Cocktail Dive #2: Welcoming People To Your Bar

Copy of Dive-squashed

How To Welcome People Into Your Bar

Welcoming people into the bar sets the tone for your patrons’ entire visit. Are they greeted fairly and properly? Are they given the opportunity to sit where they please? Most importantly, have they been given place settings and a menu so they can start their night off right and begin doing what they came here to do?

The most important step to welcoming anyone into your bar is eye contact. Look new visitors in the eye, show them some of the open seats, give them the opportunity to be seated in the middle of the bar where all the action is, and get a menu and napkin in front of them so you can take their order right away.

As a bartender or bar operator, you never want to be too buried into your current task. Always be prepared for someone to be asking you for drinks or assistance and never neglect them for what you’re currently doing. Your current task is merely what your body is doing while your mind is onto the next task already and assisting your patrons.

Always Look Out at the Bar

When you’re mixing half-a-dozen Long Island Ice Teas for that big party that just walked in, it’s your job to be scoping out what has to be done next. This includes seeing who needs a drink or a refill but especially who might be walking into the bar.

This means that even while you’re mixing drinks, you’re ready to take the newcomer’s orders immediately — even while you’re mixing drinks for the other party unless they’re engaging in conversation with you. Even when people are talking to you while you’re making refreshments, it’s important to continue serving everyone equally so no one feels like they’re a burden to you while they’re trying to enjoy their night.

Since you’re constantly scoping out the place you have the greatest idea for where the hot areas of the bar are and what is going on in the establishment.

If a group of younger guys come into the bar, they’re probably looking to flirt with girls or mingle with other patrons at the bar. By predicting their situation, you’re able to accommodate them and suggest a place to sit which would remove all the friction they may be feeling while walking into a new bar where they don’t know anybody.

If there are four of them, suggest the four seats right in the middle of the bar next to so they can have a good view of the entire bar and make conversation with who they please.

Perhaps earlier you noticed that a group of ladies took a seat toward the middle of the bar — although it’s not your job to be everyone’s cupid love-doctor, it’d be a great service to place the gentlemen near a similar group so they can mingle, enjoy themselves, and feel comfortable in your bar.

Further, when you find an couple who may only want a few drinks as a nightcap, you can suggest they sit near the corner where they won’t be bothered and they can talk amongst themselves.

Seating people as they come into your bar is not something many bartenders do but it’s a secret ingredient that leaves patrons much more comfortable and that much more eager to come back to your bar. Having their backs as they’re enjoying their night is a huge progressional step that creates some of the most hospitable servers.

Eye Contact

Always remember: at some point, no matter what, everybody’s eyes are on you. You never know who’s analyzing you or reviewing you but you are always being critiqued. Something like this should not discourage you but only encourage you to perform and keep you on point.

You always need to be keeping your eyes on everybody. Never be glaring at someone in the corner of the bar or looking at the floor.

The only two places your eyes should ever be are on people’s glasses or on their eyes.

Open yourself up and ensure that everybody in the bar is comfortable with you. You can accomplish this by looking at people while they’re ordering and giving them your undivided attention. Even though you may be stirring up other drinks while talking to someone new about their order, you shouldn’t be fumbling around your station looking for a straw while talking to them but instead have a clear idea of where everything is so you can multi-task in a way that results in a nice cocktail and another happy patron who got their order in.

Acknowledgement & Nodding

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to flag down the bartender and put in your order but they’re going a mile a minute and you can’t seem to fit in their schedule right now.

The two possibilities, while you’re in this valley of uncertainty, are that they’re either genuinely not seeing you or that they do see you but haven’t gotten to you yet and you’re in their queue.

Always be sure that you’re acknowledging somebody flagging you down. There is no worse feeling than sitting at the bar for ten minutes after you promised your buddies a couple drinks and you’re not getting served — but the misery only piles on when they don’t even think they’re going to get served eventually.

A simple nod or wink at the patron showing them that you’ll be right with them takes a lot of stress off of them and now they can rest knowing that you are on your way to help them. This creates an environment where you’re keeping track of who you have to serve in what order and where the patron isn’t sweating bullets waving at you for an hour so that you’ll notice them and take care of their order.

Opening Lines & Dropping a Coaster

Every person that walks into your bar should be greeted one way or another. The steps should go something like this:


  1. “Hey guys! Welcome to the bar.”
  2. ”There are some seats here at the bar or if you prefer to talk as a group we have the high-tops over there!”
  3. Place some napkins or a coaster and hand out menus.
  4. “Here you go. Take a minute and I’ll be right back.

You want to try and avoid being rigid and dry. Don’t say something like, “Hello, how are you; my name is Nick”. You’re not welcoming people into a job interview, you’re welcoming them into your party; you should be acting as though you’re the host of that party and that you’re happy and excited they have arrived.

Talk to your patrons as if you’re talking to family members.

“Hey how are ya; what can I get ya?” This is a much more welcoming and casual attitude that your customers will appreciate right away since they know you’re just as comfortable as they want to be. Nobody feels comfortable in a stuffy and overly-proper cocktail bar or restaurant. They’ll only feel comfortable when you demonstrate the comfort that you have with them as they’re walking into the establishment.

The process is called disarming. Everyone has their guard up at all times and not everyone is fully capable of relaxing and reaching a level of comfort that they have when they’re in their living room. As the server or bartender, you’ll be

Always Smile

If smiling constantly doesn’t come naturally to you behind the bar, a personality adjustment needs to be made. We all have resting faces that seem unwelcoming — don’t show this side of you when you’re serving people. Imagine yourself as the host of the party and that you’re inviting everyone with open and happy arms when welcoming people to your bar.

Again, your bar is a party and you’re the host. You’d never invite people to your home for a cocktail party and greet your guests with a dull and boring expression. It’s your job to ensure everyone feels warm and welcome the minute they enter your section.

We find that when bartenders are perky and eager to serve, their tips are increased and they have a better time working. When bartenders have a better time working, they also make more money. The cycle of your enjoyment and your success starts with a smile and snowballs from there.

Never Look at the Floor

Again, you’re always being examined and analyzed behind the bar. Since everyone will be looking at you and expecting drinks from you at some and any point during your shift, you should always be looking out and expecting someone needs help. When you’re looking at the floor, you’re uninviting and not excited to be there and your patrons will pick up on it instantly.

Looking at the floor, glaring at the TV sets, and texting behind the bar are all indicators that you have better things to do than serve your patrons. No one wants to tip someone who isn’t fully committed to ensuring a great experience. When you’re involved in the party — while still ensuring you’re hosting the party — you’ll find a perfect balance of work, fun, and professionalism.

You’re Hosting a Party

Your bar is a party — and you’re the host.

When you host a cocktail party at your home, you’ll go through the stages of welcoming, ensuring a good time, and ending the night saying goodbye to everyone. Your duty behind the bar is no different.

While hosting a party, you’ll ensure you’re greeting everyone at the door. This may not be entirely possible when you’re stationed behind the bar, but it’s certainly possible to take a few steps toward new people entering, handing them some menus, introducing yourself, finding them the best seat in the house, and even introducing them to others they might be interested in meeting at the bar — just like at a cocktail party at your home where you might connect people and ultimately ensure a great time for all.

If you’re hosting a house party, you’ll also ensure no one is left unattended to. The last thing you’ll want at your party is for someone to walk in aimlessly and have no direction of where to go or what to do. If you have a pool table in your home, you might mention that it’s available if anyone wants to play — this is also an action you can take at your bar if you find a couple of people who seem to be slowing down and might enjoy a game of pool to continue their evening.

Seating people, immediately acknowledging them, serving them with a smile, and making them feel like kings and queens as they enter your bar will set the tone for their entire visit and will play a huge role in their determination of returning to see you.

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