Starting a job in any field can be intimidating, and that is especially true of bartending where you have to deal with public customers in a timely manner. Learning the trade of bartending will pay off, since bars and restaurants can be found almost everywhere, and their salary can sustain the cost of living in a major metropolitan area. In addition, bar management can be an interesting and dynamic job that places you in the middle of an exciting nightlife scene, but that also means the job presents unexpected scenarios, whether it is a customized drink order or an intoxicated and unruly customer, and the only way to navigate those scenarios appropriately is to have experience behind the bar. Because of these different scenarios, bar owners are often wary of new hires without experience. Often the best way to get your foot in the door is to know a bar or restaurant owner, though not everyone is so fortunate. Another route is to patronize the bar or restaurant you would like to work at, familiarize yourself with their operations, and ingratiate yourself to the staff. Before you start applying to bars and restaurants however, there are a number of preparatory steps to take so that you can make the most of an opportunity when it arises.
Study Specific Beverages
There are a lot of terms and information that bartenders are expected to know, like the names of cocktails, beers, wines, and basic customs. Acclimating yourself with the kind of bar where you would like to bartend will allow you to get a feel for the knowledge base that you will be expected to have a grasp of. For example, a bartender at a wine bar would be expected to have in-depth knowledge of different kinds of wines, and be able to describe wines in terms of their “astringency,” “oxidation,” or “tannins,” and they better know how to tell when a bottle is “corked” if a customer sends it back. A bartender at a cocktail bar would be expected to have all popular cocktails memorized, down to the proportions of each ingredient and garnish, as well as the special cocktails of the particular bar that they are working at. You can read up and study this information on your own time, but if you have the option, the best way to study bartending is to take classes. A good place to start would be with an Online Associates in Hospitality Management.
Beyond the specifics of making and serving alcohol properly, there are customs of service and hospitality that every server is expected to know. Treating customers with respect when they have had a few drinks, are spending money, and have high expectations can be a difficult proposition. Bartenders are often put in situations where they have to deal with patrons in a stern but appropriate manner, which often requires kicking patrons out of the bar. In fact, most states have laws that make it illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. Deciding whether or not someone is “visibly intoxicated” is often a gray area, as bartenders want to stop customers from getting to a point of belligerence or passing out. Bartenders also have to know how to interact and banter with responsible patrons in a charming and appropriate manner. Learning the nuances of customer interaction, and where you must draw the line is difficult, and the best way to learn industry norms is to study at one of the best Hospitality Management Degree Programs.
Barbacking is like an internship in the bartending field, where you shadow an experienced bartender throughout their shift. Unlike many internships however, barbacks are usually compensated at the end of their shift by getting a percentage of the tips. If the shift is busy, a barback will have to do all of the tasks, like preparation and cleaning, that the bartender cannot take care of because they are busy making drinks. One of the main responsibilities of a barback is getting the bar ready for service before their shift, which includes stocking bar stations with napkins, straws, and coasters, putting away alcohol deliveries, and preparing drink ingredients like juice and garnishes. During the shift barbacks are some of the busiest people in the restaurant, as they change kegs, clean and refill glasses, clear tables and bar tops, and generally taking care of any little problem around the bar, so that the bartender doesn’t have to tend to it. After the shift is over, barbacks help the bartenders and staff break the bar down. While night shifts are often busier and therefore have larger tip pools, day shifts are usually less stressful and demanding than night shifts, so they can be great for new bartenders to learn the ropes without the stress and time constraints of a bustling nightlife scene. After learning the ins and outs as a barback, you will be ready to take the lead role behind the bar.