The Paradox of Bartending
South Park famously created the character of ‘Funnybot’: A robot which tells jokes in a jarring mechanical tone to the hilarity of the masses. When FunnyBot inevitably turns evil, it is destroyed by being forced to consider a logic paradox: “How can one have a “Comedy Award” without taking comedy seriously – thus ruining the comedy?”.
While looking at the world of hospitality (bartending in particular), I feel there is a consideration raised which this animated robot mirrors:
“How can fresh new bartenders pursue a career in hospitality when many of them join specifically because they believe there is no career within it?”
This may not be a paradox which will make an android’s head explode, but it is one which many trainers and bar owners are being forced to consider, especially now. Bartending is a job which most of the world believe to be a stop-gap. Just ask any bartender how many times they’re asked “What’s your real job?”. So what are the options? How do we let people know that there is a wide variety of careers and jobs within the industry without scaring them off by shoving a bunch of information down their throats?
The answer, in my eyes, begins by understanding how communication of experience and stories are shared in the bartending community. This community is built on personal relationships and a certain degree of “who you know”. Linkedin in the ‘real world’ is a monolithic career tool but in most bars it is replaced by an impromptu conversation with someone you did an event with or met on a brand trip. A gargantuan amount of knowledge regarding career paths is alienated to quiet chats between two people sharing a Daiquiri in a dark bar illuminated only by a ‘Cocktails and Dreams’ neon.
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We can try to remedy this by sharing our stories and opening up that conversation. Whether in video, blogs or interpretive tap, we can use our stories to scrape the opaque horse poop off the bartenders career path and stroll along it with those huddled, borderline nepotistic conversations until you reach the light of the strange, tipsy and tattooed town of ‘New Bartenderville’.
Next time you meet a fresh-faced new bartender, make sure you tell them how you got to where you are. And none of that political “hard work and dedication, kid, stay in school” bullsh*t… Actually tell them. Tell them you actually got lucky. Tell them you went to every competition you possibly could knowing you wouldn’t win. Tell them you badgered your favourite bar until they gave you a job. Tell them that you literally didn’t know the difference between ‘Brand Ambassador’ and ‘Brand Manager’ until you got hired as one. Tell them what you are aiming for in the future so they can see what is up there.
Inch by Inch and person by person, it will reveal what the path looks like, how to thrive on it and even where it can end. It’s doesn’t need to be a paradox for “BartenderBot”. New bartenders join thinking there is no career because they have no reason to think otherwise. Show them they’re wrong.
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