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Communicating with your customers and asking the right questions is extremely important in order to create a great customer experience. Rob Poulter focuses on the right approach and the necessary knowledge you need to make sure your customers come back time and time again.

Having good communication skills is very important to becoming a great bar staff member. These skills help bar teams work more effectively and facilitate a better guest experience. The ability to offer a suitable recommendation when your customer doesn’t know what to order is a valuable communication skill that both bartenders and servers should be equipped with.

A good recommendation can make a guest’s night and enhance their experience of your venue. Equally, a bad recommendation can ruin a guest’s night and leave them feeling cheated after parting with their hard-earned cash for an experience they didn’t enjoy.

Choice overload

There’s often a vast array of serves on offer, in even the simplest of bars. There will be multiple Wines and Beers, a wide range of spirits and mixer options and when we add cocktails to the equation, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that your guests are choosing from literally hundreds of potential options when they have to decide on the drink that they’d like to order.

Behavioral economists argue that the greater the range of choices available, the less motivated people are to choose and the less likely they are to be satisfied with their choice, a situation referred to as “choice overload.”

For that reason, when a guest is undecided, it’s important for you to use a series of well-structured questions to reduce the number of options and enable the guest to find the perfect drink.

Know your menu

Each question you ask should reduce the potential number of options, but you need to be careful as too many questions will slow down service and risk making the guest's experience tedious. For that reason, each question needs to be pertinent and serve to reduce the number of options.

When recommending spirits brands, it’s important to have a good understanding of the range of products stocked in each spirits category and their similarities and differences. It’s also beneficial to develop a good understanding of the brands that your bar doesn’t stock so that if a customer requests a brand that’s not available you’re able to offer a suitable alternative. One of the best platforms to start developing your knowledge is the Diageo Bar Academy website.

It’s a question of elimination and recommendation

When recommending cocktails, the first question should be, "Would you like something long or short?" This will immediately eliminate one or the other, reducing the range of cocktails you can select to recommend.


Where possible, it’s good to avoid using open-ended questions and focus your questions to elicit definitive answers. For example, ask, “What’s your favorite spirit?” rather than, “Do you have a favorite spirit?” Those two questions can dramatically reduce the range of cocktails that will be suitable to recommend. Once you’ve established whether you’re looking for a long or short serve and the spirit category you’re choosing within you can focus your questions in on flavor.


To some extent, your next question will be shaped by the available options on your cocktail menu. There’s no point recommending a long, Gin-based, creamy cocktail if an option incorporating those characteristics doesn’t exist, so make sure the questions you ask start referencing the characteristics of the specific options that remain.

This means that in addition to mastering the flow of questions, you need to shape an effective recommendation. You also need to have an intricate knowledge of your cocktail menu and the drinks it contains, not just in terms of how to make them but in terms of the key characteristics that define their taste and appeal.

Some great characteristics to think through when making recommendations are:

When you can break your cocktail menu down into descriptive adjectives that apply to each drink, you’ll be well on the way to mastering what to ask when your customer doesn’t know what to order! By having a good knowledge of the whole menu you can make informed suggestions and even upsell from the customer's usual order.

Top tips for recommending your customer's ideal drink