“There’s always something you can say that can turn someone away from the bar forever.”
Nicasio “Nick” Loveccio, a Ketel One brand ambassador, said these words during a conversation we had about hospitality. This kind of thought process is the cornerstone of Aqua Vitae Institute wishes to instill--that bartenders have more responsibility than they think, and even though many of our students and upcoming bartenders are young, they need to step out of being irresponsible.. They need to be mature and learn to handle the responsibility of being a bartender.
It’s amazing that even a gesture, that perhaps is made out of kindness and warmth and care for the customer, can be interpreted in many different ways.
In fact, I very much believe that when a owner told me the following:
“When you’re at home you can drink whatever you want, when you’re here you drink my drinks.”
That gesture the owner did has to this very day kept me back from going back. Just to put it in perspective, that was over a decade ago, I don't know if the owner still manages the bar, and I still refuse to go back there.
Yet that’s exactly the thing. Many bartenders do not realize how much influence they really have over their guest and how even the best of intentions can go awry. They are the only person in a restaurant who are responsible for both a front of house house staff, which greets people, but they also have a back of the house portion where they are routinely creating consistently delicious cocktails.
As such, a bartender can act as the saving grace of a restaurant when all goes wrong but also as the point of a disaster when everything else goes right.
It’s important to understand, how in just one moment, a bartender can destroy all the great food that the chef prepared, all of the hard work that the owners put into designing the restaurant, everything the host did to make the guest comfortable, in just a matter of seconds.
You don’t want to be the person who ruins it for everyone. Below are some ways I consciously attempt to avoid these occurrences, however, I’d encourage you to share your own opinions in the comment section and if you disagree with something, I’d really like to know why!
I want to make a distinction between disrespectful language from profanity here, because I don't believe they mean the same thing. You’ve likely met someone who curses like a sailor, but treats people like a gentleman, and you’ve also met someone who uses polite language but is rude and dismissive of people. You have to develop an awareness of the way your words make other people feel.
If you create an environment where everyone is treated with care and respect, you will find that not only will people be respectful towards you, but that they will be respectful towards others. To do this, you have to focus on the needs of the other person. Will the older couple in the bar enjoy the profanity laden music that’s playing as much as the college crowd, if not, can you find a happy medium where they’ll both feel relaxed and comfortable?
When in doubt, it’s always good to tend towards a higher degree of formality in dress, language, and mannerisms.
My mentors have always emphasized that politics and religion should never be discussed in the bar. After reading The Righteous Mind : Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, I gained a new appreciation for the emotional complexity about how people identify themselves as, and the constructional methods used to create that identity.
I really believe that feel this bears special mention because in the age of social media, bartenders are freely airing their political views and broadcasting it to their friends. While in itself, this is nothing wrong, the conversation may overlap into a professional environment. This will in turn, invariably, create a place where people feel unwelcome.
The bar should ultimately be a place where the heavy, dreary, realities of life are temporarily lifted. A place where friendship and goodwill can be fostered in a genuine way. The biggest enemy to this atmosphere may often the culture of the bar itself and how the bartenders define themselves within that culture. No matter how good the bartender is, if they aren’t excited by the opportunity to delight their less knowledgeable customers--if they aren’t equally open minded about understanding different perspectives and worldviews, they will always be limiting their potential.
A bartender’s mission is to step out of that judgement, and despite that provide great service and serve with a smile.
--Ori Geshury, The Director of Education