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Bartending 101: Conversation Do’s and Don’ts for Bartenders


Jackie Prange

Bartending 101 means knowing the basics of small talk just as much as it means knowing how to mix a great drink. So if you’re a bartender who knows how to make a mean cocktail but can’t seem to come out of your shell for the other part of your job, you’ve come to the right place. 

Here are some bartender do’s and don’ts for a great conversation between you and your customers.  

Do master the art of small talk – with icebreakers. 

Some people are just naturally great at creating conversation – and others need to have some icebreakers in their back pocket. Here are some great icebreakers to start conversation with your customers:

  • What are your exciting plans for the night?
  • Are you from the neighborhood?
  • Is this your first time here? or I see you around a lot, you must like the place!

Don’t engage in discussions about politics or religion. 

Keep it light! You never know who’s sitting on the other side of your bar, so avoid sensitive subjects altogether for a frictionless customer experience. We’re living in a polarizing time, and odds are your customers are out for a night of escape, not to defend their beliefs or have to deal with yours.

Do keep up with current events. 

While you want to avoid politics, that doesn’t mean you won’t want to talk about current events. People love to learn new information, and you could be the one to transmit a great little nugget of knowledge that your customer can use to impress their friends. Whether you talk about the game that was on last night or an upcoming holiday, timely topics make for effortless and interesting conversation.

Don’t be aggressive in your attempts to converse. 

There are extroverts, and then there are introverts. While some patrons are happy to chat with their bartender while they’re sitting at the bar, others want some silence with their alcohol. You’ll need to “read the room” when you’re striking up conversation with your customers, so you can sense whether or not they’re responding to your attempts at chit chat. If they’re not, serve them a drink with a smile and move on.

Do be kind and compassionate. 

As the saying goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” The same holds true for your patrons. For some, you may take on the role of the therapist; for others, your company alone is enough. When a customer feels like they have a friend in a bartender, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer and leave hefty tips.

Don’t be impatient. 

There’s nothing worse than asking a customer, “What can I get you?”  before they’ve had the chance to settle in or read a menu. Don’t fret – they will place an order. To start just ask them how they’re doing, then occupy yourself with a light task to keep you from hovering while they make a decision.

Do know the difference between attentive and smothering. 

You can safely assume your patrons want to sit back, relax, and enjoy a great drink. What they don’t want is to try to get your attention or receive too much attention from a chatty waiter. Know the difference between these two extremes and deliver accordingly. 

Your patrons are paying for booze, but they’re tipping for service. Ensure yours is top notch by keeping these bartending basics top of mind during your shift. Mastering the art of small talk will benefit you behind the bar and beyond – and we’ll cheers to that!

Now that you know how to be a good bartender…

Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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