Bartenders reveal 10 things they notice when a person walks into a bar

·5 min read
Barman pouring fresh alcoholic drink into the glasses with ice cubes on the bar counter.
Bartenders share what they first notice about their customers. Maksym Fesenko/Shutterstock
  • Insider asked several bartenders to share the things they first notice about their customers.

  • They said they try to read patrons quickly to figure out how engaged they should be for the night.

  • Bartenders also note manners, group size, and attire to determine their drinks and repeat business.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

To give you the best service possible and keep their bar under control, bartenders observe a number of things when you walk in.

Here are the things bartenders take notice of when you come in for a drink:

Bartenders pay attention to your mood

Bartenders often notice their customers' disposition, whether they're in high spirits because they just received good news or in a bad mood because their workday sucked. 

When bartenders notice your mood, they can recognize when they can help cheer you up or offer a word of support, according to Ash Miyasaki, bartender and bar director of Bar Henry.

They try to gauge how long you might stay

They can usually tell guests plan to stay a while if they sit down at the bar right away. If they choose to stand, they may be waiting for more people. 

"If they are going to be staying for any length of time, it gives the bartender an opportunity to get to know the guest and form a relationship to create return business," said Nikki McCutcheon, bartender and beverage director at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge.

Your pace lets bartenders know how to best accommodate you

It's important for them to figure out if customers are there for a leisurely experience or not. This way, they can then do their best to match their customers' pace.

"It helps us know how quickly we need to push through our steps of service so that you are neither waiting too long for anything or being moved through so quickly that you are made to feel rushed," Miyasaki told Insider.

Bartenders pick up on your manners - or lack thereof

"Obviously, in addition to being trained in service and there to help you, bartenders are just people, which means we have feelings and are very quick to pick up on how you behave towards us as soon as we start interacting with you," Miyasaki said.

She added that the bartender and guest interaction can be so gratifying when everyone is there to have a good time, making it a great experience for both parties.

They note how engaged you'd like to be

"We also try to take notice of whether you actually seem interested in engaging in conversation or being left alone to enjoy your drink with minimal interaction," Miyasaki said. "Of course, either is totally fine."

Some patrons come in after a long day and just want to decompress. In other instances, others go out to be social. 

"It just takes us getting a quick energy read on you to know if we should really engage or serve you and let you be," Miyasaki added.  

They can tell if you're accustomed to bar culture

Bartenders will notice whether guests seem comfortable, and it's their job to keep an eye out for those who aren't, according to Isabella Marriott, head bartender of Bar Beau.  

"When you approach the bar and look over the menu, we tend to clock whether you are confident, bewildered, or somewhere in between," Miyasaki said. "It's our first clue-in to whether you know what you like and if you know how to order a drink, which helps us figure out how to best approach serving you."

They're probably aware if you're on a first date

Bartenders will not only figure out how to best serve you and your date but also know when to chime in to get the conversation going, Marriott said. 

"Sometimes, for a first date especially, I end up being the ice breaker," Marriott told Insider.

She added that she starts with small talk to get people more relaxed.

"When I have to bow out to take another order, they're left to continue the conversation we all started together," she added. 

They notice who you're with

Bartenders may take note of your group and its demographic to try to target specific wants and needs. 

"Groups are usually celebrating something which can translate into champagne service or upselling larger format beverages, wine, or cocktails," McCutcheon told Insider.

Bartenders might look to see if you're dressed professionally

Bartenders also notice if guests are in business clothes. This helps them determine if they live or work in the area, which could turn them into frequent guests, according to McCutcheon. 

"They may work in the area, and if the bartender or staff is able to form a good relationship with the guest, they can turn them into a regular," McCutcheon said.

"Similarly, it may attract other business from their office, if they have a good time."

They check out what you brought

If someone comes in solo, bartenders might check out what they brought with them.

Having a laptop, book, or newspaper could suggest the guest is coming in to kill time or do work, so they'll be sitting at the bar for a while. Based on that, McCutcheon explained, bartenders can come up with better drink suggestions. 

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