A bartender job is far more than just pouring drinks, engaging with customers and receiving tips. A good summed up job description of a bartender would be a multitasking professional, a mixologist, an entertainer, a listener and a host.
I will focus on all aspects of the bartending job. Keep in mind that the actual bartender responsibilities may differ from place to place. In example, a bartender working in a smaller establishment may have more responsibilities and one working in a bigger bar may have co-workers that can assist behind the bar. Either way, the bartender position can best be summed up as multitasking.
Bartenders are salesmen. You are responsible for selling drinks and bringing the profit in for the bar. In order to keep the sales coming, a bartender relies on a mix of factors: great people skills, entertainment value, providing an ambiance for the customers and encouraging more sales through smart product placement.
Keeping an eye on your customers is essential. As a bartender, you will need to identify customers that are getting too intoxicated and take measures to prevent them from further intoxication. Quite often this means refusing to serve drunk customers, having to explain your decision to them and calling them a cab so they arrive home safe.
Depending on the establishment, a bartender may be responsible for checking the ID’s of the customers to ensure they are the right age. This would include being able to spot fake ID’s, as teenagers seeking liquor go to great lengths in order to get what they want. The bartender is held accountable for serving minors with alcoholic beverages, so when in doubt, you need to check on your customers.
Besides pouring drinks, you will need to know how to listen. Interacting and making small talk with people requires good listening skills. It might be a movie cliché, but it is true that bartenders are somewhat psychologists. Many people come to the bars to drink their sorrows away and many times you will happen to hear some amazing life stories.
At last, no bartender can be a good bartender without the proper knowledge. It is your job to know all there is to know about the drinks, spirits, terminology and bar techniques. If a customer orders one Cuarenta Y Tres on the rocks and one Bloody Mary, you will need to know what they want to drink and how they want to drink it. The right way to attain this knowledge is through education: following a bar school or a course is the proper way to go.
Not all bars require bartenders to know how to entertain, but if you’re interested in the show aspect of bartending you will need a course in flair bartending. Also, making cocktails requires an additional set of skills which you can also acquire through proper education. This investment will surely pay off, as you will be able to work in more sophisticated places.
Once you complete a course in flair bartending or cocktail making, you will be able to entertain your guests by spinning bottles, throwing bottles in the air and setting drinks on fire. As these techniques are highly entertaining to your guests, you can count on happier customers and thus larger tips.
The bartender is responsible for setting up the bar for the night. This includes making sure that the bar is well-stocked with ice, liquor, appropriate glasses and bar supplies. Having to stock the bar means you will begin work a few hours before the opening of the establishment.
If you work with cocktails, there’s more to this preparation. Preparing fresh sugar syrup for use in cocktails comes to mind. As does infusing spirits and making fruit purées. During these hours, you will also prepare garnishes for drinks by washing and cutting fresh fruit and storing them for later usage.
Your job as a bartender is to make sure the bar is running efficiently. During the night, you will need to re-stock items that run out while attending customers in between. Your supplies need to be organized in a logical manner, providing you and your co-bartenders easy access to every ingredient.
Besides that, a bartender is responsible for the overall presentation of the bar area. It’s your duty to wipe the bar counter repeatedly and keep the bar neat, even during happy hours when there’s really no time to do it.
Smart bartenders do these things while taking orders from customers. In example, while leaning in to hear what the customer wants to order, he or she will wipe the bar area on the left or right side of the customer. Just make sure you wipe away from the customers or towards yourself, to ensure the liquids on the bar counter do not land on them.
One mostly overlooked responsibility of the bartender is to keep an eye on the right arrival order of the customers. In other words, you should know which one of the customers got to the bar first and is next to be served. There’s nothing worse for a customer than seeing others who got to bar later get served first.
In my personal opinion, this is the one thing that can make or break your income. Do not expect agitated customers to give you high tips. And trust me, you will agitate them if you follow this “last in, first served” method – whether you do it consciously or unconsciously.
Many times have I witnessed a bartender choosing to serve a good looking female before a male who’s waiting longer. Many times, I was that customer and had to wait because the bartender wanted to impress the girl. Needless to say, the guy working the bar didn’t receive any tip from me.
Part of the bartender job is to close for the night, or what’s often called “close to open”. This term is used to explain the purpose: making the bar operational for the next time it’s open. A bartender will re-stock all alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages and bar supplies. He or she will clean the bar area thoroughly, which includes cleaning the bar itself, washing of the ice-buckets, cleaning of the refrigerators and mopping of the floors.
In addition, a bartender will count the money in the cash register and fill out a profit form used by the management.
If you’re working in a bigger bar where there are several bartenders operating the bar, you may be required to break the new bartenders in. Every once in a while, a new member of the team will arrive and it will be your responsibility to explain your bar operation. Also, you may be asked to educate junior members of the staff.