How to Tell if Your Bartender Is Actually Hitting on You

EHStock/E+/Getty Images (edited)
EHStock/E+/Getty Images (edited)

Bartenders' livelihoods depend on being nice to customers (tips!), but to the untrained libido, it can be downright impossible to tell if the flirtation is genuine or a calculated move of professional interest. The lines between "What a nice bartender!" and "Oh my God, this girl wants to bang me," are often blurred by a pleasant conversation... and a half-dozen pints. But all hope is not lost, friends. As Amy S., a one-time Hooters bartender, said, "To be totally honest, I’ve taken home a guy from every bar I’ve worked at, at least once."

I talked to five barkeeps (plus a psychologist!) to see how you can tell if these professionals are gunning for more than just the gratuity. So read on to learn about my self-developed, patent-pending P.A.N.D.A.S.™ Point System, which will easily help you figure out if it's appropriate to give them your number. Just don't write said number on the receipt... unless you get off on crippling rejection.


There are six things you need to look out for

All the bartenders I talked to agreed on these six flirting facts. I call it the P.A.N.D.A.S™ Point System, and you need a combined score of at least 10 before you can be sure your 'tender is for real. Bring your legal pads to the bars, boys!

Physical contact (one point)
"One of my co-workers has this move, he used to leave the bar and brush past a girl he was trying to pick up, and put his hand on her shoulder when he walked around her. He said it worked 50% of the time... which might be a stretch," said my brother Tripp Fulton, who was a bartender for five years in Baltimore, Maryland at a smatter of fine (and not-so-fine) establishments.

Attention... an unusual amount of it, especially if the bar is busy (two points)
"Most bartenders -- by their nature, are just extroverts," Amy said. "I think if I’m flirting with you, you should probably know it. But it doesn't always seem that easy for guys. As so many think I'm flirting with them, when I’m really not."

"Look, guys don’t really ‘flirt’ with customers the way girls do, when a guy is coming on to you, you're going to know it. He's going to buy you drinks, and he’s going to start spending all his time around your corner -- it’s going to be obvious, unless he’s trying to hide it from his boss," said Fulton.

Not making you pay for drinks (three points)
"I’d pay extra attention to the dude, even when I'm swamped... like noticing he needs a drink,” said Bri S., my old college chum, and Hooters alum. "And then I’d start giving him drinks for free. A lot of drinks."

Divulging personal info about themselves (four points)
"Guys will play the lonely hearts club -- ‘Oh, my ex-girlfriend and I used to go there...’ -- he’s showcasing his mate status. If you hear any guy talk about his ex in a wistful way... it’s so you know they are single,” radio host and psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh told me.

"You are never sure what a guy’s deal is, and sometimes it’s hard to tell by the people he’s with. So first, I'd probably tell him something about myself... plans, or what I like to do or something," said Amy.

Any inquiries that may lead to you divulging personal information about yourself (five points)
Amy continues: "Then if he’s really not getting the hint, I’ll just start sending out feelers, asking him about his situation, casually getting to the bottom of his relationship status."

Second platform connection (six points)
A number, a friend request, or an Instagram follow -- they're like "breaking the seal” of the bartender-customer stand-off. "That means we want to stay in touch, we would be willing to interact outside the bar," Amy said. “It means you are probably in."



How do you get your bartender interested in you?

"Tip well," Bri said, "and just don’t be an awful person."

"Tip well, be polite, don’t take up too much of my time trying to talk to me while I’m working -- just use common bar etiquette. I swear we notice this stuff. Come in on a slow day and ask the bartender about herself... or himself. There’s no one more bored than a bartender on a slow day, so we will definitely give anyone a chance," Amy said. "Really, just be a nice guy. Be friendly and ask us about ourselves -- but again, when we aren’t busy. That’s really the only way you are going to get through, but don’t be annoying. Ever. We are at work in this scenario, remember?"

"What women want to be complimented on, is not what we look like. The way a man gets personal with a woman -- talk about something she does, something she says, something she is," Dr. Walsh added.


Here is what you definitely should NOT do

"A few nights ago a guy at the bar told me, 'If you let me take you out to my car, I could do things you wouldn’t even imagine," said Bri. "And I had no problem telling him, 'Yeah, I would never imagine that, if I did I would probably throw up.'"

"One time a guy stopped me on my way to the kitchen, and asked me, 'Do you like to cook?' I said, ‘Sure...’ and then he asked me if I like to clean, and I just kind of nodded, but then he asked me, 'Do you like to fuck?' I’m just like, where... in what scenario... on what planet could this dude possibly think that line would work?" Amy said.

"If a woman folds her arms when she's talking to you, it's a clear-cut sign that she is not into you," Dr. Walsh said. “It’s standoffish, and she's literally covering her chest: saying 'don’t look at my chest, don’t think about my chest. I’m locking you out.'"

"There was one time, a girl would not leave one of our male servers alone... even out of the bar, on off hours, and we had to confront her about it," Zach Mack, owner of ABC Beer Co. in NYC told me. "Really, I’ve seen it be a problem, believe it or not."

What about within the gay bar scene?

I consulted another old friend, who is working in Pittsburgh at a family-friendly chain restaurant. He asked that I keep his place of work anonymous (it definitely doesn't rhyme with T.G.I. Shmriday’s) as well as refer to him as "Mr. X" -- which I think is a little generous, but I’ll go with it because I owe him $10. He also moonlights at a gay bar sometimes.

"I think it's a little different with me," Mr. X confided. "When I’m working at (his main restaurant) I’m not really that flirty towards guys anyway... just to play it conservative. Unless they are regulars."

But it's a different story at the gay bar.

"The atmosphere at the gay bar is just, so much more... sexually charged? I guess that's what you would call it. And that's overall, not just for me. It's a lot more free-flowing and relaxed, and it's much, much more common to be picked up and pick up people while working behind the bar than at straight bars, in my opinion. I use my role to my advantage actually... who doesn't love free drinks?"

In this case, every point in the P.A.N.D.A.S™ Point System is worth double. Yahtzee! Or something.


So if I think my bartender is interested, should I leave my number on the receipt?

"That’s like the absolute lamest thing a guy can do," Bri said. "It’s like come on... you are really going to bitch out when I’m actually here... then expect me to just be inspired to call you? That’s not how it works."

"That is the lamest thing. Ultimately -- and even though it sounds like a boring cliche -- confidence is the most attractive thing about a guy. Doing that shows zero balls, it shows zero confidence, and it just... it’s just weird," Amy said.

Have any of these five barkeeps ever seen this tactic work?





"Oh Jesus, oh hell no. Oh God no."

Writing a note on your receipt will result in negative 20,000 points on the P.A.N.D.A.S™ Point System. You may never get laid again. Just like pandas.

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. No bartender has ever hit on him, for obvious reasons. Follow him: @wilfulton.