Tips for Hiring a Bartender
A good bartender is a huge part of having a successful bar, nightclub, or pub. People come to your bar to have drinks. The person who makes their drinks becomes the face of your establishment in many ways. That’s why you need someone who’s friendly, talented, and honest behind your bar. Signal Connect wants to help you find the best person for the job. We talked to bar owners across the country and asked them their tips for hiring a bartender. We got many responses, which allowed us to pick the best tips to share with you here.
Don’t Hire Straight Out of Bartending School
Hiring recent bartending school graduates is very tempting to some bar owners. Those who pursue this option show themselves to be desperate, inexperienced, or both. Don’t get us wrong, hiring someone who’s graduated a bartending school can be helpful. It’s just that recent graduates lack the most important thing to being a successful bartender: work experience. Many of these graduates have developed their skills in a controlled environment. They lack the real world experience of bartenders who have at least a couple of years under their belts.
Let’s take a look at bartenders with experience. Some of the have graduated from bartending school and might hold a bartending license. Others got their starts in other areas of the food service industry and worked their way up to a bartending position. This means they learned how to switch kegs, stock the bar, etc. by actually doing these and other bar management tasks. Even with just a few years’ experience under their belts, there’s a better chance these bartenders will have the skills you want in someone who will represent your business to the public.
Bartender Skills to Look for in Applicants
There’s more to being a good bartender than just pouring drinks. Personality is such a huge part of what it takes to make a great bartender. As a bar owner, you can’t overlook this all too important point. There are certainly skills and traits that you should look for in a bartender, which includes these valuable qualities:
- Empathy: The old adage of people telling their problems to a bartender is true. Having someone who your customers can relate to is good for your business. A good bartender keeps people coming back, and it’s not uncommon for people to seek out a specific bartender who they click with.
- Industriousness: Bartending isn’t just about pouring drinks and laughing with customers. The job also requires bartenders to change kegs and beer gas lines, stock liquor shelves and rails, and order everything your bar needs from distributors. You need someone who can and will do these things.
- Composure: This is practically self-explanatory. Bars, pubs, and nightclubs are busy places. This means you need someone who can handle themselves under pressure. So you need someone who can handle the pressure. This person should be able to step up and handle business when things get hectic.
- Sales: If you have someone who just pours drinks throughout their shift, you don’t have a very good bartender. Bars are part of the service industry, and bartenders are salespeople. You want someone who works to encourage patrons to try top-shelf drinks and extra items on your food menu.
- Honest: Bartenders have access to all of your valuable beer, wine, and liquor. They also have access to a lot of cash. This is why it’s so important to hire a bartender who’s honest and accountable. A dishonest bartender, on the other hand, can clean your business out in no time.
- Ambitious: The ideal bartender is someone who researches drink recipes and suggests new and exciting drinks to offer at your bar. He or she also should not rely on you, the bar owner, to come up with daily or weekly drink specials. The bartender you want will do this on their own then run it by you for approval. Ambitious bartenders who cultivate a sense of ownership in your business are the ones who’ll make you the most money.
Validate Your (Maybe) Next Bartender
If you’ve hung a sign that reads “bartender wanted” or “bartender for hire,” you can expect to get lots of applications and resumes. Naturally, you’ll sift through each applicant to narrow down your choices to a handful of only the best candidates. Before you call them in for interviews, try these tips for determining whether someone would make a good bartender in your establishment:
- Ask Around: Ask your bar manager and other trusted employees if they know the applicant. The service industry circle can be small ones, and chances are one of your employees has worked with this person, or been to the bar. They might be able to provide some good insight into just what kind of a professional your potential bartender is.
- Note: Always remember to give careful consideration to what you hear form your staff, as some of them might have personal issues with the applicant.
- Go Online: You might learn all you need to know about your applicant by searching Yelp! and other online review sites. If this person works at another bar, check the reviews. If this person is outgoing, personable, and has a real flair for bartending, it should show in his or her reviews. Likewise, if the reviews suggest the person rude and lacking in customer service skills, you need to take that into consideration as well. (Those qualities do not match the desired bartending traits listed above!)
- Note: remember that most bars have more than one bartender. Make sure “the bartender” you’re reading about in the online review is the same one applying for a job at your place.
- Pay a Visit: Make some time to visit the bar during your applicant’s shift. This gives you the chance to watch and listen to them at work when they don’t know they’re being watched. Pay close attention to how they interact with you and other customers. Try ordering a somewhat complicated cocktail, such as a Moscow Mule, and see if they mix it to your standards. If you have the time to invest, this is probably the best way to judge whether this person is up to your standards or not.
- Note: This only works if the applicant doesn’t know who you are. If this person met you when they dropped off their application/resume, send your spouse or another trusted friend/family member. Listen to them when they tell you about their experience with your applicant.
Interview Questions for Hiring Bartenders
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the job interview. When it comes time to sit across the table from these folks, what kind of questions will you ask them? Here’s a hint: Don’t just ask yes-or-no questions. The answers you get won’t tell you much about the people who want to work for you. It’s better to ask open-ended questions instead. These require the interviewee to put some thought into his or her answer. The answers they give can tell you a lot about them as people… if you’re listening and paying attention.
Here are six open-ended questions every bar owner should ask potential bartenders:
- Have you run a full bar? If so, tell me about your experiences running it?
- Are you able to tell if a customer has had too much to drink? If so, how do you handle the situation?
- How do you handle situations were you have to cut off a customer?
- Do you have any safety certifications? Which ones do you have?
- What do you do if a customer says their drink wasn’t made right? Or isn’t strong enough?
- Have you ever worked a busy shift alone? If so, how did you handle it?
While these are great questions to ask potential bartenders, you can also come up with some of your own. Only you know what you’re looking for in an ideal bartender. Use these questions as a guideline to come up with some of your own. Your questions should elicit answers about their character and job performance. As they answer, listen what they say with a critical ear. If something doesn’t sound right, take note of it and compare it with the rest of the information you’ve gathered.
DIRECTV for Bars, Pubs, and Restaurants
DIRECTV is a profit center for your business. Consider this a bonus tip for bar owners, and it’s true! When you have its pro football and/or baseball viewing packages, people will want to see the game at your bar. When they do, they tend to stay longer and order more drinks and food throughout the evening. (DIRECTV also has basketball, hockey, and other sports viewing packages.) This can be a moneymaker for you, so there’s no reason not to have it. Signal Connect is an AT&T Preferred Dealer with plenty of experience bringing DIRECTV to bars and restaurants.
We’re proud to be a bar owners’ one-stop shop for all things DIRECTV. We’ll help you choose the best commercial viewing package, satellite dishes, and receivers. When it comes time to install your DIRECTV, we’ll match you with a satellite TV installer in your area. After the installation, your Signal Connect rep will call us to activate your account. We’re do this quickly so your customers can enjoy DIRECTV in your bar. If you have any questions, call us at 866-726-4182. We’re always happy to help bar owners!