Tyler’s Two Cents: Thoughts from Behind the Bar is a weekly lifestyle column, written by Tyler Bernadyn, that will appear every Tuesday on What’sUpNewp this summer.
Since the 1650’s, the pineapple has represented a symbol of hospitality in Newport, Rhode Island. Captains returning from the Caribbean would place the fruit on their doorsteps to signal a safe return to port and to welcome guests into their home so they may share tales of the trip and sell fresh goods. Today, the pineapple logo can be seen throughout town and serves as a reminder of this century old tradition of warm welcome.
Newport has quickly established itself as a destination city that hosts thousands of new visitors every year. Whether it’s a wedding, family vacation, business trip or leisurely holiday, it’s imperative that we, as hosts to new guests, extend that same tradition of warm welcome that has defined Newport for hundreds of years. It is easy to get away from the thought of true hospitality and to put the notion in the back of your mind, as we become cultured by our daily work routines, seemingly going through the motions a few weeks into the busy summer season. However, we must do our best to stay focused on giving exceptional experiences to each and every guest. Danny Meyer said it best in his award-winning book on hospitality, entitled Setting the Table, where he suggests, “Business like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”
As the summer rapidly approaches, it is important to remember a few key points and words to live by over the course of the next few months. Hospitality refers to the relationship between the guest and host, in which the host greets the guest with etiquette and entertainment. The focus resides exclusively on the guest, something that may be lost at times during a busy summer. Listed below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts that serve as a humble reminder of what it means to be a ‘hospitality professional.’
1 – As difficult as it may be at times, always be nice to your guests. At the end of the day, they are the ones who are paying your car insurance, your rent, your cell phone bill and your credit card, etc.. Sure, dealing with tourists and out-of-towners on a daily basis becomes overwhelmingly monotonous and downright frustrating but this is what we signed up for and what we know to expect. Some of these folks save up all year to take a vacation and they chose Newport for a reason. Be that reason and remember why they’re here, to have a good time.
2 – Be nice to one another. We’ve all been knee deep in the weeds during busy services and things can get stressful. Working in the service industry undoubtedly shaves years off of peoples’ lives. No matter how many things are out of our hands, we can control how we treat our fellow colleagues. We are all on the same team, striving for the same goal, to make money. Approach situations with a smile and remember not to take our your frustrations on your co-workers, we’re in this together.
3 – “There’s only so much one person can do and it all ends eventually.” These wise words were uttered to me by one of my mentors when I first started working in the hospitality industry. Keep your head down, work as hard as you can and stay positive. The beers taste that much colder after a busy shift anyways…
4 – Take pride in your work. Whether it’s a Kennedy dressed in a Seersucker suit who just stepped off his million dollar yacht or Joe and Jane Smith from Guam sitting at your bar, they both deserve your best. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and don’t give someone less than what they deserve. Food and drinks sell themselves, it’s the experience that guests remember the most.
5 – Be cool as a cucumber. As busy as you may be, own it. If you look flustered and disoriented, you’re more than likely going to go down in flames, as well as make yourself look agitated and ruffled to guests. We get to pour drinks for a living, how cool is that?! We are in the drivers seat and constantly on stage. Be organized, be an entertainer and remain calm, cool and collected.
6 – Bartenders are everywhere, great bartenders are few and far between. Anyone can make a cocktail but service is the key to a satisfied customer experience. Ask questions, make suggestions and guide your guest through their time at your establishment. If they want 7 Blue Hawaiians, don’t laugh in their face, just make the damn drink the best way you know how. If they ask you for a recommendation, give them an honest response. It’s not about you, it’s about the guest.
7 – Be patient. If you go visit a friend at their bar and they’re two tiers deep, relax. They see you. They will get to you. Being in the service industry, we need to be understanding of such situations and fortunately in Newport, many of us abide by this age-old unspoken rule.
8 – SMILE. SMILE. SMILE. It honestly makes all the difference.
9 – Introduce yourself. I know that I personally don’t like to be whistled at, waved down or called “barkeep.” Eliminate the possibility of this situation by telling your guests your name at the beginning of their experience. That way, formalities are understood and respect can be given. Use this as an opportunity to build relationships with your clientele and establish new regulars and keep old timers coming back for more. There’s nothing more satisfying than walking into a favorite bar and having the bartender know your name and what you drink waiting for you upon arrival.
10 – Have fun and love what you do. No explanation necessary.
We are all extremely fortunate to live in such a beautiful place with such a deep sense of community. It’s only right that we welcome everyone with open arms and show them why we love where we live.
Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.