Whether it’s referred to as ‘The Service Bar Well’ or ‘The Main Well’ it can be either pretty mundane, almost irrelevant even, or complete and utter hell, depending on the type of place you work in. Some restaurants get an initial bar crowd that samples the cocktail list and indulges in that which the wall of liquor has to offer; then they move to the dining room, switch to wine and you never hear from the again as the servers take over. You’ll get an occasional ‘ticket’ for a cocktail but for the most part you get to focus on the next wave of guests that generally tend to stay for dinner at the bar.
Other restaurants have the bar and a bartender merely for the purpose of serving those in the dining room while the bar stools are listening to the sound of crickets. It is those places that more often than not have their selection limited to beer and wine only.
Then there are places that have both a bar crowd and a restaurant full of people, all of which want cocktails after cocktails and more cocktails after that. It is at those places that it’s absolutely crucial that a certain system for taking care of both guests and tickets is implemented. You can’t just have your typical scenario of ‘We’ll play it by ear’ where all bartenders partake in the chaos of talking to patrons, taking orders at the bar and knocking out drink orders for the entire restaurant. That kind of disarray simply doesn’t work in a hectic environment.
Organization is Key; sections need to be assigned and roles need to be implemented. Even so, team work never has to leave the building; in fact it’s best if it sticks around ‘til the last person standing. That ‘person’ not being the drunk girl at the end of the bar who doesn’t want to go home; that person being you, after having survived a 12 hour shift. Only then will you be able to handle a shit-show that is a busy Friday/ Saturday night with flying colors.
Having said that, it gives me great pleasure to report that the current place I work for, very much has ‘The System’ DOWN. The small bar, consisting of only 9 seats is very well designed by those who actually used to bartend and know the struggle of having to travel in every and all directions just to make one cocktail, repeatedly. Said bar is responsible for taking care of bar guests that tend to pile up on top of one another over the weekend, as well as the entire restaurant which actually happens to be huge. It’s a Mexican place so between the incredibly loud Mariachi Band and the endless frozen margaritas, it gets pretty gnarly. Funny enough, there was a point in my life when I actually swore up and down that I would never work in a place that has a blender. I was very adamant about it; “If you like PiñaColadas and getting caught in the rain, then you should throw a party in your backyard with mud slides with sprinklers” kind of adamant. Nowadays it’s like ‘Eh, whatever; you want another flavored slushy with a hint of booze? Here you go and here’s another one with a flower on top. Next!’
While handling the crazies at the bar can be quite challenging, it’s important to not only remain calm but mostly to never sacrifice two very important factors: focus and speed. No matter how crazy it gets you need to just be able to handle it and do so, mostly on your own. Not because the other bartender won’t help you but because the other bartender is swimming in ‘service bar’ tickets that the printer is dishing out more frequently than a Kalashnikov does rounds in an action movie. That very bartender must possess the ability to not only get drinks out there in a timely fashion but do it while dealing with servers that keep either making mistakes, asking inane questions or writing incoherent essays on their drink orders. Not to mention, said bartender has to remain cordial and smile no matter how weeded they are or how their bladder is about to explode because they simply cannot walk away to use the restroom. Being able to stay collected during the biggest of storms is what separates you from the rest; and I can’t give enough praise to my co-bartender – best, most hardcore, hottest chick I’ve ever worked with. It takes a lot of patience to not murder every single person that interferes with your Zen, messing up your ‘flow’, and she manages just fine; above and beyond in fact.
The featured image is what the ticket stabber looks like about half-way through the night. Honestly, the picture doesn’t do it justice. ‘The Well’ is Hell but we handle that shit WELL.