People often ask, what are the biggest mistakes I see new (and experienced) bartenders make when working behind the bar. My answer is usually summed up in 2 words. The handshake. I don’t know if there are too many germaphobes out there but the handshake seems to be a lost art. Don’t buy into this because it is one of the most powerful tools a bartender can use.
I’m always amazed at people’s reaction when they sit down at the bar and I extend my hand. I introduce myself, get their names and shake each customers hand. A lot of people seemed generally shocked when I do this. When I mean shocked, I mean it in a good way. Most customers are pleasantly surprised when I offer to shake his/her hand. The handshake accomplishes a few things:
1) It establishes a relationship with your customers.
People do not come into a bar because they love the way you crack open a bud light. They also don’t stop in because you make the best captain and coke they have ever tasted. They come to a bar because they want to have a good time. If they come in and don’t like the bartender, they will never come back. It doesn’t matter how good you are at making appletini’s, if your customers don’t like you, they will not come back. By extending your hand you are making them feel welcome.
2) Establishes a first name basis.
I often hear bartenders complain that they can’t stand when people raise their hand, snap their fingers or say, “excuse me”. My next question is; “Do they know your name?” The answer, most of the time (if not all) is no. Now I will admit that some people are just rude, impatient and obnoxious when they need a drink. But some people may just need your attention and are not sure how to get it. If you introduce yourself, you eliminate people doing weird and annoying things (you know who you are) to get your attention. When I’m working behind the bar I would much rather hear “hey Pete” as opposed to “hey bartender”. If you learn your customers name(s) they will love it when the next time they come in and you say “hey Bill, how’s it going?”
I’m going to be completely honest and say that I don’t shake every single customers hand when they come into the bar I work at. Sometimes, I’m so busy I simply don’t have the time. But I try to do it as often as I can. If you look at most bartenders, none of them do it at all. If your new bartender and want to be a great bartender…..the handshake is a great start.