Buy you a drink? Proper Etiquette at the Bar
We’ve all been there: out at a bar getting drinks with friends. The place is packed, and the bartender is working to keep up with the endless barrage of drink orders coming in.
How do you make sure you’re being polite – get the bartender’s attention – get on their good side – and ultimately, get your drinks?
Honor Thy Bartender
First up, here are some tips on how to get on a bartender’s good side, so they’ll want to serve you before the others who are clamoring for drinks.
The first chance you get, ask for the bartender’s name, and USE it! Everyone likes hearing their own name. It will help the bartender remember you and want to serve you quickly throughout the evening.
Use the proper nonverbal signals. Make eye contact with the bartender. Give them a smile and a subtle wave that says, “I know you’re busy, but can you help me out?” DO NOT wave money or credit cards, snap your fingers or engage in other obnoxious attention-getting behavior. This only guarantees the bartender will put you last on his or her mental list … or even worse, wait so long to serve you that you eventually decide to leave.
Cash is King
Bring cash, and tip generously…especially on the first round. Even if you open a tab and plan to pay with a credit card, your bartenders will appreciate being tipped in cash. This helps them divide the tips at the end of the night and helps ensure they get to keep more of their tip money—because credit card companies take a percentage of payments – including the tip amount.
Guys & Gals
Keep in mind, even if you do all of these things right, there may be some subtle gender-based issues in play at the bar. Female bartenders may tend to go to male patrons first, and male bartenders to females. After all, a little flirt never hurts to help the time go by or earn bigger tips!
And remember, even if the bartender is rude to you – ALWAYS be polite to them! After all, they hold all the power and determine who gets to drink and who doesn’t. Remember that they have a stressful job—especially when the bar is busy. The kinder you are to them, the more likely they are to remember it – and give you quick service.
Round & Round
If you’re in a bar with a group, the best and most efficient way to keep the drinks flowing is for everyone to take turns buying rounds. If you buy a first-round and the cycle of reciprocity doesn’t continue, then don’t feel bad about discreetly buying your own drinks for the rest of the gathering.
And of course, if a friend buys you a drink, say thank you!
Accidents are bound to happen in crowded bar settings. If you spill a drink on someone or accidentally cause them to spill their own drink, apologize, and offer to buy them another. If someone spills a drink on you, don’t overreact. After all, it comes with the territory. Graciously accept their apology, get cleaned up the best you can …and if they buy you a drink to make amends, graciously accept that as well.
As a safety precaution, always be sure to keep your drink within your sight … especially in crowded bars. Unfortunately, people with criminal intentions do occasionally “spike” other people’s drinks. Don’t give them an opportunity to victimize you.
Don’t Be “Those People…”
As is the case in any social setting, the best way to determine the best etiquette approach is to “read the room.” If it’s a raucous sports bar or music venue, then obviously, louder talking and laughter are entirely appropriate. If it’s a more formal or sedate setting, do your best with your group of friends not to be disruptive.
People send subconscious signals about how open they are to a conversation from strangers in bars. For example, if you sit at the bar, you could be perceived as more accessible and available to chat with new people. If you’re not in that kind of mood, consider sitting at a table further away from the bar.
And last but not least, monitor your cell phone use! Going out to a bar with friends is a great opportunity to “unplug” and catch up face-to-face. So log out of social media, lift your face up out of your screen, and engage in some good old conversation!
If you’d like to learn more about how to have impeccable etiquette at the bar or in other social settings, be sure to explore our etiquette courses and cheers!