Remember when Tom Cruise killed it as a bartender in Cocktail? Even if you’ll never have a cheering crowd of admirers roar over your poetic-speech, there are a few things you can (and should) try to make yourself even more fantastic.
Start with What You Know
As a bartender, you know drinks. While many people come in knowing what they want, some are often looking for something cool and new. Find out what flavors appeal to them, and what they typically drink. Then, surprise them with something new and give them some background on how you came to know and like that particular drink. Not only is it a great conversation starter, you’ll have shown off your knowledge and make them want to stay for more, and come back with friends.
Eavesdrop and then Jump In
From an early age, we’re taught that eavesdropping is rude, but in your case, we’re making an exception. If you’re looking to engage with the new group of customers that just walked in, make their drinks, start a tab and then listen for opportunities share a relatable story or your knowledge of relevant facts, and then entertain them with your revelations.
Keep Something in Your Back Pocket
Inevitably you will encounter the dreaded “spare” setup (yes, that was a bowling reference) when every bar customer is a single without a friend to talk to. To get everyone in on the conversation and keep the singles from departing quickly, be ready with some type of trivia, game or trick. Stay away from polarizing subjects like politics or religion. Sports trivia (like which four NFL teams won more than 100 games in the 1990s – it was the Chiefs, Broncos, Dolphins and well, go find out!) is often well-received, as is general local trivia.
Include Your Regulars
Do you have a regular night or nights with a strong outpouring of regulars? Consider encouraging everyone to participate in mini-events anything from a “book club” (ok, so you might not actually read it at the bar, but get people talking), to a Secret Santa to a shared monthly “Birthday Party”. Getting others in on the act will help take the pressure off you to come up with interesting and engaging ideas and motivate your regulars to stay connected with you and your bar.
Take It Online
If you’re doing fun things, bring them online with your favorite social media. Make your regular Monday night shift into its own Instagram account and share your events, activities and general fun through pictures. Tag your regulars and customers to get them in on the fun and maybe get a little extra exposure to their friends and followers.
Not sure how to get started? Every bar, and every bartender, is different. What works for a sports bar won’t be the same as an upscale lounge. Trying out different things within the context of your bar’s brand will help you get a gauge on what will help you be successful long-term.