When it comes to the bar and restaurant industry, employee turnover can be a huge detriment to an establishment’s success. After all, losing an employee means taking time out of a busy day to find, hire, and train somebody new.
One of the most challenging positions to hire for is the bartender role. To some degree, your bartender is going to be the face of your bar. They greet customers, lend authority to the bar they stand on, and create the primary product that your patrons come for.
That’s why you need the best qualities and skills for this position.
As you search for a new bartender, either now or in the future, you should go through our list of the top bartender skills and qualities to look for in a potential candidate to ensure you’ve found the right person for the job.
What Bartenders Do
Before you go hunting for a new bartender with a checklist, you first need to understand the multifaceted role that bartenders play in your bar.
Contrary to popular belief, bartenders don’t just stand around and mix drinks. Bartenders perform a core function in your bar: to create a seamless, memorable, and pleasurable drinking experience. To perform this function, they have a couple of individual responsibilities, such as.
- Customer service. Bartenders greet customers and help make them feel at ease in your establishment.
- Making drinks. They use bar equipment and instruments to create drinks with the right order, amount of ingredients, and customer preference. They are also responsible for creating new recipes and mixes for your establishment.
- Security. Your bartenders also have security responsibilities, such as checking IDs to see whether patrons are of legal age, monitoring intoxication levels, and even being alert to subtle cues such as the Angel Shot.
- Accounting and inventory. They may also be responsible for taking payments, handling transactions, conducting an inventory of drink supplies, ordering ingredients, and maintaining other supplies.
- Bar upkeep. Lastly, your bartenders are responsible for cleaning and maintaining everything within the bar, be it the bar surface, bar instruments, or large equipment.
As you can see, bartenders perform many functions in your bar.
In restaurant terms, bartenders would handle responsibilities for both front-of-house (customer service-oriented) and back-of-house (food and beverage processing oriented). As such, it’s not such a stretch for you to call them the core of your bar operations.
Hard vs. Soft Skills
Every job in the world requires a mix of hard and soft skills to perform well.
If you want to find the best bartender for a job in your establishment, you’ll want to hire the most optimal mix of hard and soft skills. But what exactly are hard and soft skills, and how will they affect the performance of your would-be employee?
Before we get into the specific skills you should be looking for in your applicants, let’s first understand these two categories.
These categories of skills are also called technical skills, and these are abilities that individuals acquire because they learned them in a structured and monitored way. The most common example of a hard skill is a college degree; when you hold a degree in accounting, it signifies that you learned the fundamentals of this skill through your school.
Hard skills are critical for any job position. After all, these skills will be what creates the product, operates the machine, or makes the system run.
For bartending, hard skills include mixing different drinks, operating bar equipment, and manning the POS system.
While hard skills can be measured and generally quantified, soft skills are the inverse. It’s difficult to pin soft skills – they are more subjective and unique, and while they can certainly be learned, it’s challenging to teach systematically.
Soft skills are often called “interpersonal skills” or “people skills” because they affect how well you deal with others.
The employee will have to deal with people in the vast majority of jobs, and much more so in bartending and interacting with customers, co-workers, bosses, business partners, and so on is the basis of a typical day for a bartender.
And it’s not just some new trend. The importance of soft skills are widely recognized to be impactful in the workplace and are always in demand.
A study by PWC reveals that 77% of CEOs surveyed have difficulty finding the soft skills they need, especially creativity and innovation. The study also finds that other critical soft skills are getting harder to find, such as problem-solving, adaptability, and leadership – all vital skills that your baristas need to have in the workplace.
Thus, while soft skills can be vague and subjective, their value in the workplace cannot be denied. This is why you should ensure that your new bartenders have the right soft skills for the job.
But what is the right mix of skills? We’ll discuss that in the next section.
Most Important Bartender Skills and Qualities
Here are the most important skills and qualities you should look out for in your next bartender!
Soft skills refer to the interpersonal skills that your bartender needs to master if they want to do their work well.
Even the smallest bar menu requires a bartender to have a great memory in order to remember how to make all the drinks.
During a busy night, you can’t afford to have a slow bartender holding up the process for customers. Also, a good memory can help a bartender recognize regulars and serve them better as return customers.
Getting rattled easily is not a good quality when being a bartender. Even on less busy nights, so many things can go wrong and probably will.
Being able to remain calm, process the situation, and react appropriately is the key to any restaurant position. With so many moving pieces happening at once behind the bar, a good bartender can handle various situations they are thrown into.
Also, bartenders need to multitask. The pressure of talking to customers while making a drink while keeping an eye on some intoxicated patrons can add up, but a good bartender knows how to handle it.
Building off the excellent memory aspect to remember all the drinks, consistency in the techniques to make those drinks is also critical.
This means accuracy with measurements, cocktail techniques, and consistency with their personable service.
Customers tend to know when things aren’t the same as the last time they visited, whether food, drinks, or service, and it’s vital to have your employees be consistent across all facets of their jobs.
Interacting with people is a central component of the job, and being able to connect with people should be a given for any bartender.
Being social, outgoing, and friendly will help a bartender succeed, sell more drinks, and keep customers happy. Keep in mind that being friendly and outgoing are very important; the underlying job of a bartender is to sell drinks.
Having a salesperson’s mentality can also be a tremendously beneficial trait to complement this friendliness.
Keeping the bar, utensils, and drinkware clean before, during, and after a shift is extremely important. A messy workstation leads to mistakes, accidents, and even health code violations. Not to mention, it will turn patrons off seeing a dirty bar.
While making drinks may not be as big of a health risk as cooking raw meat, a certain level of cleanliness should still be required.
On any given shift, your next bartender will handle multiple tabs and amounts of cash. Thus, you must be able to trust your employees when handling your restaurant’s money.
It is very easy for bartenders to give out free drinks, pocket all the cash for the drinks, and conveniently not enter those transactions into the POS system.
Having a well-operating bar inventory management system can help keep track of the number of drinks served and compared to the inventory. While this responsibility often falls back on the bartender, this area of your bar’s operations can be high-risk.
Bartending Hard Skills
On the other side, these are the hard skills that should be present in your winning candidate’s resume.
- Mixology. Knowing how to make a wide range of drinks forms the core of your potential bartender’s ability.
- Free pouring. The ability to pour shots or mix drinks without measuring everything first is critical in creating consistency in whatever they mix.
- Presentation. Making Instagrammable drinks that look great is a huge plus since it enhances the optics of your establishment.
- Formulation. Bartenders are also responsible for creating new drinks to add to your menu, so they need to leverage creativity, skill, and experience to make new things.
- Operating bar equipment. If you have specialty bar equipment such as mixers, beer keg systems, POS, etc., they need to know how to use those.
- Inventory management. Since bartenders are in charge of stocking and ordering the things they need for making drinks, they should also have good inventory management skills.
How To Improve Your Employees’ Bartending Skills
Now you’ve learned everything you need about choosing the right hard and soft skills for your bar’s newest employee. But do you need to hire? Maybe you can upskill or train your current employees instead.
This tactic only works if you have enough staff, time, and resources for the training. Nevertheless, it’s still important to learn ways you can potentially upskill your current employees.
1. Enroll them in local/online schools
Nowadays, it’s much easier to get an education than ever. You can choose to sponsor upskilling your employees by enrolling them in bartending schools near your workplace or even online bartending schools they can attend in their free time.
2. Get them a bartending license or certification
You can also train your employees in-house if you have other bartenders. This way, you can avoid the cost of a formal school while still giving your employees the chance to learn.
However, expect reduced productivity, especially in the first few days of training. You can get around this by planning their shifts effectively.
3. Take advanced bartending courses
If you have a bartender trainee on your staff, you can improve their skills and productivity by enrolling them in advanced courses. This will teach them what they need to learn to become true professionals; unique recipes, various ingredients, mixology techniques, and more.
As mentioned, there are also advanced bartending courses available online if you’re willing to look and pay for them.
Bartending Skills in Your Workplace
This article discussed the skills you should look for in the next hire. However, hiring the right employees isn’t always easy, and sometimes untrustworthy employees get hired.
This is where Glimpse comes in. Glimpse provides bars and restaurants with indisputable video audits, reporting food and beverage transactions which are improperly recorded at the Point of Sale or not recorded at all.
These reports are backed up by time-stamped images that will help you resolve infractions quickly and rectify employee behavior. Trust but verify – Glimpse verifies so you can trust!
To see how Glimpse can help, visit our website to schedule your free demo today!
Glimpse provides business analytics and loss prevention technology for bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
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