by Brian Cullen
Hey guys. Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it. You may be wondering why I called you all here today. You see, I…have some news. It’s something shocking about my past. And I’m here to confirm everything you’ve heard. In a former life…I was once a bartender at a T.G.I. Friday’s.
(Audible gasp, glass breaking)
I know. It’s a hard pill to swallow. But, I truly believe that acceptance comes through understanding. So, if any of you have any questions, ask away. I’ll try to respond to the best of my ability.
What? You didn’t even know what I was going to ask!
Yes I do. You were going to ask if I had to wear pieces of flair, right?
Yeah, the flair thing. They do kind of encourage it, but after Office Space it really became more of a tongue-in-cheek thing. Management encourages it, but they’ll happily laugh at themselves for it.
Was there a minimum number you had to wear?
Nah, no minimum. I know in my case, it was more of a utility belt thing. Here’s a picture of me looking like a jerk. Underneath those armbands are bar keys (or bottle openers, however you’d prefer to call them). The hat serves no functional purpose, but I SOMETIMES I LIKE JOY, OK!?
Two bar keys?
Yeah. That’s for the other kind of flair. “Flair bartending”. Like, flipping bottles and stuff. They encouraged that too.
Yes, like Tom Cruise in Cocktail.
Oh man! I love that movie. Haha! Have you ever seen it?
Sorry. So, were you any good?
At bottle flipping? No. I knew a handful of basic moves, enough to impress a new customer. Some stuff with the bar keys. But that’s about it. The big draw at our bar was this one guy who I think was ranked in the top 10 nationally. And before you ask, yeah, they do have rankings for flair bartenders.
Ok, so I have to ask: how accurate is the movie Waiting?
I would say that Waiting is like Office Space for chain restaurants, but Office Space is also Office Space for chain restaurants. Anyway, the answer is “yes”. It hits that same Mike Judge level of “So accurate that it has moved into uncomfortable levels.”
So what about the drinks? Like, you were at a T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s not a real bar, right?
Let me ask you something. You ever gone into a place called “Jimmy’s Pub” and ordered a strawberry daiquiri?
Oooo! Jimmy’s is making daiquiris now?
You get what I’m saying. The evening rush at a “normal” bar means you’re pulling pints and pouring shots for an hour. At a chain restaurant like a Friday’s, it’s all that, plus daiquiris, smoothies, margaritas, all sorts of frozen stuff. And it’s not like we have a frozen batch ready to go. Everything is made to order. So, we’re using the damn blender all the time while making desserts while serving food. Plus, we had bottles of stuff I’ve rarely seen at other bars, like Crème de Banana. In fact, I would posit that the bartenders at Friday’s, Chili’s et al are usually better-rounded than the folks at your local dive bar.
Really. So. How’s the pay?
It’s uh…what you’d expect.
That bad, huh?
Well, here’s one example. One time we had guests come in at 11:55 PM (we closed at 12). Ordered the entire works – booze, food, everything. Tab was something like $125, kept us all late. Got a $3 tip.
Come on! What is this, Soviet Russia? Don’t they know how to tip!?
That’s what I’M saying!
Ok. So, tell me about the regulars. Who on earth would be a bar fly at a Friday’s?
Oh, get off your high horse. A neighborhood bar is a neighborhood bar. Our regulars were a little kooky, but good people all around. It was your regular customer/bartender crowd. They tipped us extra, we slipped them some free drinks. Same as anywhere
You gave them free drinks? Can you get a comped drink at a chain restaurant?
Not…exactly. If you were caught giving away drinks, you were fired, no questions asked. Same if you were drinking behind the bar (and, believe it or not, people still managed to do this on the down low). But there’s always a way to get around the system.
Well, don’t give away beers. It’s very easy to tell if you have six beers in the cooler versus five. But if I’m giving away an extra pour of liquor…well, who’s to say what you see as 55% of a bottle isn’t what I see as 60%? It’s an inexact science and it means that some liquor can, uh, “disappear.” Plus, if you order anything expensive (like one of those Patron margaritas in a shaker) there’s a decent chance you’re getting some terrible tequila in there, since you probably can’t tell the difference. If we can cut costs there, then we can give our regulars the occasional free drink.
What about signature drinks? Any secret recipes?
Not where I worked. Not that I remember, anyway. But I can tell you that pretty much every “special” drink gets a ton of sour mix. Mojitos, electric lemonade, all of it.
But there isn’t any sour mix in moj-
Yeah. I know. So yeah, if you’re wondering why everything vaguely tastes like lemonade, there you go.
Ok, so, how should I treat my bartender next time I’m at a T.G.I. Friday’s?
Like a bartender. Tip him or her well, don’t order complicated drinks, and be nice.
Oh. And the Mango Berry Daiquiri is made out of spiders so don’t order that.
Also, be sure to check out more occupational knowledge with “Things Your Barista Wants You to Know.” –>