Bartending can be a rewarding profession in many ways, but beginners should know the job isn't about just making drinks. It's got a lot to do with how you handle people. One of the top skills you need to master is the ability to read your guests. The ability to understand why a guest comes to the bar is a part of this. Generally, a drinker will fit into one of the following four categories. Once you know what your guest's "type" is, you'll be better able to suit his needs.
The Socialite—She comes to the bar to see and be seen. She's an extrovert; her visit to your bar is the highlight of her day. She'll do whatever it takes to be to be the center of attention. Unfortunately, she thinks everyone else is there for the same reason, so she's not very good at respecting others' privacy needs. Sometimes she gets jealous when the bartender— as is necessary— shares his time among other guests. Feed her the attention she craves, but don't be hesitate to set boundaries. If you don't, the Socialite's antics will annoy other guests and most likely suck you dry emotionally.
The Escapist—He's the quiet one, an introvert. The Escapist comes to the bar to unwind. He'll bring something to occupy his time, like a book, or a laptop. More than just something to focus his attention on, his distraction serves as a warning to others: please don't disturb me. The last thing he wants is to do is an encounter a Socialite and be brought into a group conversation. The Escapist genuinely wants to be left alone, which makes him the easiest guest to handle. Give him lots of space. Protect him from others who want to engage him and he'll be your customer for life.
The Casanova—This person comes to the bar with only one thing on his mind: romance. He's on the prowl, looking for a one-night stand. If none of your current guests meets his immediate interests, he'll pull out his phone and start looking for love on social networks. Be careful of the Casanova. Too much drink can give him false confidence; before you know it, he's hitting on everyone in sight. It can be a real turn-off and your guests will think twice about their next visit. It takes a lot of energy to keep your eye on the Casanova, but do so, you must.
The Drunk—She isn't leaving until she's as intoxicated as she can get. The Drunk doesn't mind hurting other people's feelings while she's there. If you call her out on this, she'll tell you she's just being "honest." She'll keep drinking until she's the loudest person in the room, until she's slurring or stumbling. At least this makes her easy to identify. This is the most difficult guest to handle, by far. Her impaired state makes her unpredictable and dangerous, not just to herself, but also to others. The Drunk honestly doesn't know how to quit drinking. She an addict with no self-control. Don't let her get away with it on your shift. You have to be able to know when she's had enough, to cut her off before she becomes a liability. Remember the safety and comfort of your guests is part of your responsibility as a bartender.
Hopefully, knowing these four "types" will help you figure out the reasons your guest comes to the bar. Keep in mind that everyone is there to get intoxicated to some degree; it is a bar, after all. Also, guests might have the tendency to drift into other categories depending on their moods. But deep down, you should know the overriding reason each of your guests comes to visit you. A better understanding of your guests' mentalities will make you a better bartender.
For more info: The author of this article dispenses drinks and wisdom late weekday afternoons at Dallas Eagle.
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