Career Development

Bartender Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Bartenders mix drinks to order for customers in bars, restaurants, clubs, and other drinking establishments. They are the friendly faces behind the bar, and they can make or break a business.

Bartenders are the friendly faces that greet customers as they enter a bar, restaurant, or nightclub. They provide a vital service to their establishments by creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for their paying customers.

Bartenders may be required to work late hours during busy times like the weekend. They also must follow strict safety and hygiene standards while working with food and drink, so bartending can be physically demanding as well as mentally challenging.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a bartender and what it takes to become one yourself.

Bartender Job Duties

Bartenders can be responsible for a wide range of duties, including:

  • Pouring alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to order, taking orders from customers seated at the bar, or making drink orders ready for waitstaff
  • Mixing ingredients to create new drinks or preparing drinks that are listed on the menu
  • Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of liquor, mixers, bottled water, glassware, napkins, straws, fruit garnishes, and other bar supplies
  • Serving food items such as appetizers or finger foods
  • Addressing customer complaints about any aspect of the bar experience
  • Responding to guest requests for information by providing menus, drink specials, music listings, and event calendars
  • Complying with state laws governing the sale or serving of alcohol to prevent service to minors, intoxicated persons, and other specific individuals

Bartending is not just about mixing drinks behind the bar; bartenders are involved in all aspects of customer service, and they often perform maintenance as well.

Bartender Salary & Outlook

The average hourly wage for bartenders is $14.50. The highest 10% of workers earned $25.00 or more per hour.

With many Americans turning to the nightlife for entertainment, bartending is a solid, stable career for those who are outgoing and enjoy meeting people. There is a projected 6% job growth rate over the next decade, opportunities will be greatest for those who have experience in bartending, as well as a familiarity with the food and drink trends of the day.

Bartender Job Requirements

The requirements for bartenders are as follows:

Education: Bartenders do not need to hold a degree, but some employers may prefer candidates with at least an associate’s degree or a certificate in bartending or mixology. Many bartenders learn their trade by working as an apprentice at a bar or restaurant.

Training: Most employers require new hires to complete a training program before working on the job. This training teaches new employees how to mix and serve drinks, as well as how to handle questions from patrons. Some of the skills that new hires learn during training include how to open bottles, keep track of inventory and identify customer preferences.

Certifications & Licenses: No certifications are required for this job. On-the-job training is sufficient for most employers. Bartenders must be 18 years of age or older in most states.

Bartender Skills

Bartenders need the following skills:

Memorization skills: Bartenders need to be able to remember the ingredients for dozens of drinks and mix them in the correct order without using a recipe.

Selling skills: A bartender must be able to sell drinks by making conversation with customers and convincing them that they want what he or she is serving.

Flexibility: Bartenders often work long hours, including nights, weekends, holidays, and sometimes even all day. They also might have to deal with difficult customers who are angry about something else in their lives. Flexibility is key.

A strong stomach: A bartender must be able to handle a lot of bodily fluids (vomit, urine) and keep his or her cool at all times.

Physical stamina: Bartending can be physically demanding, bartenders often stand for hours on end without sitting down or taking a break from working.

Bartender Work Environment

Bartenders work in bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol. Most work full-time, and often work nights and weekends.

Bartenders work in a high-stress environment, but also have the potential to make good money when busy. Bartenders are also exposed to the negative effects of alcohol, and may be exposed to hazards related to intoxicated people.

Bartender Career Path

Getting Started

If you are just getting started, try to work for a reputable establishment with established regulars. You need your employer’s cooperation to learn the ropes. New bartenders face considerable rejection, especially in larger cities where hundreds of applicants compete for every job. The hours are long, and pay is low.

Five Years Out

You have worked hard to improve your style and your knowledge of drinks. You have acquired a good reputation and have built up a following of regulars. Your employer recognizes your expertise, so you have more say about how the bar is run. The hours are still long, but now you are making better money. You also have begun to develop contacts that will help you pursue another career path in the food service industry. Most bartenders are satisfied with their careers at this point, although some who want more money go into management positions at larger establishments.

Ten Years Out

Some bartenders open their own establishments or continue to advance into management roles. Satisfaction with this career is high; the hours are usually flexible and many bartenders enjoy the lifestyle created by late-night hours and the friends in the industry.

How to Become a Bartender

1. Planning Your Career

Bartending is a fun and rewarding job that offers many opportunities for growth. While the career path isn’t as linear as some other professions, it does require specific skills and experience to get started.

To become a bartender you will need to learn how to mix drinks, which can be done through online tutorials or in-person training at your local bar or restaurant. Once you have mastered this skill set, you can start applying for jobs.

2. Writing a Resume

For bartending positions, your resume should focus on any relevant experience you have in the field. It’s also important to highlight any interpersonal skills that will help you build relationships with customers and colleagues.

When describing past work experiences, focus on instances where you were able to make others feel comfortable or relate personally to them. This shows that you are an effective communicator and can create a rapport with your patrons at the bar. You may also want to include any awards or accolades received for service excellence, as well as your level of expertise with different types of drinks and cocktail recipes

3. Applying for Jobs

Bartending is a very social job, so the more you engage with people at events and in social settings, the more likely you are to find out about opportunities. Just make sure you always remember the cardinal rule of networking: it’s all about giving, not taking.

4. Ace the Interview

In order to ace an interview as a bartender candidate, you’ll want to consider the environment you’ll be working in. Be prepared to talk about your customer service skills, and how you would deal with rowdy or unruly customers. Think about how you would serve customers and what their overall experience would be like. It is also important to make sure you know how to mix drinks and what drinks you would serve at a certain bar.

During the interview, try to make a good first impression by dressing professionally. Also, make sure you know the difference between a highball and a martini! It is also important to remember that you will be expected to stay late and work during weekends, so make sure you can commit to those hours.

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