Beverage sales are a great way to increase your check totals. Since that is what your tips are based on, the higher the better. In order to do this you must know your liquor. Not everyone does.
A server’s lack of vital bar knowledge can result in lost sales for the restaurant and lost tips for the server. To prevent this from happening, the service staff must know their product. You need to know basic information about bar drinks and the products your bar has.
Here are 5 different ways increase your bar knowledge:
1. Read your training manual, handbook, or menu.
If you did not get a training manual or handbook when you were hired, skip this part. You’ve been left out on your own. If you did, your manual is a valuable resource. Revisiting your manual after training can help recement the information. As the bar is a profit center for the restaurant, people providing training materials strive for through and pertinent information. That way it is easy to sell drinks.
Within this information, you should be able to learn which beer, wine, and liquor that your restaurant carries. Ideally it will provide a list of draft beers, bottled beers, wine varietals and selections, and different liquors and brands. It is important to know what you have and don’t have because experienced drinkers often ask for specific brands. Should you not carry something, you want to resolve the situation on the spot and provide an alternate.
The manual will also have information about specialty drinks. These are signature items and/or best sellers – often high dollar items – that bring people into the restaurant. As a server, you want to know specifically the ingredients, the brands of liquors, and what makes them unique. If you stumble, you could lose a sale or ring in a drink incorrectly. Thorough knowledge will keep that from happening.
2. Get a bartending book from the library, book store or for your e-reader
There are many out there, including Bartending for Dummies, Bartending Basics, and Bartending 101, amongst others. While somewhat encyclopedic, these books are thorough, providing both basic and advanced information on drinks.
For servers, bartending books are best for their basic information about beer, wine and liquors. The information about beer will provide detailed information about brews, explaining the differences between ale, lager and porter along with other specifics. There will also be a list of currently popular domestic and import brands. There is also information on wine, describing different varietals and comparing and contrasting different wine regions. Lastly there is information about liquors including how they are made, the differences between them, popular brands, and popular drinks that they are featured in. All of this information is helpful.
3. Visit a Liquor Store
By visiting a liquor store, you can sort out a few things. Mainly, you will become familiar popular brands and prices. You will also learn of what’s popular locally. Things at the local liquor store can be similar to what’s at your bar. Liquor stores and wine merchants sometimes have tastings for wine, high gravity beer, and liquor. Tastings will allow you to make recommendations and provide feedback to guests. Another benefit of attending tastings is that you can sample the product without spending a lot of money. Should you want to invest a little of your own money, you can also pick things up for yourself and try them on your own time. Don’t forget store owners, and most especially wine merchants, are a good source of information and like to talk about their product.
4. Talk to your bartenders
Bartenders function as specialists. Like the kitchen staff, they deliver the servers the product. Often times you will get drinks from a service bartender. When it’s slower, they may have time to talk.
They are the best resource for two things: the product in your restaurant and the drinks that can be made. Training manuals contain product information, but the bartender knows what you have right now in real time. If the information is dated or a product is out of stock, they will know. They can help you out with the obscure drink if you get stumped. While you may not always be sure of whether you can make a drink, the bartender will usually know. Bartenders can also educate you on how certain drinks are made and also answer questions about barware and glassware. The bartenders are directly tied to your ability to generate tips, so developing a good relationship with them helps.
5. Take a bartending class / Ask to get trained on bar
One of the best ways to learn is through doing. By taking a class or getting trained to work behind the bar, you will learn the products your bar has and how to make many drinks. This could provide an opportunity to bartend, which could allow you to make more money.
Classes and bartending school can be great ways to learn as well, but they come with pros and cons. The pros are that you will learn and get a certificate to show for it. The cons are you might not get a bartending job and there are many bartenders that never went. For that reason, if you have a choice, I would recommend getting trained on the job ahead of taking classes.
Erik Bullman is a Writer and a Waiter. He has over six years experience in Hospitality and Sales. His blog is writersalesmanwaiter.wordpress.com.