Ways to Make More Money Bartending

Being a bartender can be a pretty fun and enjoyable profession. It can also be pretty lucrative given the right approach.

bartender following

Being as though the majority of a bartender’s income comes from tips, it is important to provide excellent service and leverage the very best customers to build a good bartender following.

A considerable amount of bartenders get into the profession as a second or third job, yet many are left wondering how to turn that part-time bartending gig into a real money maker.  Well the best way to do that is to get the very best tippers to come back to see you over again and to get customers to refer others to you.   So how do you build that loyalty and a following with customers?  

First impressions are the best impressions

It is important to know that first impressions are lasting impressions.  There are 3 rules to follow with any customer.

     1.  Greet the person as soon as they sit down.  Acknowledging their presence right away helps them feel valued and important.

     2.  Ask them for their name and tell them yours.  Be sure to remember their name and address them by the name they provide when taking their order and engaging in dialogue.

     3.  Ask them one simple question, “how is your day going?”  Even though you may not truly care, saying this will get them to think that you do care and this goes a long way in customer retention.

Take it serious

No matter how you got started with bartending, or how you view the job long-term, it is a profession and needs to be taken seriously.  Be sure to do the following:

Be professional

Bartending is your job and you must be competent person at all times even in a bar environment. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, just means you have take your profession seriously and continue to improve your craft.

Don’t make things too personal

It’s important to get to know the customer and that means that some conversations may get personal.  It’s pretty common for this to happen in a bar setting, just be careful about sharing too many details about your personal life.  Be sure to protect you and your brand while learning as much about the customer that’s useful.

Good service can equal good tips

It is common that good service equals good tips.  Smile often, listen, and set expectation from the start.  Yes it is hard to provide quality service and meeting all the different customers demands at the same time.  But by setting expectations and doing so with a smile, people will understand and not get frustrated if things are taking longer than they expect.  They will appreciate that you took the time to explain.

Create and track weekly income goals

Figure out how much you want to make during each shift.  Take into the consideration the following factors:

  • Morning vs. Nights
  • Weekdays vs. Weekends
  • Events vs. Non-events

Once you factor in this, factor how much you can make for each scenario.  For example, with morning shifts you typically make $300 vs. $450 at night.  Now you’ve determined how much you should make during each type of shift, write down you weekly income goal and then compare how much you made at week’s end.

 For example, your monetary goal for the week may be $350 for a morning shift and $500 for a night shift. At the end of the week you made $375 in the morning and $450 for nights.  You can download this spreadsheet to keep track of your goals vs. actual income earned.  The objective is to figure out expected vs. real income.  Once you start tracking and monitoring, you can decide if you want to raise or lower your goals weekly/monthly/yearly.  Set weekly goals that challenge you and track them moving forward.

Figure out the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Influencers

It is important that you learn who your customers are and do so quickly.  There is a reason why they visited the bar so you figure out why by listening effectively.  From there, mentally place them in 4 distinct buckets to determine who will get the majority of your time when you get some down time.

The Good

The good customers tip well because they recognize the value of a good bartender.  You will know who they are and if you show them great service, they will be back to tip well again.  Spend the majority of your time in conversations with this type of customer.

The Bad

The bad customers may not tip well.  They probably are not bad people, they just may not understand the value of a good bartender.  Listen closely to their concerns and leave the door open for a return.  They will take more time to win over than ‘the good’ so spend time conversing with them but not as much as ‘the good’ customers.

The Ugly

The ugly customers may not tip at all.  Provide good service but don’t spend much time in conversations with this type as they will waste your time.  You don’t have much time with customers so make it count.  And don’t feel you can ignore this customer completely as others are watching.  Be sure to treat all customers with your professional respect, just don’t spend too much time with ‘the ugly.’

The Influencers

The influencers are potentially your biggest assets.  They may not tip good or bad, but if they like you and appreciate your service, they will tell others about you and that means more referrals coming through the door and more money in your pockets.  If someone visits you at the bar as says, “Susie told me about you,” this shows the referrer is an influencer.  Be sure to spend time with an influencer almost as much as you do with ‘the good’ and don’t be bashful about letting them know that referrals and good tips are welcome.

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In part 2, we will go into more details of how to build a following as a bartender.

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