Typically the middle of summer at your local sports bar is a dead zone.  Once NBA and NHL playoffs have concluded, a stillness sets in that is only punctuated by the occasional office happy hour or baseball fan meet-up.  This year, bar owners are ecstatic to have the World Cup to fill in the gaps for another month or so. For the United States games, local bars are packed with revelers, even on traditional “work” days. It can be downright overwhelming for the casual fan. After working in the restaurant and bar business throughout college and currently working part-time at Third Base sports bar in downtown Austin, Texas, I have picked up a few tips to help you navigate your favorite sports bar once the busy season is back in full swing.

-Come watch baseball or just hang out and eat lunch in the summer. Get to know the bartenders and waitstaff. If they know you by name, they can spot you even in a busy crowd. If you have a favorite drink, make sure they know that is what you order all the time. If you run across a great staff member, they will remember and all you will have to do is agree when they ask if you want the usual. When you find that awesome person, stick with them…we get a little upset when we feel like you are cheating on us with another bartender.

-Be prepared to start a credit card tab or pay cash (exact change or small bills always appreciated!). Even if the staff knows you, most sports bars have a company policy to collect credit cards from every guest to avoid walked tabs.  One of the most frustrating times for staff is the end of a sporting event because every customer is trying to pay their bill at the same time. Imagine one waitress closing out every table in their section…now multiply that by 10. It takes time on the computer to run credit cards and often the staff is waiting in line to use a machine, while you are tapping your foot at the bar waiting for your credit card slip to sign.  Paying in cash eliminates the need to wait in line, as a good server will already have a “bank” of change when he/she gets to work.

-If you’d rather not pay cash, stay a little while after the game and celebrate (or drown your sorrows). Not trying to leave when 90% of the rest of the bar is heading out the door will save you a lot of stress and headache. Buy your table a round of shots to recognize your team’s victory or curse their defeat. If you really need to get out of the bar as soon as the game ends, order another round and then ask to close your tab early.

-Heckling of other patrons and staff is cool, when done in good fun, but don’t be a jerk. The sports world revolves around competition, but it is important to be nice about it. The last thing you need in a busy bar is a fight or a confrontation with another guest or staff member.

-Do yourself a favor and find a server/bartender that actually knows about sports and pays attention to what you are watching or the team for which you are cheering. It will make your experience so much more enjoyable, and it also makes work more fun for those that are serving you food and drinks. A lot of people choose to work in sports bars because they like sports, but they are often so busy, they don’t have the time to watch and enjoy a game. If they can at least chat with you for a couple of minutes, it makes their shift go by so much quicker.

-Bottled beer takes less time to get than drafts.  If you are in a group, order a bucket.  You will get cold beer faster and be able to order before the last one is empty this way. Also, I would recommend avoiding the girlie shots. The bar is busy and shaking fruity shots takes time. Be strong and drink tequila, or Jagermeister, or whiskey.

-If you are planning to order food, it is best to order early before the kitchen gets slammed. If you do realize you have waited awhile to order food and the restaurant is really busy, ask your server for suggestions if you are starving as to what foods take less time to cook. Listen to those suggestions, but if you don’t, please be patient. You can’t rush the cooking of a well-done burger.

Watching the big event at a sports bar can be a lot of fun when a plan is executed properly.  The camaraderie of fans and friends brings a certain energy to a game that can only be topped by actually being at the game.  If you follow these steps, you will enjoy the game and the only frustration you will feel is if your team loses.