The bar manager is often the most crucial part of a profitable bar and restaurant.
Not only will bartenders look up to them, but owners will also delegate to them. They are the heart and soul of the establishment, overseeing all staff and operations. A good bar manager will send your profits and reputation soaring. A poor one will drive your margins straight into a nosedive.
The list of duties for this position may seem endless. From recruiting and training new staff to negotiating with vendors, maintaining health and safety standards, and ensuring profitability, the position requires a varied skill set which is certainly unique to the hospitality industry.
Whether you are an owner looking to hire a great bar manager and are unsure of where to start, or an aspiring team member looking to take the next career step, we are here to help!
Check out our list of the top 9 skills every bar manager should have in order to be successful at work.
‘For every hour spent in organizing, an hour is earned.’
I heartily agree with Benjamin Franklin’s words here, and they ring particularly true when talking about bar management. Having excellent organizational skills is of great importance when considering successful bar managers.
Why? Bars can be hectic places, with lots going on at any given time. The bar manager needs to know exactly what needs to be done, in order to communicate this to their teams and create a smooth workflow. This will also lead to a fantastic customer experience – the ultimate goal of any hospitality business!
When talking about organization, we should also discuss the ability to multitask. A bar manager will, on a nightly basis, have to deal with multiple scenarios all at once. Imagine a complaining customer, a new bartender unsure of where to find something, and a vendor on the phone wanting to discuss the details of a large order. This would be enough to send anyone running for the hills! A good bar manager needs to be able to prioritize and multitask, all while maintaining a professional attitude.
2. Great communication
An important skill to keep in mind when considering the bar manager position is communication. This person needs to be able to communicate efficiently and succinctly with various stakeholders, from their team members and senior management to customers and vendors. Long-winded and confusing communication just won’t cut it in a high-octane environment such as a bar where, to use a cliché, time is money.
I also want to point out the importance of non-verbal communication. Only 30% of communication is verbal, so it’s crucial that bar managers are aware of their body language, posture, and eye contact. They must also be able to focus on observing customers’ body language to pre-empt any potential issues. By mastering non-verbal cues and communication, bar managers can ensure that their customers feel welcome and at home in your establishment.
3. Passion and dedication
The position of bar manager is not a typical 9-5 that allows you to coast through your working day. Bar managers need to love what they do in order to succeed. Someone called in sick and you need to work a few extra hours? No problem. Need a quick fix to a plumbing problem? Let’s ask Siri and get it done!
Excellent bar managers want to keep learning and experimenting in order to improve. Being passionate about your work is inimitable – and highly contagious! Creativity among the team will increase and spark new ideas for your bar.
Passion and dedication will get you through those tough nights that we all know exist in our industry. It isn’t a position for the fainthearted and it will soon become apparent to both the team and customers alike if the bar manager isn’t passionate about their job.
4. Stress resistance
It may not surprise you that there is a negative correlation between job stress and quality customer service. Simply put, less stressed employees provide better customer service.
Being able to act well under pressure is a crucial skill for any management position in the hospitality sector. Things can, and will, go wrong. Maybe the bar is unexpectedly rammed and the most popular liquor runs out. The best bar managers remain calm and collected, even when facing the most stressful of situations. They also learn from each case and ensure that avoidable situations do not happen again.
Numbers aren’t easy for everybody! However, a great bar manager must have a good head for figures. Their responsibilities include inventory control and managing the profit and cash flow of the bar so it is crucial that they understand business management principles and cost control. They must also be able to explain the numbers to stakeholders with ease and confidence – not an easy feat!
6. Customer service skills
Retaining current customers is much more cost-effective than hunting for new ones. Of course, you should always aim to grow your customer base, but make sure that your current ones are happy!
A talented bar manager will be able to read customers like a book and know how to make them happy. Customers come to your bar for different reasons and it is the job of a bar manager to understand and act accordingly to nurture these relationships.
7. Hiring and training
A bar manager is in charge of hiring and training their team and this should be one of their top priorities. Why is it so important? Well, with the average staff turnover rate in bars and restaurants standing at 75%, implementing a proper hiring and training program means that you can avoid constantly having to rehire – and all of the paperwork that goes with it!
Being patient with your team members will help them to develop their skills on a much deeper level than if you rush and pile on the pressure. This will lead to a more technically competent and satisfied workforce, allowing the bar manager to spend more time on driving profit!
8. Mixology and product knowledge
While soft skills and personal qualities are important, you can’t replace sound technical knowledge about mixing cocktails, drinks, and product background.
This helps in a number of ways, including training and evaluating employees, as well as choosing and stocking the right products to sell.
As a foundational skill for any bar manager, it’s good to stay on top of new trends and continuously sharpen your knowledge in the realm of mixology.
9. Strong leadership
I saved the best for last! This is perhaps the most important skill so we’ll spend more time here.
Did you know that 75% of people quit their jobs as a result of poor direct management? By showing strong leadership skills, you can buck the trend and keep your staff happy and motivated, saving you both time and money on the hiring process in the long run.
There should be mutual respect and open communication between the boss and team members, creating a positive working environment.
In addition, it is key to combine leadership skills with communication expertise, as mentioned earlier. A great bar manager knows that communication must be adapted depending on the audience.
Maybe there is a difficult team member who needs help but reacts negatively to harsh criticism. In this instance, they need to know the best way to get their message across in order to invoke the desired response.
Also, a bar manager shouldn’t be scared of their weaknesses and recognize the strengths of their employees. It might be that creativity is not their strong point, but that one of their team members has amazing ideas for themed cocktails or events.
Remember, customers are able to recognize when your employees are happy and love what they do as a result of strong leadership. These positive vibes will drive customer retention and satisfaction through the roof.
This may seem like an awful lot of skills and you’re not wrong! Remember, hospitality is a special industry and a bar manager is a unique position. It can make or break your establishment so expectations should be high. By excelling in all of the above skills, your bar will run like clockwork and reap the rewards both in staff morale and customer satisfaction. What more could you possibly want?
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