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How to Hire a Bartender (A Guide to Hiring Your Next Bartender)

by Caileen Kehayas | Last Updated September 22, 2017

How To Hire A Bartender

The heart of many of the most successful restaurants today lies not in the kitchen, but just adjacent to it.

The heart of every great wedding you’ve been to might have been slightly down the aisle from the bride and groom.  

Your best therapist might not have a couch and a notepad...

That’s right, we are talking about the bartender.

Hiring a great bartender for your bar, restaurant or special event could be a huge make or break. Hiring a bartender requires more than just finding someone who can mix gin and tonic.

In this article, we will lay out everything you need to know about hiring a great bartender.

Let’s dive in.

Responsibilities of a Bartender

Everyone thinks they know the responsibilities of the bartender.

Make a few drinks, talk to people and take money, right? Wrong. A bartender usually has a variety of responsibilities, ranging from ordering supplies, maintaining inventory, creating a cocktail menu, managing other bar staff and, yes, making drinks.

We have included a few responsibilities to include when writing your bartender job description.

  • A gracious, friendly, patient and helpful attitude towards guests
  • Ability to multi-task and work in a very busy environment
  • Flexible schedule with full availability on nights and weekends
  • Working knowledge of food and beverage laws and regulations
  • Full bar service including wine, beer and crafted cocktails
  • Check customers' identification to ensure they are of legal drinking age
  • Maintaining inventory and bar supplies
  • Creating and implementing nightly or weekly bar menu, including bar specials
  • Making drinks in a quick and efficient manner

The Bartender Is Rarely Just A Bartender

So you’re looking for a bartender? When you are looking for a bartender, you might also be looking for a manager, a wine expert, a bouncer and a therapist.

Take a moment to consider what type of establishment you are staffing.

In a traditional restaurant, the bartender is usually the top of the front of house chain of command. Providing drinks for their servers as well as for their own bar, a bartender can be a huge part of the dining experience.

When dealing with a more fine dining situation, you will likely want a bartender that has knowledge akin to a sommelier. In this way, your bartender can knowledgeably recommend suitable pairings for each course.

In a more straightforward bar situation, the head bartender will also maintain a leadership role. The bartender will create the drinks, face with customers and will likely manage any doorman or barback working in the establishment.

In short, in many situations you will also want your bartender to have managerial or other special experience.

Traits of a Great Bartender

In addition to the listed responsibilities, the next best trait of a great bartender is experience. It is even more important if you are building out a bar staff.

Bartending requires someone who knows how to maintain composure when a bar is packed with people during NFL Sundays. Conversely, a great bartender will have the know how to deal with an almost-empty bar with one customer who has had “too much”.

Experience in bartending cannot be taught in a book (or blog post) - Most of the most successful bartenders have spent many nights behind bar learning by real experience. This brings us to our next trait of a great bartender: a great teacher.

If you have  busy bar you need to staff, consider hiring a team of one or two experienced bartenders. Support these bartenders with barbacks. Barbacks are tasked mainly with restocking, washing glasses and being general support. When there is downtime, a great bartender will be able to teach the barbacks about certain drinks, how to maneuver tricky situations and simply by working alongside them.  

Writing Your Bartender Job Post

Now that you have considered the type of bartender you need for your restaurant, it is time to get to writing that post.

There are four main components to include in your bartender job post.

1. The Title

The title matters!

Most bartender jobs will have a title that simply reads “Bartender”. Make yours stand out by mentioning what sets you apart. Is there competitive pay? Are there any health benefits? Mention it in the title!

Examples

  • Offering Competitive Pay and Benefits for Bartender
  • Bartender for Busy Restaurant (Great Tips!)

2. The Introduction

The introduction part of the job post is nothing fancy. Use these 1-3 sentences to summarize your company, its beliefs and the type of person you want to hire.

Example:

At Sheraton, we go above and beyond in everything we do. We are inspired by our guests and one another – and are driven to make things better. We love what we do, and we give it all we’ve got – on property and off. When guests stay with us, it’s not just a room with a bed that they’re buying. It’s an experience. We’re looking for someone who is ready to go beyond in everything they do. If you are someone with a genuine drive to improve your life and the lives of those around you, we encourage you to explore careers with Sheraton.

3. The Responsibilities & Requirements

The responsibilities and requirements section is fairly straightforward. This is where, in bullet point form, you will list the responsibilities and requirements of your bartender hire. Because these sections can tend to be long, it is crucial you use bullet points to make it legible. No applicant wants to sift through a block of text in a job description.

The responsibilities will summarize the day-to-day tasks and duties of the bartender.

The requirements will summarize the experience level, ability and knowledge necessary to be hired.

Example:

As Bartender, you will:

  • Provide exceptional service to guests by promptly welcoming and courteously serving guests in a can-do fashion, engaging in polite conversation when time allows.
  • Be fully informed of beverage and menu offerings, in anticipation of guest needs and to deliver highly attentive service.
  • Prepare drinks for cocktail service orders and have a passion for mixology. Maintain a safe, clean environment, which includes managing people with discretion and professionalism and occasionally diffusing difficult situations.
  • Prepare, Cook, and Serve food from menu offerings for hotel & local guests in outlet.
  • Ensure the bar and its equipment are clean and fully functional.

4. The “How to Apply” Section

With modern online job boards, the how to apply section might be a little more obsolete. Most job boards include an “apply now” button on the job description form.

However, some employers use a How to Apply section to make sure an applicant is paying attention or to explain any special instructions in the application process. If you are conducting on-site interviews, you will also want to include these details in the “How To Apply Section”

Once your basic outline is written there are many ways to optimize your job post in order to make it more viewable (and clickable!)  

Where to Post Your Bartending Job

Once you have decided the type of bartender you need, you will want to make sure your job is seen by the best bartenders out there. Sure, you can post your bartending opening to Craigslist, Indeed, Monster or any other large job board.

However, when looking to fill a job in a specific sector, like hospitality, you will want to go to a niche job board. Typically, available bartenders will look at restaurant job sites or hospitality job boards to find their next gig. Make sure they see your job there!

Here are a few great places to hire your next bartender:

Questions to Ask Bartender References

When hiring anyone, checking references is generally a good step to take. When hiring a bartender, it is a crucial step. While your bartender interviewee might be charming and personable (great traits of bartenders) it is important not to hire them on the spot.

There are a few bartender-specific questions you will want to ask when checking references. Here are a few (and why!)

  • Did the candidate work alongside other bartenders/server at this job? How do she get along with her coworkers?

Why: Dependent on the type of bartending job you are filling, the bartender will need varying levels of interpersonal skills. While a bartender may be great with customers, that sort of respect and affability can be lost on coworkers, especially when it is very busy. On a friday night, the bar will likely be imbued with drink orders from seated bar patrons, servers and walk-ins. A great bartender will be able to balance this while remaining friendly and relaxed with everyone.

  • Did the bartender have a lot of friends or regulars visit?

Why: It’s great for a bartender to have regulars and friends visit, in theory. While a star bartender bringing in crowds on an otherwise dead Tuesday night is great, there can be drawbacks. Use this question to make sure that your bartender hire does not have a reputation for giving away freebies to friends and groupies.

While the margins of profit on a bottle of well liquor can be huge, they are nothing when being given away shot by shot to your new bartender’s friends.

  • Did the bartender adhere to health code and/or keep a clean and sanitary bar?

Why: A visit from the health department can ruin a great Saturday night. Use this question to gather how much attention a bartender pays to the bar itself. Would dirty bar towels be left sitting next to clean glasses? Were lemons and limes cut and iced in a clean place? Make sure your bartender hire has pride in the cleanliness and approachability of the bar itself.

  • What did an average Friday night look like? Monday night?

Why: This is an important questions for staffing your bar. Use this question to gauge how your prospective hire deals with busy crowds and the more dead nights. If you will also rely on a bartender to cut staff on slow nights for budget, this will be an important line of questioning.

How to Keep A Bartender

With every hire, a great manager will be immediately thinking of how to keep their new employee. When you find a great bartender, you will want to earn trust, respect and loyalty.

Be upfront when interviewing and hiring a bartender. Because many of the busiest times at a bar coincide with holidays and weekends, you will need to be upfront with your requirements.

Do not make the mistake of seeming easygoing. If you need your bartender every day between November 24 to January 1, make that known.

Ask the hard questions during the interview. Without toeing into illegal interview questions, ask the bartender the tough questions in the interview process. You don’t want to find out that your bartender likes to throw punches on a rowdy night.

Finally, have a great support system for your bartender. Bartenders deal with a lot on a daily (or nightly) basis. Making sure your bartender has a great supportive staff of barbacks and security makes it easier for them to focus on their main initiative; making drinks for their customers.

Happy hiring and good luck!

Topics: hiring

Caileen Kehayas

Written by Caileen Kehayas

Caileen is the Director of Marketing at Proven. When she is not blogging or tweeting, she likes to hit the nearest trail for a run, take her camera on a trip or curl up with a good book.

 

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