Managing bartenders is a fun business. You get to interact with pseudo-celebrities who draw crowds and get to create the experience which people are looking forward to when they visit your establishment.
You may think a portion of your job is to think of ways to get deals on booze or what color awning you should order for the front, but nothing quite increase your bottom line like ensuring your bartenders are happy, excited, and eager to come into work every day.
1. Personally Train Them
Managers taking time out of their days to personally train their staff is something that doesn’t occur often enough. Whether you’re hiring someone brand new to the industry or someone with all the certifications, bells, and whistles, you’re going to have to teach your bartenders how you do things in your establishment.
By doing this, you’re not only crafting their skills and refining the traits that you care about most, but you’re building a stronger rapport with your staff. If you’re eagerly and happily taking the time to show them the ropes and give them insights that they couldn’t get anywhere else, they’ll feel more important, get a greater sense of impact, and ultimately do their job in a more hospitable and effective manner.
This is going to help your bartenders realize that the job isn’t just a job and that they can have fun while doing it because they can see how much fun you have while training them. Make the moments count and put all your energy into making sure that they have the best experience, take things away from it, and are excited to implement their new skills in the field when they come back to the bar.
Some other methods you can try are having group training sessions. Invite your staff over an hour before your bar opens and hold an entire training session with everyone involved. Although this won’t be as personal and hands-on as doing it one-on-one, it’ll surely create many of the same benefits which include making your staff more productive at their role.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be only teaching how to mix drinks and where the keys to the liquor cabinet are in case you run out of bourbon. You’re also training them how they can be more hospitable while on the job and how they can handle certain situations that might arise when they least expect it.
Although teaching someone how to be hospitable is sometimes a task for the professionals, you still know what you’re doing works and the more people to emulate that within your establishment the better.
2. Don’t Leave Bartenders Hanging — Schedule Accordingly
Everyone would like to know what they’re doing this week and appreciate a plan that they can schedule around. Although emergencies do happen, people call out, and things need to be moved around, creating a semi-strict and routinely released schedule will be widely appreciated by your bartenders.
Creating your schedule shouldn’t take too long and will provide so much clarity to everyone involved in the establishment it’ll be well worth it. As you bring on new bartenders, you probably have a rough idea which ones are free on which nights. combining that with strategically choosing which bartenders are given your busiest nights will give you a clear idea for who goes where and when.
While your weaker bartenders might be best suited for weekdays and happy hour, your stronger ones will thrive on the Friday and Saturday evenings. Taking all of this into account along with when people want to work is going to be the more complicated area of your scheduling.
Suzy might want to work Friday nights, but she brings in a crowd on Wednesdays for Trivia Night — although she does well on Wednesdays, she’d do much better on a Friday. How do you determine what is more important? You don’t want to lose the patrons you always get on Wednesdays from Suzy’s Trivia night, but you want to reward her for doing so well by giving her the nights she wants as well. There might be an opportunity to split the Friday nights or get Suzy on the schedule some other nights which may come down to having a conversation and asking why Suzy really wants Friday nights — if it’s because of the organic crowds that come for pre-weekend drinks, she might do just as well with the Saturday shift — which happens to be open for Suzy this week.
3. Get Your Hands Dirty — Do the Work When Things Get Too Busy
Your job is to serve your staff. If you’re managing bartenders, they are the most important people to you and your role in the bar. If everyone is correctly serving who they should be — owner managing the managers, managers managing the bartenders, bartenders serving the patrons — then you have to treat each bartender as if they’re your only concern.
When one of your bartenders is struggling on a Saturday night after shaking some intricate cocktails and can’t pour the party’s shots at the end of the bar, that is when you can come in and take care of those patrons to ease the stress off your bartender. Sure, it’s technically their job to juggle all the orders and get everything out in a timely fashion, but people come in waves and sometimes you have to decide between angry customers or pleased customers when you get in there and take care of some things.
If your bartenders are trained properly and understand that their job is to serve, they’ll be delighted to see that you stepped in and made their lives easier — ultimately, the manager served the bartender by taking some weight off their shoulders and accomplishing things in a more efficient manner.
4. Take Regular Inventory
Although we don’t like to think that servers and bartenders would steal from you, it happens far too often. Taking regular inventory and tracking where all your booze and money is going is an important step that many operators treat too casually.
You may think taking inventory and tracking your liquor is a bar management practice instead of a bartender management practice, but they’re one in the same. Knowing how much Jack Daniel’s is left on nights Suzy works compared to how much is left on nights Henry works might give you some clues as to someone stealing your liquor or over-pouring for their buddies.
Although it’s an extra step in your process of managing the bartenders, it’s something that directly impacts your bottom line so it shouldn’t be ignored. Your bar might be the hottest and coolest bar on the block, but if you’re losing profits because of theft or ignorance, you’re not going to last very long. It’s a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly and is nothing compared to the benefits you’ll gain from it.
5. Encourage Conversation — Speak With Your Staff
You should want to know what is up with one of your bartenders if they’re coming into work gloomy or depressed. Although simply asking seems like the simplest method of going about this, people are sometimes reluctant to truly open up.
Early on in the relationship between you and your bartenders, you should be establishing an open and honest dialogue. Encourage your bartenders to speak up if they have something to say about the bar or themselves.
If your bartender is feeling ill and should take a nap, it might be a good idea to cover for them for a couple hours while they build up the energy to be excited and outgoing behind the bar. Nobody wants a gloomy and ill bartender — you wouldn’t want it because you’re knowingly serving depressed drinks, and the patrons don’t want it because they’re getting no positive reinforcement from their servers.
The ramifications of not encouraging a dialogue would result in someone coming into work without feeling well enough to perform, but attempts it anyway and end up disappointing patrons who fail to ever return based on that one encounter.
Further, since your job is the serve the bartender, you should be very eager to get any of their feedback at all. If one of the bartenders feels the cutting board is inadequate and a new one is needed, speak up, let us know, and we’ll take care of it. If someone is harassing you while pouring their drink, you’re more than welcome to take care of it on your own, but the management will also be happy to step in and put the situation at ease.
6. Modify Your Menu
Modifying your menu is something all bar managers love to do. It’s your opportunity to slightly reinvent yourself, mix things up, and try some new things. Changing your menu does a few things including keeping your bartenders on their toes and gives you a clear opportunity to boost employee morale as well.
One thing we love to do is name cocktails after the bartenders. During one of our training sessions, we’ll ask everyone to try something new, create a unique cocktail that speaks to them, and if they’re good enough we name it after them and put it on the menu for that season.
Naming a drink after some of the bartenders is a great way to get people excited about coming to work. Who wouldn’t be eager and excited to come to the establishment that has a drink named after them? Further, who wouldn’t want to invite all their friends to the establishment that has a drink named after them? It’s a harmless and temporary trick that is great for both mixing up the menu and getting your bartenders excited about the job.
Changing up the menu doesn’t only give your bartenders an opportunity to find fame on the menu, it also keeps them sharp. When the seasons change and the new menu is released, there’s a bit of studying to do until everyone knows exactly how to make the new Spicy Mojito Daquiri.
Instead of resenting you for making them do more work and memorize these recipes, they’ll be excited for the opportunity to learn some new drinks and be more excited to one day have their name on that very same menu.
7. Brainstorm Business Ideas
It’s always a good idea to get feedback from the people that matter most, your bartenders. They’re the ones that are on the front lines every night and they’re the ones that might come up with some of the most creative and lucrative ideas for your business.
We encourage our bartenders to create themed nights and help them market them. Country Night, Jungle Night, and even more generic events like karaoke or trivia might go overlooked until brought up by someone on the staff who sees the opportunity for something like that fitting really well in your bar.
Holding weekly meetings, perhaps before or after your training sessions, could be a great time to really ask your staff to come up with some fresh new ideas for the bar. While you might be researching ways to draw larger crowds, your bartenders are seeing firsthand what works and what doesn’t work.
If no one is buying your pitcher & shots combo, perhaps the bartender might jump in and tell you how they always pour Long Island Ice Teas with a serving of your chicken wings as well. The better deal might be offering half off the wings after you buy two LITs — again, this is something that might not be obvious to someone who’s behind the scenes but makes perfect sense to someone who is literally pouring the drinks and serving the food.
Ultimately, there are many ways that you can better manage your bartenders. Whether it’s getting them more involved in your events or giving them more of your time to train, you can always ensure they’re happier and more efficient at what they’re doing.
You are there to serve them and what they require should always improve the overall business.