Bar Manager Job Description
Bar managers oversee the operations of establishments serving adult beverages. They may manage the bar area at a restaurant or work in a place like a pub, where the primary focus is beverage consumption. Hours vary by facility, but evening and weekend shifts are common since those tend to be busy times. The environment can be very fast-paced when places are crowded, and bar managers spend a good deal of time on their feet attending to various demands.
Employment of bar managers, classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics under “Bartenders,” is projected to grow 2 percent between 2016 and 2026. While numerous local bars have had difficulty keeping their doors open, many full-service restaurants have increased their bar areas. Competition for jobs is expected to be highest at upscale establishments.
Bar Manager Duties and Responsibilities
Bar managers are well-versed on what goes into each alcoholic drink, but this management role entails a great deal more than pouring and serving beverages. Job ads seeking bar managers commonly include the following tasks:
Busy bars depend on the efforts of many team members. Bar managers hire, train, and schedule workers to ensure adequate coverage. They monitor drink preparation, assign cleaning duties, and serve as a source of industry and operations knowledge.
A good deal of a bar’s profit comes from regular customers, so smart bar managers spend time interacting with patrons. To increase customer retention, bar managers may learn the names, drink preferences, and, in some instances, background information to customize service and make patrons feel valued. They talk to patrons about service and quality and step in to rectify any problems.
Bar managers work on increasing revenue by planning promotional events. For instance, they may set up trivia contests on traditionally slow nights of the week as a way of bringing people in the door. Additionally, bar managers use social media marketing to promote in-house events and specials.
Bar managers must keep a close eye on inventory. Missing or low inventory can be a sign of staff theft or servers over-pouring drinks, and bar managers are responsible for ensuring this doesn’t occur. Bar managers need to properly stock a bar so that customer requests can be satisfied and also maintain ties with vendors to negotiate contracts and get deals.
Bar managers take responsibility for securing and maintaining the terms of the establishment’s liquor license. They take care to verify that their staff members and patrons are of legal drinking age. Bar managers also watch out for customers who are drinking too much and train their staff to notice the signs. They may refuse to serve someone who is intoxicated, call a cab instead of letting someone drive, or seek police assistance to remove someone who is acting overly aggressive.
Bar Manager Skills
Bar mangers need outstanding organizational skills to attend to the various demands of a busy establishment. An outgoing personality also can be a big plus as it helps patrons feel happy and welcome. In today’s job market, bar managers need to possess these additional skills:
- Working well under pressure to diffuse any situations that may arise within the bar atmosphere
- Communicating clearly and effectively with staff so that they understand expectations
- Exhibiting an aptitude for numbers to negotiate contracts, monitor inventory, and judge the effectiveness of promotions
- Understanding of industry practices and standards to run an efficient, up-to-code bar
- Balancing priorities and executing strong time management in a fast-paced work environment
- Employing keen technical skills to troubleshoot POS systems as well as to design in-house menus and promotional materials
Bar Manager Tools of the Trade
In addition to mixology, bar managers need to adeptly use the following technical tools:
- POS Systems – Point of sale systems contain the hardware, software, and support systems used in restaurants and bars to conduct transactions
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software – Specialized computer software that people in the food and beverage industry use for tasks such as managing inventory, ordering supplies, ensuring quality and safety compliance, and analyzing data
- Hospitality Tech Platforms – Applications and websites like OpenTable, Reserve, and Tablelist help connect patrons to restaurants and bars with seamless reservation-making capabilities
- Desktop Applications – Microsoft and/or Adobe programs are used to design menus, event flyers, training manuals, spreadsheets, and other business-related documents
Bar Manager Education and Training
Most bar managers possess a high school diploma. Many have taken bartending classes at a vocational or technical school, and some have completed coursework in business or restaurant management. Those applying for bar manager positions tend to have significant previous experience as bartenders or other beverage/food industry staff.
Bar Manager Salary
The median annual salary for bar managers, categorized by the BLS under “Bartenders,” is $20,800. Bar managers in the 10th percentile earn about $17,300 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $40,200 a year. Bar managers in Hawaii, Alaska, and California make the highest median salaries in the U.S. at $38,160, $28,880, and $27,960, respectively.
Bar Manager Resources
As you go about developing your career as a bar manager, the following organizations and books can provide great additional information:
BevSpot – The “Resources” section on this website includes a variety of useful handbooks bar managers can download, including ones on inventory, managing, and health inspection. Check out the blog for the latest in beverage industry news—you may just get your next great idea for a new cocktail or a stellar happy hour promotion.
National Bartenders Association – From learning more effective ways to do your job to networking with other bar managers, this trade organization provides a forum for those interested in career satisfaction and success.
National Restaurant Association – This established trade organization is a go-to place for everything restaurant related. Check out its career section (which, incidentally, notes that half of all American adults have worked in the restaurant industry) for the latest on job outlooks, education, and professional development.
United States Bartenders’ Guild – With the mission of “uniting the hospitality community to advance professional bartending,” this organization sponsors contests and events that draw beverage leaders together.
Running a Bar for Dummies by Ray Foley and Heather Dismore – Reviewers call this book in the popular series “informative, comprehensive, and straight-forward.” With insight into hiring and training staff, stocking a bar, and planning menus, the guide is a must-read for aspiring bar managers.
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