Well, let me tell you folks, it means much, MUCH more than that and I can tell you all about it. Yay! ;)
Barkeeper, Bartender, Bar minder, Bar manager...those all mean the same thing when you have a counter surrounding you on all sides with friends and or strangers facing you directly (while you are running around like a lunatic with the spot light constantly blaring down on you...fun stuff...((not really)), requiring your presence based on their "tip" amount. Don't get me wrong, one does not simply "serve" their friends solely for that tip. But if you think a barkeeper is going to give a "known bad tipper" the time of day, you are sadly mistaken. Here, in good ol Michigan, bartenders are paid an "hourly tip wage" which is anywhere from $2.65 to maybe $5.+ an hour. This depends greatly on who "owns the joint". If you find yourself a bar tending gig in a corporate place of operation, you will most likely find $2.65 an hour on your pay stub.
I worked at a corporate restaurant for 10 years. 10...freaking...years. I did try a few other restaurants in that time but they never could "keep me". I knew the corp. restaurant like the back of my hand. When you are working in a tip position, knowing the ins and outs of where you are employed is a huge plus. This means you think less about what you are doing, the job has become mechanical, you set yourself to auto pilot at least 50% of the time...which means you free up more time to entertain your customers. The customers are your employers. The service you give them determines how much cash you will be counting out at the end of your shift and how much of your bills will get paid that are due!
Those of us who had a knack for creating a welcoming environment to the random walk in's were a great success. Those who could not entertain even a small child with crayons, a free cookie or a small scoop of ice cream were removed in just a week's time. *By the way* it is completely fine to have your child sit at the bar IF and I mean IF it's a place where the bar is just an addition like say "Applebee's" and it's not during late night hours. Most of my bartenders were my best servers and that's why they worked in the "spot light". They could make that fussy kid smile with delight while the parents got to enjoy their hot meal.
A good bartender knows how to handle a crabby guest who is complaining about a cold side dish while she/he is pouring a beer for a regular who is just walking in while calling up to the host to see if there is a table for eight on behalf of a lady who also just walked in and she wants to hold a table for her party but she completely missed sight of the host stand which is only 4 feet from the front door. (That was an intended run on sentence...because, at the end of a busy shift for a bartender...the whole day feels like a run on sentence).
I worked all positions at my corp. restaurant. It was my first serving job, cooking job, hosting job, bar tending job and salary paid position worked. My last two plus years were worked as the bar manager. I fought tooth and nail for the salary position and the day that the long awaited piece of paper was pushed across the table for me to sign to accept the position...Oh boy...I cried from happiness! (When I got home, of course :) I had wanted it for so long and it finally happened!
And then this happened 2 plus years later after signing my name...
It was sad, scary, upsetting...but it definitely needed to happen. I needed to go. I was at my wits end concerning the amount of patience I could muster up before each shift. My frustrations were through the roof! I decided I would make a final decision while on a vacation I had scheduled at the beginning of the year last year. On the last day of vacation I felt that I had given it enough "relaxed" thought so I drove up to work and gave the boss man my notice. He inquired as to why I wanted to leave and I simply stared at him for a second and then said "because every time I walk in through those front doors I feel like I'm slamming my head repeatedly against the wall until I leave to go home". He was a very open and personable individual so he just looked at me and said "well, I don't want to see you go...but if this is what you want...". I worked a month longer, finished out my notice, and then said my goodbyes in the middle of February.
I was 28 years old when I quit. I started working for that company when I had just turned 18. I gave my all to them for ten years. I worked all the overtime I could get when I was hourly. When I couldn't get the O.T. at my store, I offered to work shifts at other locations. When I was promoted I was working at least 65 hours every week. When I determined it was time to "retire" it wasn't just because I was frustrated. I had made a decision that would change the way my life was being lived.
I got to witness quite a few superstars in my time there. These people could get kicked in the gut one minute and then bounce back the next with a perfect, pleasant demeanor. As if nothing had harmed them. This sort of brute lifestyle changes you. As the manager I was becoming a mother to a corporate orphanage of red headed step children while I longed for a life away from that sort of hustle and bustle. I prayed each and every night for my own children and my own family and when I realized that working as the bar "whatever" was not going to encourage that course in life for me...I quit.
This is not the sort of job you can fake. When you see a bartender sincerely chatting it up with a customer, try to keep in mind that the poor soul (bartender ;) had one hell of a shift the night before. They were sworn at, children chucked food at their face (a grown man threw a corn dog at me once, NO JOKE), and their manager still probably sat them down afterwards to tell them their sale percentage sucked.
Serving jobs are easily obtained...they are also one of the highest positions ranked in turnovers. It really does take sincerity to "entertain" in a not-so-good economy and where competition is constant...no matter HOW good your shift was the day before.
This post was a bit longer than I intended it to be...but hey, for ten years worth in a single post...
I'd say I did alright.