Bartender: What can I get for you?
Guest: I’m not sure what I want. What do you recommend?
Ask any Bartender and they will tell you that this is a scenario that happens regularly. There are plenty of guests who are looking to the bartender for a recommendation on something they know to be delicious, unique, and new. Of course, there are those guests that just can’t make a decision on what to have (even though they have been flagging you down for 15 minutes). The point is, bartenders have a lot more influence on sales than they are usually recognized for.
The Bartender makes direct repeated contact and is one of the most powerful influences on a future fan of your brand. They are one of the most important parts of building brand loyalty in the beverage industry, and interact face to face with hundreds of people a week. They are your brand ambassadors and it seems to be a consistently overlooked avenue to achieve future sales and market share.
Sales reps who regularly visit their clients always stand ou, and usually interact with the Bartender before meeting with the Proprietor. It has been my experience, that when a brand rep builds great repertoire with the bartender, that bartender is more likely to regularly recommend that rep’s brands and brews. Unless the owner is working some shifts behind the bar themselves, the bartenders have significantly more interaction with the patrons, and sometimes, have a much stronger relationship with them.
This valuable opportunity to expand the brand and market share in this way is under recognized, underutilized, and under appreciated. For instance, with Vodka, there are always several brands available and a bartender usually has a go to brand when the customer asks for an upgrade from the well. If you consider that a bartender can interact with as many as 500-600 potential end users in a busy shift, then it becomes clear how many opportunities there are to build brand recognition, and that is in just one bar on just one night!
The best brand ambassador that a distiller, brewer, or vintner can have, and should utilize, are the bartenders serving their product. I have been in this profession for over 16 years and I assure you that bartenders can play an important and instrumental part in your in your success, or failure. It is something that is both concerning and frustrating. It is a powerful position that carries a lot of opportunity for very little extra effort.
I hope that with one of the biggest days of the year in the industry fast approaching, you see just how hard bartenders do work and how skilled you must be to do it well, especially under the amount of pressure and physical demand required on a day like St. Patrick’s Day. It is not simply a job, it is a profession and not just anyone can do it, so remember to take care of your bartenders. After all they are the ones you want taking care of you.