Thursday 14 June 2012

Diary of a Barback - Movement

My initial inclination in working behind a bar, especially one as narrow as mine, was to be very careful in my movements not to bump into things or the bartenders. Similarly, I was so afraid of breaking bottles or glassware that I was grabbing one glass per hand to keep everything safe. Moving carefully with small steps and taking extra trips is apparently the wrong way to move behind a bar. The lead bartender on Thursday nights informed me fairly early on that I should be taking big steps, reaching for things instead of necessarily walking up to them, and making as few motions as possible to accomplish whatever I'm doing. This will ensure that I'm not only getting things done faster, but also that I won't be getting in the way as much.

If you're putting back glassware, grab handfuls (within reason, it's obviously worse to break something). Take big steps. Reach from the side of the wells to water rather than trying to wait for the bartender to move and then swoop in (because he's probably coming right back and will be annoyed that you're in the way). Do anything to complete your tasks quickly, efficiently, and of course, stay out of the way.

This also hits home one of the biggest parts of your job as a barback or a bartender - pay attention. Try to always be aware of where the other staff are, where the customers are, and everything that's going on. This is obviously a separate topic altogether, but for the purpose of this one, if you're moving quickly and reaching for things, it's integral to the entire operation that you know exactly where your co-workers are so you don't bump into each other and have accidents.

Anytime you move beside or behind a bartender, say "behind" or "beside," and even tap them on the back. Anytime I'm near a bartender I touch their back or shoulder so they are aware that I'm nearby. What if he's holding a $150 bottle of Scotch and is turning around to put it back on the back bar right as you're zipping behind him with six wineglasses? If he hears "behind!," he won't turn around until he knows you're gone.

Move efficiently, pay attention, let people know when you're near.

[ Again, I encourage anyone and everyone to make comments, email me, tweet me, or whatever. I hope this is a good resource for barbacks and those aspiring to do so, but also an opportunity for bartenders to give feedback, insight, and maybe share some pet peeves]

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