The Entrepreneurial Bartender
When one thinks of entrepreneur images of Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckenburg come to mind. Rarely, does one think of their neighborhood bartender. But that’s what and who I am: A bartender, entrepreneur.
For the few hours that I’m behind the horseshoe-styled bar at Spitfire Saloon, I think of it as my office, my little company and sometimes my home. I’m in charge of the bar-biz kingdom of punk-rock, three times a week. And even before my shifts of reigning, albeit temporary, CEO of the Spit, I clean the bathrooms (which isn’t required by my employer), marinating those toilets and urinals in bleach, and sometimes using my own cleaning products to make the place smell-like fields of lavender (this doesn’t actually work, but I keep trying for that oh-so-soothing smell). I do this, not because I’m cursed with OCD or want to make the other bartenders look bad, as many of the regulars have commented, but rather because I’m an entrepreneur, who cares about the business and you, the customer. And I know you, the patron, will stay longer, drinking more, if you have a semi-sanitary place to relieve yourself, which increases the gross sales during my shift, flower-smelling or not (and of course I wouldn’t want any patron to catch some weird STD, too, from our bathrooms).
And believe it or not, I don’t have a tip-mentality. I have a commission- mentality, based on gross sales, during my shift. That’s what I focus on, GROSS SALES, and driving them higher (this also helps my brother, the owner). I work solely for that commission, which I make by serving people booze at Spitfire Saloon, and I like to think that my potential commission is unlimited—and it’s based on the overall gross sales of the shift, not an individual tip from a “big tipper” or two. Additionally, I want more patrons, creating a new level of commerce, for the singular reason that I like to build, seeing things grow. I get off on that, actually; it’s in my blood.
But building those gross sales is a tedious, never-ending task, especially since I have no gimmicks or the ability to pimp myself out as a sexy-mixoligist-extraordinaire on facebook or twitter, and still don’t know much about the punk-music scene. I do know my limitations. The only thing I have to offer is good service, which is kind of boring I do know in this new age of self-promotion. Actually, old fashioned customer-service is the only thing I have to offer as a bartender, so that’s what I’m banking on, pimping out.
And honestly, I’ve received some negative comments over the last few months, “Stop trying to class the place up!” over the clean bathrooms, re-cleaning glassware, and even serving drinks on a beverage napkin. It seems that some people, regular patrons of the Spitfire Saloon, like bad service, and filthy bathrooms. Often referring to it as “The charm of the place,” and I get that. But, it’s not happening on my shift(s), and I know that’s not very punk-like. So if you’re a patron, sitting on the other side of the bar, I’m going to treat you like a VIP, my guest, regardless of your economic status (or how much you tip me, that first time, or even if you stiff me). I don’t care if you only order a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a dollar, asking for a glass. I’m going to serve you that can of beer with white-glove service, pouring it, for you, in a clean pint glass, placing it on a beverage nap. I know that you’ve worked hard for that dollar, and I appreciate that you are spending it at Spitfire Saloon. And I want you to come back, spending another dollar or two, and eventually, you’ll tip me well, because you are going to appreciate the way I serve you, each time you spend a dollar, at the Spit. I want a long-term relationship with you, not a single $1 encounter.
It took Warren Buffett ten years to make his first million dollars, and I’m not looking to make that much money, as a bartender. All I know is that being an entrepreneur, a successful one, takes a long time and it’s achieved by doing the same thing over and over again, focusing on the long-term, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, with conviction.