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Is Your Bar Looking to Hire a Bartender?

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08/12/2020 Read this carefully before hiring the face of your bar, the bartender.

One of the keys to the success of any bar is hiring the right bartender. A skilled and experienced bartender will help to elevate the reputation and image of your on-premise establishment, develop a dedicated clientele of regular patrons, and help to boost the overall profitability of your bar program by regularly coming up with new ideas for cocktail creations and clever marketing promotions.

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Understand the responsibilities of the bartender

The average bartender does more than just make drinks in an efficient manner for guests all night. He or she is also expected to help with the overall management of the bar. Thus, when you are writing a bartender job description, you will want to list activities such as ordering supplies, maintaining inventory, and managing bar staff (including servers, barbacks, and security). This is in addition, of course, to the core function of any bartender: making great drinks and keeping guests entertained.

It might be easiest, then, to think in terms of two broad sets of skills: functional responsibilities and character traits. The functional responsibilities would include all the day-to-day basics of managing and maintaining a bar, while the character traits would help to define how the bartender interfaces with the public on a regular basis. Some of the traits that you should be looking for include a gracious, friendly and patient demeanor; the ability to multi-task in a very busy environment; the ability to work flexible schedules on nights and weekends; and the ability to work well under pressure. In short, you want to hire someone who will still be friendly and engaging when orders are starting to pile up on a busy Saturday night. You’ll want to include the most important of these responsibilities in the “requirements” section of any job posting.

The bartender will be the face of your bar

The bartender, almost without exception, is the head of the front of the house. As such, he or she is responsible for interacting with servers and wait staff, and making sure that all orders are properly filled and delivered to guests. He or she is also responsible for managing barbacks and security (if any). Thus, you are looking for someone with the capacity to take charge and manage people. This is particularly important, for example, if a bartender has to deal with a restaurant patron who has had too much to drink one night, or if a particularly busy night is leading to problems on the floor of the restaurant.

Keep in mind, too, the bartender will literally be the “face” of your bar, and by extension, one of the most recognizable people of your restaurant. For that reason, it is important to hire smart. On a nightly basis, this person will be representing your establishment and set the tone for the way customers view your restaurant. So you are not just hiring for functional skill and expertise, you are also hiring for a cultural match and how well someone understands the branding of your bar.

Ask the right interview questions

As a result, it’s also important to think about the right interview questions to ask. One question that could offer a lot of insights, for example, is the following, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.” This will give you a look inside the person’s way of dealing with problems that inevitably arise.

Another question to ask is, “Tell me about a typical Friday and Monday night at your last bartending job.” This will let you know how much multi-tasking this candidate is used to taking on, as well as how this candidate deals with slow nights of the week. Preferably, a candidate should show a little creativity and ambition during these slow nights. That might be a perfect time, for example, for a bartender to come up with new cocktail creations or get a head start on some bar maintenance activities.

Attract the best candidates with the right job descriptions

At the end of the day, all bartender job descriptions will basically look the same. There will be a short 1-3 sentence intro describing the establishment, its overall branding or mission, and the typical clientele of that establishment. Then will come a listing of the bullet points for key responsibilities and functional requirements.

However, there is plenty of room here to get creative in your job description. One way to attract the best candidates, for example, is to play up the potential to earn a lot in tips. There are two ways to do this – by highlighting the specific demographics of your clientele (e.g. “business travelers with expense accounts”) or by using words like “busy” to describe your bar on a typical night. Busy bars are also bars where there is a lot of tip money to be made.

You also need to be smart about where you post your bartender job. You could, of course, simply post the job on a generic job board like Monster or Indeed. That will certainly get you a lot of applicants, but not necessarily the best applicants. A better place to post that job would be on a job board specifically dedicated to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Don’t forget about retention after hiring a bartender

Coming up with the perfect job description and posting the job online is just the start. You’ll also want to think about retention. If you’ve gone to a lot of effort to hire the best people, you want to make sure that they are staying for the long term. Thus, one way to help these retention efforts is to think beyond just the base compensation rate. Also think about healthcare plans, 401(K) plans, or the ability to acquire equity in the business. You might also think about annual bonuses or other unique incentives that will align your goals (the overall profitability of the bar) with the goals of the bartender.

A great bartender does a lot more than just make a great drink – he or she is an important part of the overall management and operation of your restaurant, and also acts as a brand ambassador for your bar. So, follow the steps above and you’ll be well on your way to hiring a truly talented bartender, who cares as much about the success of your bar as you do.