For many, bars are sacred spaces. People go to them to make memories, and to forget.
They visit them to unwind, and get revved up. They hang out in them to catch up with old friends, and make new ones. And even though San Francisco has a long history with weed and psychedelics, this has always been a drinking town.
That’s why it’s dumbfounding that so many people have no idea how to behave in bars. I don’t mean getting too drunk and becoming a sloppy mess. I’m talking about the etiquette that goes a long way toward making it a better experience for everyone. Like so many parts of our culture, there’s an unspoken social contract that, if followed, helps things run smoothly and ensures everyone has a good time. Apparently, since these things remain unspoken, fewer and fewer people know them. That’s why I’m here to shed some light.
Tip your bartender and your server. I know you know this, but I’ve seen way too many crappy tippers lately. Tip at least a buck a drink and more if the drink is complicated. If you’re ordering a round, tip 20 percent. Most bartenders and servers only make minimum wage, so tipping ensures they can continue to do their job. Plus they’re also tipping out the barback and any other staff you see. Is tipping a ridiculous system? Yes, but unfortunately it’s the system we have. Tipping poorly, or not at all, does nothing to change that system, it just makes you a bad person. Plus the staff remembers bad tippers and you will get worse service in the future.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about ordering drinks. If you are ordering from the bar — instead of from a server — there are several ways to speed up the process.
Know what you are going to order. You’re waiting for the bartender’s attention right? Use that time to get prepared. Figure out what you want to drink and have your entire group’s order ready as well. Waiting until the barkeep gets to you to gather your group’s order just slows down everything.
Have your money ready. This is along the same lines as the previous point. Waiting until every single drink is in front of you to fumble through your purse or wallet also slows things down. Be ready to pay as soon as the drinks arrive.
Don’t order drinks then walk away. That’s just absurd. Why would you do that?
Pay cash. I know this is 2019 and most people don’t carry cash with them, but if you know you’re going out to bars, grab some from the ATM. Cash transactions are way faster because they don’t rely on credit card processors. Even if the difference between paying with cash and with a card is only 10 seconds, that time adds up – six transactions at that speed is an extra minute of time not being used to get your order. If you don’t have cash, open a tab and pay it at the end.
Stop ordering fancy drinks. I know that craft cocktails are in right now and that there are a lot of incredible ones. But if you’ve been waiting 20 minutes to be served and then order a fancy cocktail that takes two minutes to make, you’re part of the problem. Save all the mixology for weeknights when the bars are less crowded and there’s less of a demand. On weekends stick to shots, beers, and simple two-part drinks like vodka and soda or whiskey and ginger ale. That way we don’t all spend our entire evening waiting in line.
Don’t ignore the bartender and then get annoyed when they aren’t serving you. The bartender’s main job is to serve as many people as possible in the least amount of time. If you’re looking at your phone or talking to your friends or flirting with someone, the bartender is going to skip you and go right to the next person who is ready. This isn’t their fault, it’s your fault for not being prepared.
These rules are super simple. If we all make an effort to follow them everyone will be far happier and we’ll be spending more time with the people we intended to hang out with and less time jockeying to get a drink.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. He has been working in bars and restaurants his entire adult life. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list: http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.