The Importance of Impeccable Service

Dec. 6, 2019

Be a Bartender First, mixologist second


In the world of craft cocktails, sometimes service can get a bad rap.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about ‘cocktail bars,’ and I can tell you some consumers have had some negative experiences,” said Dan Dufek, Breakthru Beverage Development Specialist.

But, how? Aren’t patrons enjoying a high-quality cocktail? That’s the reason they came out to the bar in the first place, right?


“What happens is there are some bartenders out there that are so focused on the drink, they fail to make a meaningful connection with the customer,” Dufek said. “You need to be able to do both—and do them both well.”

While an excellent cocktail might bring the customer into the bar, Dufek explained, excellent service will bring them back. Unfortunately, too often, the hospitality element of the “cocktail bar” gets overlooked.

“Making a good cocktail doesn’t make a you a good bartender.”

“Making a good cocktail doesn’t make a you a good bartender,” Dufek said. “You’re supposed to be a bartender first, and a mixologist second. There are many, many places that do this well already, but I see opportunities for others to shift the focus of the overall experience back to hospitality.”

The bartender-first motto is one that Dufek stresses with bar staffs all the time when they visit the Alchemy Room at Breakthru. While someone may love the craft of making cocktails (mixology), the most important aspect of the experience is being a bartender, and that means focusing on the service.

So, how can bartenders make sure they’re serving innovative cocktails while also channeling their inner Sam Malone? Dufek has a couple of tips any bartender can put into practice.

Head Up vs. Head Down

This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s important and often ignored—especially during high-volume hours.

“You need to keep your head on a swivel,” Dufek said. “You always need to be scanning the bar.”

The simple act of regularly making eye contact with the customers you are serving goes a long way to keeping them at the bar and interested in your bar program. Remember, they aren’t just there for the cocktails, they came to your bar to get high-quality service as well, and they can’t get that service if the bartender’s head is buried in their work.

Communication: Verbal, and Visual

This also may seem like an obvious one, but proactive communication is one of the first things to go when the service tickets start stacking up high.

“Even if you’re super busy, when you see a new guest, you need to make sure they feel acknowledged,” Dufek said.

What’s at stake, you see, is that customer bailing on the bar if they feel like they’re being ignored.

“You can pause really quick on the drink you’re making, and just tell them, ‘Hey, I’m finishing up some drinks and then I’ll get right over to you,’” Dufek suggested.

Even making eye contact, followed by a nod, goes a long way and will keep your guest calm and interested.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Sometimes, the little details can make a big difference.

“The two bartenders I learned the most from taught me to always do the little things that may sometimes get forgotten, or that not even every customer will notice,” Dufek said. “Refilling waters, wiping down the bar between each guest, or placing fresh napkins down for each drink creates a better experience for the guest.”

Contact your local Breakthru Alchemy Room to talk to people like Dan who can help take your beverage program to the top shelf.

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