You Got the Job, NOW WHAT?
Shawn Soole
December 22, 2006

A Newbies survival guide to surviving the first night

You have gone to the interviews, preening yourself to make that best first impression. The interviews were sweat induced 20 questions from the upper echelons of the restaurant. But you beat the gauntlet and now you have the job that everyone wants, bartender. What can you do to prepare yourself for that first inevitable moment of truth? Follow the 6p’s – Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

1) Get yourself looking pimp.
Go out and buy yourself the most comfortable, water proof shoes you can find. You are going to be standing in an inch or two of water for hours on end. Spend the money and you will be thankful later. If you have to wear all black like the majority of bars, buy yourself some nice pants. Make sure they aren’t too expensive, the first night you wear an expensive pair of pants you will get bleach on them. You are on show for the customers and the most important thing is to always look your best.

2) Research the drinks list.
Organise to take the wine and cocktail list home with you and try to learn as much as possible. I have worked in bars with 75+ cocktails on the list and you weren’t allowed to work the night unless you could name 5 cocktails that the boss asked you. Most bosses won’t be that hard on you on your first night but you never know.

3) Get there early and listen.
Regardless of what experience you have or what fancy bartending school, you are new and you have never been there. I have worked with too many bartenders that come in on the first night and think they already know how to do it all; I have been guilty of it myself. Listen to the “alpha” tender; learn the nooks and crannies of the bar plus the regulars. The regulars are the bread and butter of any business and the bar industry is no different. Try to get the current bar staff to introduce you to all the regulars, this will make your solo nights run a lot smoother. Give the regulars something that the other bartenders can’t and they will come back for you.

4) Get ready for the rush.
If you have gone to Bartending School or been a bar back for a while, you should have some efficiency processes in place. Efficiency is something I can’t write about or give you pointers, its something you learn from experience. Everybody does their “thing” differently; you will learn what is the best and quickest way for you to set up your well & the way you do your orders. Just be prepared to screw up because you will its natural.

5) Enjoy yourself.
It’s your first night, there will be stress, there will be times when you are sweating and the servers are yelling at you over dispense. But IT IS your first night; no one will be hard on you except maybe yourself. The worst thing you can be is hard on yourself, learn from your mistakes and become the best bartender you can become.

Anything I write about here can only prepare you for a tenth of what you are going to experience. But you are getting in this industry for fun times, the mateship and the lifestyle. You want to make people happy with your service, your knowledge and your personality. You will probably have a million first nights throughout your career and each will be different with a separate amount of issues and problems. You will deal with them and you will have fun because that is why we are here.