Making People Happy
Let's talk about our customers for just a minute, shall we? Maybe more important, let's talk about how we have been treating our guests lately. Yes, I said guests...that's right, as in guests in your home. It is my opinion that is the way you should treat the people that walk into your bar. They could have chosen any bar, but no, they chose yours, and it should be for them just as if they had been invited into your home. How would you welcome guests in your home? At MY house, we greet our guests with a hug. Think about that---a hug for every guest in your bar. OK, maybe not literally, but figuratively, emotionally, with the warmth that you would normally reserve for people you love. Now THAT is a proper greeting! In the raging torrent that is today's bartending renaissance, as thrilled as I am about our exciting new world, I can't help but worry that we are getting so caught up in technique, in recipes, even in education, and particularly when enveloped within our newly massaged egos, that we may be losing perhaps the single most important aspect of the hospitality industry---hospitality. Treating every guest as you would like to be treated when you go out, making the effort to make them feel welcome, taking the extra step to exceed their expectations, showing them a good time...making them HAPPY! That is what we are supposed to be doing behind our bars. Perhaps no one shared that part with you? It really is not your fault. I was lucky. I was mentored by old pros that knew no other way to live. For sure I learned from some of them how I never wanted to act, but from others, how I hoped one day I could be perceived. You see, I learned early on that I have a sickness deep within. I am so sick, that I live to make people happy. I figured out a long time ago that I take great satisfaction from the immediate gratification I receive when I turn a bad day into a good one, turn a quiet night into a party, turn a normal evening into a memorable experience for someone, or turn a disgruntled guest into an elated one. I realize that this gratification is actually selfish on my part, because indeed it is making ME happy as well, but that is the type of selfishness that, over many years, and much meditation and introspection, I have come to terms with. I worry that young bartenders today are not always having the emphasis of this all-important aspect of our craft imparted to them. I worry that with all of the focus on technique and recipe and the in-depth knowledge and widely diverse avenues for training, and the fame and fortune that has befallen some at a relatively early age or experience level, that perhaps we, as the mentors and those that have paved the way for this incredible new age of our profession, have failed to instill in our protégées the necessity and the value of what may be the most vital of all character traits---heart. Tending bar is one of the last professions that actually still requires being mentored. It is a true apprenticeship system of learning, and really, the only way to advance, is by learning the ropes from a professional behind the bar. That says it all. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us not to bemoan the young generation that maybe is not always "getting it" the way we think they should, but rather to take responsibility for their actions as well as for our own. It is up to all of us to mentor, and to be mentored, and it is up to the head bartenders and managers and employers to set the standard, to not accept less, to hire bartenders who have warm HEARTS and who live to serve. If that does not describe YOU, perhaps there is another career path you are better suited for...in this, OUR CRAFT, it is mandatory, and nothing else should be acceptable. We live to serve, and we serve because it is how we make our guests happy, and we cannot be happy unless every guest is happy. For the first time, for many of us, in our lifetimes, we have finally begun to earn some modicum of respect for our profession. We are finally, at least sometimes, being treated like professionals, not constantly being questioned about what we will actually do once we grow up, or how we intend to make a living once this passing phase of our life has come to a close. I, for one, have chosen this as my profession, and I am damned proud of it, as are all of my partners at BAR, and many of you, whom I call colleagues, students, mentors, friends, and even my brothers and sisters. Just remember that we can never demand respect. We must command respect. We do this with our professionalism and our performance, and that is essential to the future of our profession, as well as crucial for our personal self-esteem, BUT, while we are performing, we should always be doing so with the sole intent to make people happy. This is what it takes to be a great bartender. The techniques, the skills, the recipes, and the knowledge can all be taught, and that is what we are trying to do now, through Barsmarts and other educational programs that are setting a new bar for excellence. All of us at BAR just want to be sure that we...YOU... never lose track of what it takes to be a great bartender. Heart. We DO have the greatest jobs in the world. Cherish every second of the time you have behind the bar. It is a gift. To learn more about what a bartender really is, read our brother and fellow BAR trainer Sean Kenyon's blog: http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2011/08/bartender.php (or just show up in Denver and watch him work!