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[personal profile] miss_s_b posting in [community profile] real_ale
In this post we will be using the word "barmaid" as shorthand for all the possible waitstaff you might encounter in a pub. This is because I, personally, am a barmaid, and not for any more nefarious reason. We will also assume that the barmaid is competent, courteous and well-mannered. If such is not the case, of course the customer is entitled to complain and/or take their money elsewhere, but that is not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is on how to be a Good Customer. Good Customers, from the point of view of the barmaid, become friends. You have genuine affection for them, and worry if they don't come in at their usual times. Bad Customers, though? They are feared, dreaded, and given codenames - such as Mister Grabbyhands, the Peanut Sprayer, Racist Harry - so that you can warn other barstaff about them.

Most of these guidelines are based around a simple premise: the barmaid and the other customers in the pub are all human beings with equal rights and equal validity to yourself. You are not better than any of them, and it is rude to behave as if you think you are. This list is exhausting, but not exhaustive. Feel free to pick holes and/or ask questions in the comments.

The Perfect Customer

The perfect customer enters the building, looks around and familiarises themselves with the signage (if the pub is not their usual one), approaches the bar and looks at what is available, decides what they want, attracts the barmaid's attention politely and in a friendly manner, orders their drink or round of drinks, says please and thank you, hands their money over, says thank you again, sits down and enjoys their drink. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Where it all goes horribly wrong

Entering the building
  • Don't loiter about blocking the doorway.
  • Don't be a noisy, boorish lout and annoy the barmaid and the other customers before you even get into the pub
  • Don't say things like Oh God, it's one of THOSE pubs. Remember that in 99% of cases, you are entering someone's home, and behave accordingly.
  • Don't just use the loo without buying a drink. Pubs are almost always on metered water and you are costing them money by doing this. It's fine if you use the loo and then buy a drink, but pubs are not public conveniences.
  • If there are a lot of you, especially if you are going to order food, let the pub know in advance. If you have arranged an outing for 30 people, the least you can do is let the pub know that you are coming so that they can arrange staffing and stock appropriately.

Familiarising Yourself With The Signage
  • While a good barmaid is always happy to be approached with a question, pubs recognise that not everyone is comfortable asking questions. Signs are therefore provided to make things easier for you, the customer.
  • The loos, the opening hours, food service times, and price list will ALWAYS be signposted; take the time to check out the signage before asking about these basic things
  • If you ask the barmaid a question and she directs you towards a sign, do not take this as a personal insult. Signs are a pub's method of dealing with FAQs.

Approaching the bar
  • You are about to exchange money for goods. Get your wallet out. It is very annoying to both the barmaid and the customers queueing behind you if, when informed of the total cost of your order, you look surprised, as if the thought of paying for your drinks had never occurred to you, and then spend ten minutes fishing in your handbag or pockets for money.
  • Note if there is anyone waiting ahead of you, and wait your turn. Do not try to push in.
    • if the barmaid offers to serve you before someone else whom you know has been waiting longer, always point this out - never underestimate the English love of queues.
    • if the barmaid asks "who's next?" and someone tries to jump in out of turn, say "Sorry, I think I was next." Even if the other person gets served first, you are practically guaranteed to get served next, and to get apologetic good service from the barmaid.
  • If the pub is busy, do not make loud complaints about having to wait. This serves only to annoy all the other people waiting, and the barmaid, who is not making you wait out of maliciousness, but may start to do so if you complain loudly enough
  • While waiting in the queue, look along the bar, and in the fridges. Decide what you want to drink before the barmaid gets to you. This is especially important if the pub is busy - all the other customers do not want to wait while you dither

Attracting the Barmaid's Attention

Acceptable methods of attracting the barmaid's attention include:
  • Smiling, and saying Hello! Please may I have... and proceeding to give your order
  • Holding up a £10/£20 note
  • If you are onto your second drink, placing your empty glass in plain sight of the barmaid.
Unacceptable methods of attracting the barmaid's attention include:
  • Yelling Oi! Bitch! Beer! (but see banter, below)
  • Interrupting her when she is serving someone else
  • Hiding your empty glass behind a pump or other bar furniture, avoiding the barmaid's eye, and then getting offended that she hasn't noticed that it is empty

Ordering Your Drink
  • If you want a tab, or a receipt, or to pay with any method other than cash, state this before ordering your drinks. This will affect the manner in which your order is rung into the till, and the barmaid needs to know before she starts ringing things in.
  • Put down your mobile phone. The barmaid is talking to you; whoever is on the phone can wait
  • Talk to your friends and find out what they want to drink before approaching the bar. Do not hold this conversation at the bar, making the barmaid and everyone else wait
  • Give the barmaid your entire order all at once, including crisps/nuts/etc.; if she needs you to repeat any of it, she will ask. Do not assume that she is so stupid she can only remember one item at once.
  • Especially do not order (for example) a Guinness, wait for it to be delivered, and then say make that two!. This is not amusing, it is irritating, and makes the transaction take far longer than it needs to.
  • If your order is a long one, consider writing a list. If you have a list, give it to the barmaid, do not read one item at a time out from it.
  • If you order cappuccino in a pub, you are a twat. Pubs have frothy coffee machines because there are a lot of twats in the world, but no barmaid likes making them. They take ages, and the machines are buggers to clean. Plain tea or coffee, is, however, acceptable. If you want a cappuccino, sod off to Starbucks.
  • The best order for a drinks order is as follows:
    1. Hot drinks, if they are served in the pub
    2. Things which need to settle - Guinness, real ales
    3. Lagers and draft soft drinks
    4. cocktails and spirit + mixer combinations, like gin and tonic
    5. bottled drinks, like split mixers and wine
    For the love of Cthulhu, do not order Guinness last. Guinness takes forever to settle, and it can be doing this while the barmaid gets all your other drinks.
  • Remember to say please and thanks at the appropriate junctures

Paying for your drink
  • Have your money ready for when the barmaid gives you the total
  • Do not stand there for half an hour arguing with your friend about which one of you is going to pay. This impresses nobody
  • Do not complain about the prices. The barmaid cannot change them at a moment's notice.
  • Do not ask for a discount, or say make it *lower figure than the total* for cash? Some customers appear to be under the misapprehension that this is amusing; it is not. It is especially annoying when the pub in question only accepts cash for payments.
  • If the barmaid has given you good service, or is working especially hard, offer to buy her a drink - this is the accepted method of tipping bar staff
  • Many pubs authorise staff to take drinks in cash, or to save drinks bought by customers for later - do not be offended if this happens. The barmaid may not be allowed to drink on duty.
  • If she refuses a drink, do not be offended. She might not be thirsty, or the pub might not allow staff to accept tips.
  • Check your change, and if a mistake has been made, bring it up immediately. These things are best dealt with when fresh.
  • Say thank you at the end of the transaction

Sitting down and enjoying your drink
  • If there are two of you, do not hog a table for eight
  • If there are eight of you, ask if it is OK before attempting furniture removal to make a table big enough
  • If there are seats at the bar, feel free to use them, but be aware that, especially at busy times, people may need to reach past you
  • If you spill a drink, ask for a cloth and wipe it up. Don't just leave it to go sticky and horrible.


Real Ale.
  • A good real ale barmaid will be knowledgeable about the product. If you have a preference for a particular style of ale, ask for a recommendation
  • Ask for a sample if you are unsure which ale you want; most real ale pubs offer them on cask ales, and if they don't, there's no harm in asking. A good barmaid wants you to enjoy your drink, not stand there feeling forced to drink a pint you don't like.
  • If you want a good head on your beer, mention this when ordering. Similarly, if you want it Southern-style, ask for the sparkler to be removed
  • If you would like your pint to be topped up, ask. A good barmaid ought to ask if you'd like a drop more in, but all of us have off days.

  • All the guidelines about drink orders above also apply to food - check the menu out before starting to order, order everything all at once, ask beforehand if you need a receipt or a tab setting up, etc.
  • Be tidy while eating. Do not scatter salt, rice, or other food items all over the table. If you spill accidentally, ask for a cloth
  • If there is a wait for your food, bear in mind that this is not aimed at you personally, but is a problem the staff are trying their best to solve. Nobody likes making people wait.
  • If something arrives that is not as you ordered it, bring this to the attention of the staff immediately; we can't rectify things if you have already eaten the offending item.
  • If you want any extra sauces, ask for them at the point of order


Many pubs welcome dogs; some don't. Ask if it is ok to bring your dog in before bringing it in. If it is ok, bear in mind the following:
  • Do not let your dog run amok all over the pub. Especially do not allow it to wander behind the bar or into the kitchen
  • Do not let your dog drink from your glass or lick your plate. The environmental health go NUTS about stuff like this
  • Do not let your dog urinate or defecate inside the building. If your dog defecates in the beer garden, pick it up, bag it, and put it in the bin
  • If your dog becomes barky or otherwise annoying, leave the room immediately - you can always come back in if/when they calm down.


Many pubs welcome children; some don't. Ask if it is ok to bring your child in before bringing it in. If it is ok, bear in mind the following:
  • Children may have to leave at a particular time. Ask what this time is, and leave BEFORE it, not half an hour after. The pub's license may depend on this
  • Do not allow your children to run about the pub unsupervised
    1. This is unsafe for the children
    2. this is annoying for other customers - pubs are adult spaces and should be treated as such
  • Do not buy alcoholic drinks for your children if they are under the requisite age. For your reference, the law states that children above the age of 16 can be given beer or cider (NOT spirits) only if they are eating a meal. A bag of crisps does not count as a meal.
  • Children are not allowed, by law, to play on gambling machines
  • If your child starts screaming or becomes otherwise annoying, leave the room immediately - you can always come back in if/when they calm down.


After a few occasions of behaving like a perfect customer, the barmaid may get to know you. At this point (but not before) it is acceptable for your relationship with her to venture beyond the formal and become more friendly:
  • This is not a license to grope. A barmaid's bodily integrity is as important as any other person's
  • Remember that the barmaid is a human being with her own distinct personality; what is acceptable to one barmaid may not be to another, and what is acceptable behaviour for someone the barmaid has known for years is not for a new customer
  • Wit is welcome; mindless repetition of things the barmaid has heard a thousand times before is not
  • Value your barmaid as a person; respect her opinions; do not bully her.
  • If your barmaid tells you that something is important to her, do not take this as a license to tease her about it
  • Being racist, sexist, or otherwise abusive is not banter, it is you being a twat. Stop it.
  • Regular customers who tip will gain more affection than those who don't. Sorry if that sounds mercenary, but bear in mind that it is extremely likely that you get paid far more than your barmaid does

((This post was originally posted in The Yorkshire Gob on the 3rd of November 2008))

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-25 09:33 pm (UTC)
lordofmisrule: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lordofmisrule
All common sense things which people should follow as a matter of course. Unfortunately I've been to pubs, worked in a restaurant and volunteered at beer festivals. All I can say is some people have a lot to learn.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-26 11:47 am (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
Interesting. I didn't know the reasoning about the loo thing, and them being on metered water.

I also didn't really think about the tab thing when ordering drinks, but it makes sense.

How does one offer to buy a drink for a barmaid without it sounding creepy?


Date: 2010-10-14 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] longwayround.wordpress.com
Back in the days when I drank Guinness regularly I got quite used to ordering the black beverage last. This wasn't because I wanted to annoy anyone but simply because I was fed up of reminding those serving my drink that it takes time to poor the drink and, yes, actually I'd quite like it poured properly rather than being left under a tap for a while.

On the subject of queuing, I've found a very good way of ensuring people get served in an appropriate order is not so much to say that I'm next but to point out that someone else is indeed just before me. It comes across as a lot less pushy.

Re: Guinness

Date: 2010-10-14 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] longwayround.wordpress.com
I've never quite had the cheek to do that. Instead I gave up drinking the stuff and moved on to real ale.


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