New South Wales likes to be different. So different that they do not accept Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) licenses from the rest of the country.
Kind’ve annoying as I paid for and underwent training for the South Australian version. But in fairness, I have forgotten what I learnt from my Online RSA Course (yes, I was lazy and decided to complete it online), other than the fact that if we’re working as a bartender, we should not serve alcohol to minors. Common sense huh?
I guess in that sense, the difference in alcohol legislation in NSW was a good chance for me to re-hash my knowledge about the alcohol industry, whilst opening up additional income opportunities and meeting new people in an industry that is very much related to the entertainment sector.
So last week, I signed up for and attended an intensive RSA course, and a half-day Bar Skills Practical course at Australian Training Solutions. It turned out to be a totally different experience to my previous online undertaking.
The RSA course was delivered by experienced bar and restauranteur, Victor Nash. Victor’s personality definitely injected life into the course, as he exuded his infectious charisma [he used to be a hairdresser] and gave his personal insights learnt from his 40+ year career.
The course was well organised, and the constant dialogue between student and teacher made the 6.5 hours bearable. I’m not joking – it flew by. Just like most other tests that I’ve taken in the past, I blitzed the final competency test. Secondary and tertiary education did teach me something!
Victor did say one thing that really stood out to me though. He said “at the end of the day, alcohol is a poison”. At 22 years old, I had never looked at alcohol as a poison. As a matter of fact, I had never actually had a personal view on alcohol. Thinking of alcohol as a poison does make sense though. When people drink it, their speech starts to slur, their physical actions become jagged, and their decision making all but disappears. Just take a look around the nightclub next time you’re out. Ultimately, everyone around you is poisoning their own mind and bodies to escape from reality…but that’s a topic to discuss another time.
The next day I attended my practical bar skills course, held at the Criterion Hotel. Here we were trained by Katrina, a hospitality veteran who was currently managing a bar in the Sutherland Shire. Yes, that’s the same area that The Shire was filmed.
Throughout the day we covered practical skills, customer service and product knowledge. Working behind a bar seems like an easy task. Ask customers what they want, pour a drink, work the cash register. However, it was surprising to see that a lot of my fellow students had difficulties. People kept on dropping bottles everywhere, forgetting to use the measurer when pouring alcohol, and the names of each spirits. At the end of the day, bartending isn’t that much different from sales – if you’re confident, charismatic and know your product, you’ll earn more.
The teaching method was great as it was extremely practical. Admittedly, I was a little bit nervous as I hadn’t been behind a bar since my restaurant days at Fresh Choice Restaurant. No worries thought – it was just like riding a bike. Just like the RSA course, I passed and even made a new friend out of it.
After completing both courses, I developed a new appreciation for the alcohol and hospitality industry. Having come from a marketing background definitely helps, because you view bars as just another business. In this case, their products are food and drinks, while their services are friendly and attentive staff. In return, customers pay for the overall experience, which helps the establishment turn a profit.
Aside from learning about the alcohol industry, this experience showed the importance of face-to-face learning. Throughout the two day, I was active in the discussion, always contributing my thoughts and asking questions. The personal input from the teachers, which is lost in our modern age of online education, also gave us better context.
So now I’m ready to be Sydney’s newest and coolest part-time bartender. I’m funny, friendly, confident and available most days of the week. Who wants to hire me? 😉
Key things that I learnt
- Alcohol is a poison
- Water is paramount
- Bartending is more than just pouring drinks
- Most bars have untrained staff who give horrible customer service
- Face-to-face learning is still important as ever