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Making it in the Service Industry as a Bartender or Server
Being on the front lines in the service industry has its pros and cons: you get to see the best and worst of humanity, but the money can be incredibly good. However, just because there’s the siren song of riches doesn’t mean everyone who enters will necessarily grab the brass ring. Here are the top do’s and don’ts of working in the service industry.

Do: Have an Open Mind and Good Attitude

As a server or bartender, you will run into all types of people. And while it’s bunk that “the customer is always right”, they do pay your rent and bills. Good service should always be there, but keep in mind that the people who frequent your place of work are parting with their hard-earned money because they want atmosphere and good service. They could just as easily have their food and drinks at home, but they’re choosing not to because they want to experience something different and better.

Don’t: Look at Customers as Dollar Signs

There’s a scene in the movie Up the Yangtze where one of the main faces working aboard the cruise ship, Jerry, is seen bragging about having figured how to milk the passengers for the most amount of tips.

He gets fired.

Both your managers and customers expect you to treat others like people, not like ATMs, so always focus on that.

Do: Make Suggestions


A good server or bartender will, after a bit of chatting with the customer, be able to make a couple of suggestions that match the customer’s preferences. If you’re a bartender, narrow it down by asking if they want something strong (e.g. hard liquor) or weaker (e.g. beer or liqueurs), bitter or sweet, and fizzy or still.

If you’re a server, recommend the daily specials, ask about allergies, and share what your favorite dish on the menu is.

Don’t: Be Pushy


While it’s alright to make a couple of suggestions, don’t go overboard and push the customer into ordering what you think they should instead of what they ask for. They’re here to eat or drink what they feel like, not act as a proxy for your preferences.

Do: Pay Attention


Customers at bars hate nothing more than lining up and then having someone else taken in front of them. It happens all the time, and it’s the quickest way you can earn yourself a tiny or non-existent tip, as well as bad press. Do whatever it takes to learn faces and who got to the bar first. The only time you can break this rule is if you have a customer who tips extraordinarily well, like 100% of the drink’s price or more.

Don’t: Sulk Over Low Tips


Not every customer is going to tip you the standard 15-20%+, so lose that expectation right now. Working any job that pays the rent is a privilege, as far too many of the country’s unemployed will tell you. Count yourself lucky if you make enough tips to lift you above minimum wage, as you’re making more money than 4.7% of people at or near the federal level, and 6.7% of people who don’t make anything because they don’t have a job.

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