- Large groups can make a bartender’s job difficult when they demand separate checks, expect special treatment, and don’t know what they want to order.
- As a bartender, I often treat big groups better when they make my life easier.
- Here are the nine most annoying things you can do at a bar when you’re in a large group, and what you should do instead.
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In the service industry, large groups have always had a bad rap.
Whether it’s a beer-league team winding down after a game or a bachelorette party painting the town red, the phrase "the more the merrier" doesn’t always hold true for those on the other side of the bar, like me.
Recent changes to how the IRS classifies certain tips have raised the stakes — and anxiety — of serving a big group. Since 2014, bars and restaurants have been financially incentivized to stop charging automatic gratuity for large groups. That means I can bust my butt to provide good service to a group, to the neglect of my other tables, all for a horrible tip that wasn’t worth the effort.
However, there are ways to make your bartender an infinitely bigger fan of your big group, despite our anxiety over the lack of an assured gratuity.
And there’s something in it for you, too. When I’m feeling charmed by a big group, I’m more likely to suggest cool items that aren’t on the menu, give honest opinions of what’s on the menu, dole out small tastes of my recommended spirits, and gush about the best spots for you to hit next.
A really happy bartender might even "forget" to ring in a drink or upcharge on your tab.
With that in mind, here are nine of the most annoying things you can do at a bar when you’re in a big group, and what you should do instead.
Don’t get separate checks in a huge group — have one person cover it, or split the bill evenly.
Flickr / Hakee Chang
It’s hard to convey just what a difference it makes in the night of a server or bartender when a big group decides to close on one card, or multiple cards split evenly.
This is the area most rife with time-consuming processes, mistakes, and solutions to mistakes that are also time-consuming.
You haven’t felt pain and anxiety until on a busy night you’re having to find — and make room for among a graveyard of glassware — nine check presenters and nine pens, and then wait for a chip reader to process nine credit cards, all while you’re 10 orders behind at the bar.
It is precisely because the separation process is so exquisitely agonizing that you can make any bartender love you before you even order one drink.
How? By telling them up front, "We’ll be on one tab."
Although in real life I’ll politely smile, swipe your card, then ask what drinks what you’re having, in my mind I’ve fallen to the ground in giddy relief muttering "Hallelujah."
However, maybe your big group isn’t ready to take the bold step of one tab. Maybe Glen still refuses to download Venmo. And Andy only has $100 bills. That’s OK, as long as you follow the next piece of advice.
If you must get separate checks, don’t nitpick small errors that may inevitably arise.
I understand if you don’t want to pay for your buddy’s $95 shot of WhistlePig Boss Hog, birthday boy or not.
But if I’ve put your $10 Four Roses Small Batch on his tab, and his $12 Four Roses Single Barrel on yours, please politely pretend that my work and memory were flawless, and don’t request another round trip to your table to fix it.
If I’m dealing with a party of two, it’s no big deal.
But if you’re in a large group and this happens, my brain is already sweating in its bone box from the thought of the 10 minutes it will take to swipe — and manually enter the cards that inevitably won’t swipe — your large group’s divvied-up tab. A typically menial task will feel in this case terribly burdensome.
You can always make up the difference in the tip if you’re determined to keep things fair between each other. We don’t judge. As long as it shakes out to 20% total, we’re fine.
If the bar is busy, get another guest — not the server or bartender — to take your group photo.
"When you have a minute…"
I appreciate the intention behind this phrase, and in most instances, I welcome hearing it.
"We’re ready to close when you have a minute." "We’d love some more water when you have a minute." "We’d like to order another round when you have a minute." All swell.
What gets my goat though is when, seeing that I’m busy, a large party throws in that polite caveat before requesting, "When you have a minute, can you take our picture?"
Folks, on a busy Saturday night, we don’t have a spare second, much less a minute.
And when that luxurious minute is available, we’d rather use it to go to the bathroom, wipe off the mascara running down our face, smoke, or catch up on the pile of side work that has to be done before clocking out.
The thing is, unlike mixing a drink or fetching water, taking a photo is a job perfectly suited for your civilian neighbors. You may even strike up conversation that gets you a free drink. Shot for the bachelorette, anyone?
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