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Standard Operating Procedures for Bartenders

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Whether you've been tending bar for years or are new to the alcohol service industry scene, you're smart to research ways to successfully navigate your next bartending shift. Know what to do at each step of your shift and you'll have an enjoyable evening that feels less like work and more like fun.

Before Work

Customers expect a lot from a good bartender -- and appearance is no exception. Before reporting to work, be sure that your uniform is clean and wrinkle-free. Once at work, keep a bottle opener, a few pens and a towel close at all times. Wear a server's apron or bib. If it's standard operating procedure, clock in through the restaurant electronic time card system. This is crucial, because breaks, tips and other details are tracked through point-of-sale systems.

Take Stock

A well-stocked bar is key to a good day at work. It's hard to sell booze when you don't have it. Many restaurants establish a "par stock," or baseline number of bottles to be kept at the bar. Bartenders from the previous day should place all empty bottles in a centralized location, such as beneath the bar, to be traded for full bottles before the next shift. This helps management or purchasing bartenders maintain the appropriate stock throughout the week. Also, prepare any additional items needed to make often-ordered drinks, such as oranges, lemons and cherries.

Working with Customers

Whether on a relaxed Tuesday night or a slammed weekend, bartenders work with people constantly. Create a welcoming environment and know that your drinks are just part of the process. Closely follow your state's drinking laws, which require staff serving alcohol to ensure that drinkers are of the legal age -- and refuse or discontinue service to those who are visibly intoxicated. Employees can often be held personally liable for serving underage or intoxicated customers.

Money Management

Be sure that you are adept at handling cash and credit card transactions. It's customary to ask bar customers whether they'd like to keep a tab open. When accepting cash, return change in small denominations to ensure the best chance for a tip. Increase your odds of receiving a tip by offering best practices in customer service, such as never touching the rim of a glass and remaining attentive to all customers, even during extremely business times.

Closing Up Shop

The famed closing time requires some attention to detail. After closing out all tabs before customers leave, a bartender completes a lot of tasks before leaving for the night. Most bars have an end-of-shift checklist that includes cleaning walk-in or reach-in refrigerated areas, and making sure that all glasses, utensils and hard surfaces are immaculate. Finally, check with the closing manager to ensure that all pre-opening and post-closing accounting is accurate. Any shift-related accounting discrepancies should ideally be resolved before the following business day.

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