How to Get a Drink at a Busy Bar

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Drunk Fella:
“Hey Chief! Chief!”

My co-worker:
“If that guy calls me ‘Chief’ one more time, I’m
cutting him off.”

As I write
this, I’m sitting at my bar, just off of work on a Friday night.
I feel sorry for my co-worker; I’m the one who got Drunk Fella
that way.


What Drunk
Fella doesn’t know is that he is being ignored on purpose.

When Mr. McKay
asked me to write this article, I had to think about it for a couple
weeks. I really had to talk to a lot of bartenders I know to find
out what their process is for getting their customers drinks. Do
they just start at one end of the bar and work their way down? Does
a regular get served before someone they don’t know? Do friends
take precedence? Or do they just serve the loudest guy first, in
an effort to get him to shut his trap? After talking to a few co-workers
and fellow bartenders, I think I’ve got it down to a few key

1. Always,
always, tip.

An elephant
never forgets. Neither does a bartender (or waiter, for that matter).
If you don’t tip well, or at all, you are automatically on
the bottom of the list. And don’t play games with your tipping,
either. If you pay cash each round, tip with your change. Don’t
pull it all back and then tip at the end of the night. Tipping is
expected, no matter how much you think of it as “extra.”
If you start a tab, tip when you pay at the end of the night, or
when you get your rounds with whatever cash you happen to have.
Either will do! Both!

be honest: if you don’t have money to tip, go to a liquor store,
buy your favorites, and watch the game at home. If you don’t
have money to tip, you don’t have money to go out in the first

a tip: tip big on the very first round. I have a customer that hands
me a $20 bill after he’s paid for his first drink. I take care
of him until he leaves. He often gets refills before he’s even
done with his last one. I take care of him because he’s taken
care of me already, and no matter how busy it is, I always have
time for him.

And guys, your
phone number is not a tip. Give my female bartenders out there a

2. Know
what you’re going to order before you start yelling for service.

I’ve gotten there just as your group has approached the bar
and I’ve asked you what you’d like to have. If you’re
the one who ends up ordering for the group, I understand if you
don’t know what everyone wants. That’s why I have no problem
waiting for your order if I’ve approached you. But if it’s
super busy and you’ve finally gotten me over to take your order,
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. There is nothing worse than hearing you call
for service for a few minutes and when I get there, you don’t
know what you are ordering. I can’t stress this enough. In
the time it takes you to figure out what everyone is drinking, I
could have filled two other orders. All that time spent yelling
for service should be used for figuring out what your group wants.

Case in point:
for some reason, I always end up being the “order guy”
for my group. Last time, we had a new person with us and I didn’t
know his drink, so I asked him BEFORE we got to the bar. When the
bartender came over, I rattled it off to her, she quickly called
my price, and I paid her. She took my money, ran to get the drinks,
and brought them back with the correct change. The whole thing took
5 minutes. Because I tipped well, the next time, it took 2.

We understand
that if we approach you, we’ve caught you off guard and you
may not know who needs what. But if you’re yelling, waving
your arms, slapping the bar, trying to get our attention, then we
get there and you don’t know what you want, understand that
we’re a bit unhappy.

the rest of the article

12, 2010

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