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Managing a Bar

How to be a Great Bar Manager

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The bar is a vital contributor to the bottom line of any restaurant. Whether the bar is the focus of your establishment or part of a dinner restaurant, the same high quality standards must apply to all employees to ensure profitable sales and happy customers.

Policies don't make a bar run smoothly—employees who are encouraged and rewarded to follow well-thought out policies do. As an owner or manager, you must create and facilitate an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration among all front-of-house employees.

Bartender Job Description

Every position must have a clear description of job duties in writing, and all employees should have access to every job description. This ensures understanding among the team. Make sure that your bartender understands and agrees to all of the job duties; there is no room for laziness or incompetence.

A good bartender job description includes:
  • Shift hours, or arrival time and expected time to leave.
  • Preparation sidework, for example getting ice, stocking the bar for the shift and cutting fruit for garnishes.
  • Making any and all beverages that are behind for the bar. For example, ice tea or a signature drink mix.
  • Clean up duties, for example putting glassware away, removing bar garbage, restocking for the next shift and wiping all surfaces down.
A portion of a bartender's compensation is often up to 10 percent of waiter and waitress tips, in addition to the bartender's tips. This is called a "tip out." If the bartender does not earn the tip out, there may be resentment among the employees and a breakdown of cooperation. Make clear, in writing, what the bartender is and is not expected to do. Then make sure he or she does it.

Hiring Bar Employees

Sometimes finding the best people for the job is the hardest part. A good employee makes the manager's job much easier. Look for clues that indicate good workers.
  • Guests like to sit at the bar, so bar employees must be personable. An interviewee who arrives, looks you in the eye and has an easy smile is more likely to make guests feel comfortable.
  • Have a print-out of the job description, and discuss it at length with the interviewee. Watch his or her reaction carefully. A person who remains relaxed and does not look at all taken aback will be most comfortable with the job.
  • Engage the interviewee in casual conversation. A person who can converse easily with strangers will make bar guests feel comfortable.
  • Consider your current staff before hiring new employees. Sometimes the best bartender is a former waitress or waiter. Sometimes on-the-job training is more valuable than attending a bartending school.

Providing Feedback

Feedback given to employees must be concrete and fact-based. Negative feedback, or constructive criticism, must be followed with positive suggestions for improvement. Make sure to offer positive feedback when it is deserved. "No news is good news" is bad for employee morale and when things don't go well, meet with the employee in private. Ask what happened, for example, "The drinks came out slowly tonight. What happened?" Be sure to listen to the answer and not pass judgment. Brainstorm together how to improve things. "Tackle each drink ticket in the order it comes up. If the wait staff give you a hard time, let me know, but don't do the tickets out of order—no matter what."

Keep in mind that good managers attract—and keep—good employees.

Written by: Beth Taylor