the next person, look them in the eye and nod at them. It’s a silent signal that says “I’ve got you next.”
Be fast and organized. Organize your bar in a way that works for you, so you can find bottles quickly and easily. I organize from light (vodka, rum, gin) to dark (Jameson, Jack Daniels) when I can. Have your fruit ready, available and within easy reach. Come in early if you have to, even if it’s ‘on your own time’ to set up, slice your fruit and prepare your garnish tray. The investment of your time will pay off later. Remember your regulars’ favorite drinks. Catching their eye and having their drink ready as they approach the bar goes a long way. People appreciate being remembered.
Take care of yourself. Bartending is hard, physical work. You may find yourself sprinting up and down flights of stairs to grab supplies, cases of beer or wine, or running back and forth to cover a long bar. If you feel good, it will show. Your customer’s will be glad to see you looking good and happy. They’ll be sure to tip as you help them celebrate or unwind from their day and spend time with friends.