8 Lessons From Bartending that help me run a Small Business

Photos of Raul Colon Web Developer Puerto Rico

I hardly go out and I only drink on special occasions.

A few months ago my good friend @kelvinlomboy said that he was in my hometown of Ponce visiting and having drinks with friends.

I reached the bar and met up with Kelvin when a few minutes later a waitress approaches us to ask us if we wanted a drink. I quickly replied that I wanted a Jack Daniel’s with 7up. Kelvin decided he would have one too. Minutes later the waitress arrives and communicates that she brought us Black Label because they did not have Jack. For those of you that are fans of Jack Daniel’s like me and on the other side being an ex-bartender you can clearly understand how disappointed I was.

When I explained to her that I did not drink Black she replied telling me that all whisky is the same. The problem is that they are not even the same product one is American Whiskey and the other one is Scottish Whisky.

After letting her know that I would be having a beer then she finally apologized telling us that she never drank whisky or whiskey so she did not know the difference.

Having worked as a bartender and waiter many years ago and Kelvin also being an ex-bartender and ex-waiter we where puzzled on how someone could be serving a drink and not knowing what they where serving.

On my drive back home I got into thinking on how many people offer services not knowing what they are selling. So I tried to look back at how I handled Bartending and being a waiter and how I apply it now to business.

Learning the Recipes

As a bartender my brother @javierrcolon recommended for me to buy Mr. Boston a classic bartending Guide. I also used the Internet to do research on drinks. This helped me understand what main ingredients and key components went into each liquor and drink. Know every time I submit a proposal for something I make sure I know what pieces fit into the bigger puzzle

Listening to Clients

The first bar I worked at I had a customer who was retired and lived on a sailboat travelling the world but mostly the Caribbean. He came in every three months since the bar that I worked at was near a small port. He was English and loved Planter’s Punch a drink I did not know how to prepare.  The first time he requested it I was very transparent and informed him I did not know how to prepare one. He appreciated my honesty and decided to teach me how to make his favorite drink.

So given his instructions I was able to learn how to make Planter’s punch. He was the only client that ever asked me for one. Since I was willing to meet his needs he would come in every few months and not leave the bar for hours. I learned a lot from him and he ended up giving that bar all the business because every other bar around did not have the ingredients to create planter’s punch and really cared less to learn how to create the drink. Opportunities like these help you grab loyal customers and maybe even find new business services.

Trying Out New Liquors

I did not drink much of anything at all before I became a bartender other than sampling some of my concoctions to make sure they had the right taste. By sampling I had the opportunity to taste most liquors in the bar. Now days at CIMA IT I make sure I try out the tools and platforms I offer my clients to make sure that I have the most effective one for each clients needs.

Creating New Recipes

Given all the research I had I was constantly experimenting with liquors (although my boss did not know this) when business was slow. I was able to create two drinks that where my own personal recipe and some customers would even pay the cover charge at the door to buy those drinks from me.

My boss did not see the value in using liquor to experiment but I can assure you that since those drinks could not be bought elsewhere it brought him business from people that otherwise would have went elsewhere and recovered the cost of my experiments.

Testing Your Drink

Every once in a while I use to taste what I had just created for a client. I wanted to make sure that the quality of what was being served was ok under my standards. When we set up something for a client we make sure it is heavily tested from many aspects. The user testing experience is critical at CIMA IT.

Giving out Samples

As a bartender when you prepare a drink on many occasions you might end up with product that goes over the ounces of the drink that was requested. I use to either hand a sample of the drink to a new customer or give the extra product in a separate glass to the customers.

Giving them a little more than what they where usually paying for. If you surprise your clients or customers with a little extra you will bring a smile to their faces. Now I make sure I give them tidbits of information here on my blog or on our corporate blog. This way the client can have an idea of the services we are offering.

Asking if everything went well.

In many occasions services are given to us but nobody makes sure we are satisfied or you get an automated survey sent to you that is use for statistical purposes. I also ask my clients and customers if they need anything else and if there is something I can improve upon. In many occasions this can lead into getting more business from them in others it helps me fix or improve my services.


Working as a bartender puts you in the spot with many people who have had one two many drinks. These individuals are not worth reasoning with on most occasions so you have to make a good judgment call if you need to continue focusing on how to satisfy them or if you need to move on.

I have run into my fair share of clients that you might think are drunk (many times with greed) and you are not able to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both. This has taught me that sometimes you need to walk away.

Working in the service industry as a bartender and waiter gave me critical skills to work with people and run my business in a unique way.

What other professions or jobs have you been a part of that are different from what you do know that gave you critical skills that help you in your recent position?