Customers are people too, just like you and I, though often it’s hard to remember that fact. Our job, by necessity, separates us from the people we serve. This separation tends to invoke an ‘us versus them’ attitude, which is especially reinforced when we are super busy. It is extremely difficult to see customers as unique individuals with different needs and emotions when 30 of them all show up at the same time and expect service, but we still have to make it happen.
My guest today is Todd Carnam. Todd is the beverage director at The Interval in San Francisco, where we recorded this interview. Him and I used to work together before he was in that role. Todd and I had a great conversation about empathy in the context of service, and how to use those ideas when you find yourself in challenging situations with guests.
Check out our conversation in the player below or wherever podcasts are found, and please hit subscribe in the player of your choice to stay up to date with our weekly conversations with bartenders about all kinds of different challenges. Read on after the break for more.
If you find yourself with a challenging customer, take a second to think about where they’re coming from, why they are there and why you’re there. It may seem weird, but when we start thinking about the happiness of others instead of only focusing on our own happiness, it actually just makes everyone happy.
It’s easy to get burnt out in this industry. So much of what we do is mere drudgery. It’s repetitive and it can wear us down after a long time. It is difficult to stay inspired and creative when you work behind the bar. One way to stay inspired however, although maybe not the easiest, is variety and movement. My guest today, Suzu, is an expert at career movement.
Suzu has worked in the industry since he was a child, helping out around his grandparent’s family restaurant in Tokyo. Here in San Francisco, he’s worked at more bars than I can count including some legendary cocktail bars like 15 Romolo, Tradition(now Zombie Village), Wildhawk, Bellota, Benjamin Cooper and, more recently, Bon Voyage. Suzu has also dabbled in brand work, competitive bartending with USBG World Class and Bacardi Legacy and more. “I have to stay active, I need to be doing a million different things,” Suzu said, “Even as a kid, I was interested in the arts, but I was also playing competitive soccer, I was in the Boy Scouts, I was doing this and that all the time, and I still feel that way, I guess.”
By constantly moving around and staying fresh, Suzu stays inspired and creative in his career. He not only finds variety from bar to bar, but at bars like Benjamin Cooper, where we recorded this interview, the menu changes constantly and the inspiration is flowing as freely as the booze. Suzu was originally pursuing an education in visual art, but today he uses that same artistic creativity behind the bar, which also helps him stay inspired.
Check out my interview with Suzu in the player above or wherever podcasts are found, and hear what he had to say about his career and how he stays fresh. Be sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player, we have new conversations every week. And please share us with your friends and colleagues in the industry. This is such great information for everyone.
Let’s face it, our industry is unhealthy. We’re physically exhausted, we don’t sleep well, we keep weird hours, we live on salty junk food and we drink all the time. We have to bring the party, it’s our job, but we often get lost in the party. We become the party and we don’t know when the party ends. We all feel like we will live forever and we can keep going and never stop, but sooner or later it’s going to catch up with us. Our unhealthy lifestyle is not sustainable.
But our industry doesn’t have to be so unhealthy and although it seems impossible to get better, we can make huge progress just by making some simple changes. It doesn’t mean the party has to end, we just need a little more balance. My guest, Tanya Clark, had many great suggestions for small things you can change that will make your life as a bartender much better, healthier and more balanced.
Tanya has been in the industry for 14 years and she knows how unhealthy and unsustainable this job can be and how little support there is for bartenders and hospitality workers. She’s seen close friends and colleagues suffer serious medical issues as a result. A few years ago she felt she needed to do something about it and on a whim attended a yoga class. She knew right away that she found what she was looking for. Recently, Tanya became an operating owner and partner at MOXIE Yoga & Fitness in San Francisco, where we recorded this episode.
Tanya is also the founder of Jigger and Dash Wellness, a health and wellness program aimed at serving the hospitality industry. Tanya leads yoga and fitness classes, as well as talks about mental health and financial planning that fit the schedule and needs of working bartenders. “Self care should be more of a priority than a luxury,” Tanya said, “Because if you don’t take care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of anyone else?”
Hey folks! I thought I’d try something new for this episode. I got some feedback and I decided to start doing shorter summery style episodes every few episodes. There is a ton of information in the interviews and it’s hard to remember everything, so I’ll lay out the key points in these recap episodes to make it easier to remember. We learn better through repetition anyway.
Maybe I’ll turn all of this into a book or training seminar someday. We’ll see where it goes. You’re 86 is always evolving and the goal is to help our industry grow. Please leave comments below or email me with any suggestions. I welcome the feedback and want to know what you’re interested in.
So check out the much shorter Episode 4.5 in the player below, on this page, or wherever podcasts are found. Make sure to hit subscribe and share us with your friends and colleagues. Read on after the break for some quick tips about everything we’ve learned so far
Below, you’ll find some quick tips for dealing with the situations we’ve talked about so far. Think of it as a reference guide. You can even print it out if you want to.
I’ve always found it ironic that our business is to sell people alcohol, but we also have to make sure they don’t get too drunk. We want them to buy more so we make more money, but we can’t sell them too much because it causes problems—The worst being that they will kill themselves or someone else. The drunker they get, the more childish they become, and have you ever tried to tell a child they can’t have more of something they want? It doesn’t go well. At least children are tiny and tire easily. Drunk adults have a much greater capacity for bullshit and it falls on us bartenders to deal with it.
Cutting off guests who’ve had too much is one of the most common challenges bartenders have to face on a daily basis. It’s never fun, it’s never exactly the same, but if you are prepared and you approach the situation as an opportunity for good hospitality, cutting someone off doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
My guest this week, Andrew Meltzer, has had a lot of experience cutting people off and he had some great advice to share. Andrew was the 2016 World Class bartender of the year, president of the San Francisco USBG chapter and he is currently the beverage director at the brand new Noosh restaurant, where we recorded this interview. Before Noosh, Andrew managed 15 Romolo, an amazing Spanish focused bar in the North Beach neighborhood. 15 Romolo is a nice place, but it’s literally surrounded by strip clubs and dive bars with loud music. Not that there’s anything wrong with those places, it’s just that the neighborhood tends to facilitate over doing it and that spills up the alleyway through the doors of the bar.
Check out my interview with Andrew in the player below, on this page or wherever podcasts are found. Make sure to hit subscribe to stay up to date with all of our great conversations about the biggest challenges in bartending. Read on after the break for some more in depth advice about cutting off drunk customers.
We bartenders are responsible for the safety of our guests and we have an obligation to make sure nothing bad happens as a result of us serving alcohol. “Say that person goes out and causes damage or drives their car drunk and kills somebody,” Andrew said, “There are laws that make you liable for even the death or damage.” These laws are called Dram Shop Laws, and they are slightly different in different states or countries, but they generally place some level of legal liability on either the staff, the establishment or both for the actions of guests who are over served and cause damage.