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Guest bartending, why and how to do it

Whether you're a bartender hoping to travel the world or a venue owner looking to attract new customers, guest-bartending shifts offer countless career benefits. Vasilis Kyritsis, co-owner of the famous Clumsies bar in Athens, discusses why this is one trend you need to try.

When my partners and I decided to open the Clumsies, our aim was to create a bar that was both quintessentially Greek and international. To achieve this, we wanted to involve the global bartending community to grow and develop our concept.

We began inviting guest bartenders to give them a flavor of Athenian nightlife. Over the years, we have welcomed the likes of Erik Lorincz, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Charles Joly, Joe and Daniel Schofield, Matt Whiley, Luke Whearty, Ivy Mix and Tim Philips to name just a few!

THE BENEFITS FOR YOUR BAR

A fresh pair of eyes – Each guest bartender brings their own unique experience and point of view and you can use this to mold your offerings and keep them fresh and original.

Share the knowledge – Guiding your staff and customers to learn about new cultural experiences keeps people interested, informed and on top of their game.

Get your name out there – Inviting up-and-coming or celebrity mixologists is a great way to boost your bar’s visibility and increase foot traffic.

BOOST YOUR CAREER

Enhance your craft – Guest bartending is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with and learn from different people and work with new ingredients, bars and customers. You’ll return home inspired to create a new cocktail, try a new technique or experiment with exotic ingredients!

Travel the world – Bartending is a truly international career that can take you to some of the most exciting places on the planet. Seize every opportunity to travel and gain hands-on experience in different venues.

Raise your profile – Whether you're a complete beginner or an industry veteran, guest bartending gives you the opportunity to boost your reputation and demonstrate your passion to a new audience. The collaborative nature of guest bartending ultimately helps to strengthen the bartending community, creating friendships that span countries and making the bar industry better as a whole.

GETTING STARTED

If you’re new to the whole idea of guest bartending, getting started can be a little daunting. Whether you’re in search of moonlighting opportunities for yourself or looking for potential guest bartenders for your venue, here are some of my top tips:

BARTENDERS

  1. Do your research – Think carefully when it comes to deciding where you want to work. You’ll have to get used to unfamiliar surroundings and staff in a short span of time and if you’re working abroad, you might be faced with a language barrier or have to work with products you’ve never even heard of, let alone incorporated into a cocktail. If this is what you’re looking for, then go for it! Many bartenders love the buzz that comes with being completely out of their comfort zone and thinking on their feet. On the other hand, guest bartending can be as simple as working in another venue in your hometown, it all comes down to what you want to get out of the experience.
  2. Get online – Do your research to discover establishments looking for guest bartenders. Even if venues aren’t necessarily advertising for a guest bartender, it never hurts to ask if there’s somewhere you really want to work. Contact places on social media and let them know you’re interested. It always helps to have your resume at the ready, and if you already have a large social following, make sure you emphasize this.
  3. Be prepared – Once you’ve landed a guest spot, make sure you don’t turn up unprepared. Before you start, find out from the venue exactly what they’re expecting of you. Ask them about their concept and their clientele; familiarize yourself with their menu and learn how to make everything on it at a speedy pace. If they want you to serve your own signature creations, make sure they stock all the ingredients you need or suitable alternatives. Remember to be open-minded and up for a challenge, but most importantly, have fun!

VENUES

  1. Decide what you’re looking for – Guest bartenders can be a fantastic addition to your venue, but make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of hiring them. If you want to give your bar an international feel or diversify your staff a little, then you might place less emphasis on experience. But if you’re looking for a guest bartender who will increase footfall and give your bar a bit of “star quality”, you’ll want someone with a bigger name in the industry and a large social following.
  2. Publicize it – Social media is a great marketing tool for venues, as are more traditional methods like posters/flyers and word of mouth. Advertise that you’re looking for a guest bartender several weeks or even months in advance. If you have the budget for it, think about creating a paid promotion on Facebook. This is really effective if you’re looking for a bartender from a specific country because you can decide which locations your advert appears in. Guest shifts are a great way to create a global network of advocates for your bar and generate a bit of buzz, so it’s really important to promote them properly. Once you’ve signed a guest bartender, share the news on Facebook and Instagram beforehand and even create video content or take photos during their shift to post afterwards.
  3. Get their opinion – Be sure to ask for feedback from guest bartenders on your concept, your cocktails, how you can improve staff training or your day-to-day operations. This cross-pollination of ideas and collaboration with people from different countries can be a unique selling point for your venue and put you right at the forefront of cocktail culture.

TOP TIPS

Network, network, network – Get in touch with people via mutual contacts or social media. Whether you’re a bartender or a venue owner, guest bartending is all about increasing your visibility and getting your name out there (for the right reasons.)