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An Ode to Bar Towels

Getting Things Done With Bar Towels
An Ode to Bar Towels

Bar Towels are an essential tool for any restaurant worker. Here are our 5 favorite uses for the humble bar towel.

There are many pieces of equipment and gear that make working in a restaurant possible. Good shoes, properly maintained knives, blenders and more make the restaurant world go round. But we shouldn’t forget one of the most important and humblest tools of all: bar towels.

Here’s a rundown of what makes bar towels essential to each position:

1. Bartenders: The Bar Towel Hello
One of the best ways to greet a new customer at the bar is to give a quick wipe to their area. It doesn’t matter if the bar is already clean (it should be, but that’s another article,) but the quick greet and wipe establishes the relationship. You’re the bartender and will take care of your guest. I used a separate dry towel just for this purpose rather than show my new customer the dirty bleach towel.

2. Servers: Dusting off the empty seats
After wiping down tables, the chairs invariably end up with crumbs. When my section was slow I’d walk through and dust the crumbs off the chairs. It was the perfect ‘look busy while nothing’s happening so I don’t have to polish glasses or check bathrooms’ kind of task. When guests started to arrive my section always looked on point and ready.

3. Bussers & Runners: Carrying hot plates
Bar towels are even more central to the support staff. Bussers and Runners are charged with keeping everything in motion – including the scorching hot plates that Chef likes to put into the window with little warning. Bar towels are the only protection (other than time, habituation, and indifference to physical comfort) when you have to follow the 6-top with hot plates.

4. Line Cooks: Everything
To a cook bar towels are basically God. You might think I’m exaggerating, but Bar Towels are up there with Ba’al when it comes to credible false deities. Wipe off a work surface? Bar Towel. Need something to grab a hot pan out of the oven? Bar Towel. Want to leave a welt on the new guy’s forearm? Bar Towel.

5. Managers: All of the above + Bribery
The managers get to know the towel in all its glory, using it for nearly all of the above tasks. The manager, however, is also in charge of keeping the linen costs down and that means doling out the towels. I used to have a couple hidden stashes I could access in cases of emergency. If I needed something done, I could always grab a couple extra towels and exchange them for a favor.

Jack Hott

Jack Hott has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. Along the way he’s flipped burgers, tossed pizzas and spilled a lot of wine on white table cloths.

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