Who You Need to Hire to Work at Your Bar
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In the book Start Your Own Bar and Club, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. and writer Liane Cassavoy explain how you can launch a profitable bar or club, whether you want to start a nightclub, neighborhood pub, wine bar or more. In this edited excerpt, the authors detail the types of employees you may need to hire for your bar.
It wouldn't be much of a leap to say the most important aspect of a successful bar is its personnel. When hiring, you need to consider all the different chores your particular operation will depend on. However, the types of employees you'll be choosing from are pretty universal.
A good way to categorize the employees in the bar industry is front of the house, back of the house and swing. Front-of-the-house employees include bartenders, servers and hosts. The back of the house is made up of chefs, prep cooks, dishwashers, office staff (secretary, bookkeeper, etc.), and the maintenance staff (usually subcontracted). Swing employees are the managers, bussers, barbacks, security (where necessary) and expediters (expediters are most frequently found in larger food operations; otherwise, managers usually do the job when it's necessary).
It's a good idea to have one manager per shift who helps control the entire flow of the business. This lead manager can follow all your bar's functions at the same time. But don't expect your on-duty manager to also be the shift's lead line cook or only bartender. If the manager has to take care of a guest's problem or see to an emergency, then service will suffer.
Sometimes kitchens have their own managers--a person who interviews and schedules cooks, dishwashers, prep cooks, etc. If you have a large-sized bar, you may also need a separate bar manager to oversee bartenders, wait staff and bussing staff.
A general manager needs the ability to smoothly run both the front and back of the house. Your general manager should be someone who's as comfortable seeing to a guest's satisfaction as they are to negotiating with suppliers. They should also be comfortable dealing with employees from the interview and hiring process through the day-to-day management.
Bartenders. A bartender's attitude toward your customers heavily influences the success of the bar. Your bartender should have an affable, interactive attitude with people. Experience goes a long way, but if you're hiring for a small neighborhood bar and just need someone to help you out, you can afford to hire based on the personality of the candidate alone.
Servers. Unlike a restaurant, a bar doesn't usually distinguish between cocktail servers and food servers. If your establishment is bar-focused, your customers will expect your servers to have a vast knowledge of the types of liquor, mixed drinks, beer and wine you serve, as well as what's in your food specials.
Hosts. To serve your customers better, you'll want to communicate with them from the moment they contact you (via phone or in person). If you have a smaller operation, you may just have your manager answer phone calls and have your servers greet guests. If you have a larger establishment, you might want to have a host or hostess at the door to greet and seat guests. A good host must be able to handle having time on their hands at some points during the shift, then having many tasks to do at the same time at other points.
Additional employees. Your operation may need a full-time bookkeeper or secretary, or you may just need a proverbial "Gal Friday" or "Jack of All Trades." Consider combining the latter with the host position. That person could greet and seat customers during your busy hours, as well as do the daily books, keep the files and answer the phones during off-hours.
If you only serve alcohol and snacks, you won't need back-of-the-house staff, but if you serve food, here's what you might need:
- Chef/lead cook. Besides the manager, your most instrumental person in the back of the house is your chef or lead cook.
- Line cooks. Your line cooks prepare the menu items under the direction of the lead cook or chef.
- Prep cooks. They cut, chop, clean and do anything else that helps prepare the dishes you serve. Your cooks are on the front lines of health and safety issues when it comes to the food you serve. They not only need to pass a test issued by your local health department officials but have to continually follow the rules afterward.
- Dishwashers. Dishwashers often do more than rinse off dishes and guide them through a machine. They often take out the trash, clean the parking lot and sweep and mop the floors. Dishwashers generally receive the lowest pay of the nontipped employees in this industry.
Front and Back: Swing
Some employees will "swing" back and forth between the front and back of the house. Managers fall into this category; so do bussers and barbacks. These positions help pace your business. Here's the difference between a busser and a barback:
- Barback. A barback's primary responsibility is to keep the bar stocked, clean and user-friendly for the bartender. Think of your barbacks as bartenders' assistants. Your bartenders should give their barbacks a percentage of their tips which is called a "tip-out" or "tipping out."
- Busser. The busser's primary responsibility is taking care of the tables. Bussers are servers' assistants. They clear and clean tables and get them ready for the next customers. The busser also works as an extension of the servers. If servers don't have time to get refills or other things for customers, bussers can jump in to help. Your servers will tip out the bussers as well.