When making conversations with your guests, it is important to remember to keep them quick as well as neutral. You want to connect a little with your customers, but you also have to remember that they are not the only ones that you are serving or mixing drinks for. As busy as you may be with other customers, you’ll probably only get in a few sentences at a time. But, before making small talk with patrons, you should know that there are a few subjects that you don’t want to bring up, especially as a bartender. In order to keep the peace at your bar or table, don’t talk about politics or religion.
You may be asking yourself why these are bad topics to converse about, especially since they are very open-ended ones where folks can give many opinions. Religion and politics are topics that simply don’t mix well with alcohol, at least not at a public bar. People tend to feel overly passionate about these subjects, and the alcohol in their systems only intensifies this affect. These two subjects can vary greatly from person to person, and can be really tempting to touch on in the moment because initially you may think that the talk will get juicier and juicier as it gets deeper and deeper. A new bartender or server may even be inclined to believe that they will get bigger tips if they talk about politics or religion. But the truth is that it’s a recipe for disaster; this is especially true when or if your customers get a little tipsy during a heated conversation with opposing viewpoints.
All servers and bartenders will not be big talkers – it may not be a strong point in their personality. If this is you, don’t fret…you can still make really good tips, even if you are a quiet person by nature. There are lots of subjects that almost everyone enjoys talking about. And, at a bar or restaurant, you will hardly ever go wrong if you bring up the topics of Sports or News (remember, though, if you decide to talk about news, make it current events, not politics!)
But then there is the other problem…what if you are not a sports or news expert? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be. You have all you need right there at the restaurant or bar. Nine times out of ten, there is a newspaper around somewhere. All you have to do is browse the headlines that catch your eyes the most. Then, when you see the opportunity, ask your customer(s) did they hear about that story or ball game. They will probably end up buying even more drinks and food if this type of fun conversation gets good!
Also, there is nothing wrong with telling a joke or two every now and then. Many servers and bartenders try too hard in this area, becoming wanna-be comedians behind the bar in an attempt to collect bigger tips. Most patrons can see right through this, and could possibly label you as acting “fake”. Be genuine. Be yourself. And, if you tell a joke, be sure it is tasteful and doesn’t offend anyone. In fact, if you even think it may be border line, don’t tell the joke.