Seymour began by defining hospitality as the linchpin of any establishment. In this new Golden Age of the Cocktail, we are trying to raise everything to a higher level -- not just the drinks, but the experience as a whole. Bartending is a job that comes from the soul -- some part of you needs to take care of other people. How do you make a guest feel at home in your space? Nothing happens by accident. A bartender is a facilitator of good times by making a community and giving comfort and a sense of welcome. And with that lead-in, Seymour handed the reins over to Santer.
Santer began by comparing and contrasting coffee shops and bars. At coffee shops, there is a counter, a transaction, a making of a drink, and a hand off just like in bars; however, in coffee shops, people are very happy to wait in line for their drink. Whereas coffee shops are orderly in the wait, bars are chaos. So how do we control the chaos and make things more manageable? Consider the layout of the space. First, strive for a symmetry -- something that we are hardwired to appreciate. While asymmetry is interesting to the eye, symmetry is in the end calming. Small things like having all the bottles on the backbar clustered logically by spirit type, all bottles facing the same way, and no pour spouts on these display bottles. Recognizable brands, whether on the shelf or on the menu, provide comfort; too many obscure brands can be discomforting to the guest. Lighting is also very key since sight is a dominant aspect of the bar and restaurant experience; we often worry more about the taste of drinks than how things look or sound. For example, Santer's bar has multiple dimmer switches to regulate the feel of the space.
Simo was next up with his take on how to prepare your environment for service to communicate that you have the guest's best interest at heart. No interaction at the bar is more important than the interaction with the bartender. The bartender is the linchpin and helps to shape how guests will view your establishment. Guests will return if they (1) have something delicious and/or (2) have great service. Mastery of the environment is crucial, for the bar is a tough work space. Starting as a host, busser, barback, or doorman will help; support roles help to form your sensibility. Copping an attitude makes things harder for the staff, as such negativity creates an us-versus-them mentality and tone.
Simo listed important skills for looking out for your guests. Preparation. Anticipation -- don't wait to be asked. Order and familiarity -- if you don't know where things live, you look foolish, and guests are reading you to gain faith. It is perhaps easier to go from the blindingly fast world of club bartending to craft cocktail bartending than it is to start as a craft cocktail bartender and learn speed (such as without jiggers). The club environment teaches both speed and efficiency of movement. Working in a variety of bar environments is helpful for other reasons. For example, learning to cut people off and be thanked later instead of offending the guest or even starting a brawl is an important skill. Moreover, one learns gentler ways to cut someone off when the average guest in question is a large, tough, burly one. Preparation also includes guest banter, and Simo devotes two hours each day to reading with at least half of that devoted to booze for this purpose. The rest can be newspapers, websites, and books (loosely related to booze). He does not read to be an expert but to figure out how to ask intelligent questions to a guest. The bartender can be the expert or can give their guests a moment to shine. Knowing about restaurants, television shows, neighborhoods, and home team sports schedules is important. Even if working service, a bartender needs to look past the drink rail, for the job is to serve guests; the ability to multi-task will help both guests and co-workers alike.