Ask Aqua Vitae Institute Part 1

By Ori Geshury

I'm having some trouble with my first bartending job.  It's at one of the most popular fine dining bars in Center City Philadelphia and I'm working with some great people. I get along really well with the owners and the senior bartenders but I'm having trouble with one of the junior bartenders.  He insists I make drinks differently from the way I've been taught by the senior staff, limits my customer interaction, orders me around more than the senior staff, and generally gives me a tough time.  I'm trying to think of the best way to resolve the situation.  Should I confront him about it?  Should I go to management?  Should I just grin and bear it?

Answer:

Even the best bartenders have to work in a team.  If it's a great bar, they'll always start you off at the bottom of the totem pole because there is a lot of information to learn.  Some of that information is written and that's the easy stuff.  But most of what you have to learn isn't written down.  It's how the team works together and their individual personalities, how they handle being under stress and in the weeds.  It's what bathrooms to use, it's the squeaky door that needs to be checked and oiled if need be everyday.  In short, it's the culture of the bar and every person in it. 

In this particular situation, it's a pretty simple answer.  You learn what the junior bartender does and do everything you can to support them in doing the best job possible.  If you have a question about a recipe, or a change in protocol from another bartender, you can ask them politely about it, but always defer to the bartender you are working with.  Some bars are looser than others, no matter how great the reputation is, but all bartenders will have quirks and wrinkles and habits that differentiate them. 

One of the worst things you can do is to go up the chain of command and complain.  New hires are evaluated for their ability to fit into the existing culture first and foremost.  Later, when you are an established and valued part of the staff, you can work on improving communication and cohesion. 

Related: Bartending School