Searching for the right bartender can seem like searching for that pot of gold that’s supposed to be at the end of the rainbow. However, as job openings and the pool of available talent both head toward their highest levels ever over the next decade, bar and restaurant managers are left wondering how to determine who is truly the best fit for the job. Hire the right person, and you’ll have swathes of customers returning for beers and delicious cocktails with a side of friendly conversation. Hire the wrong person, and you could drive away valuable customers, and your livelihood, for years to come. So, what should a restaurant or bar manager look for when hiring the perfect bartender?
The right candidate will ideally be a people person. Generally, this person will be cheerful and outgoing. However, this person will also possess a high level of emotional intelligence. Having a high level of emotional intelligence will ensure the bartender can distinguish different types of customers. They will be able to identify a customer who needs a friend from a customer who would prefer to be left alone and will provide the customer with an appropriate level of service without the customer having to say anything. Additionally, the bartender should be patient, willing to listen to customers and answer any questions they may have.
Confidence and Awareness
A good bartender should be confident, both in their skills and in themselves. There are customers who will try to get over on bartenders; the bartender should be confident in their ability to handle any issues that may arise. In addition to confidence, good bartenders are also always aware of their surroundings. They should be aware enough to realize when a customer has reached their limit, or if a customer is in an uncomfortable situation. The bartender should be able to remain calm and composed during high-stress situations, ensuring the event is taken care of appropriately.
Time Management and Multitasking
A bartender should have excellent time management skills. They will often be in stressful situations, handling a number of different orders of different items for different customers. The bartender should be organized and able to easily handle the high level of required service. Further, during these stressful situations, the bartender should be a pro at multitasking. For example, if there is an opportunity to work on multiple orders at once, the bartender should realize this and take advantage of this potential time savings.
Team Player and Team Leader
Bartenders should always be team players. A bartender will rarely work by themselves — there are almost always barbacks, waiters, security and other bartenders. The bartender should be friendly, ensuring a good working relationship with those around them. The bartender should be able to delegate tasks as necessary as well as fill in when fellow staff members need help. The bartender should be interested in ensuring the bar team works together to get drinks out, keep customers happy, and keep their tip jar full.
Trustworthy and Reliable
A bartender should be both trustworthy and reliable. They will be handling hundreds to thousands of sales dollars daily and sensitive customer information such as credit or debit cards. The bartender should be trusted by management, customers, and coworkers alike that their livelihood is safe in the bartender’s hands. Further, the best bartenders are reliable. Ideally, you will hire the person that is able to fill the shift of a last-minute call out or the person who can come in on a whim during that surprisingly busy Tuesday night.
Motivated, Curious and Willing to Learn
Similar to being reliable, the best bartender will also be motivated. They will have a passion for making money, particularly their ability to use their skills to make money. They will be curious, as well as quick- and willing to learn. Ideally, in addition to quickly and efficiently learning house specials, the bartender will also be interested in creating new drinks, as well as ready to learn new drinks that are introduced to the bar.
Any good bartender should have good sales skills. Many customers will come to a bar knowing that they want a drink, but not which drink. A skilled bartender will quickly recommend a drink or two; if the bartender appears confident, the customer will likely purchase something the bartender recommended. The customer may also trust the bartender’s advice should they want to order an additional drink or other accompanying items, increasing the overall ticket size.
Cleanliness and Organization
On a busy night, the number of orders for bar beverages can increase significantly. The bartender will be back and forth between stations to make various drinks. It is important that a good bartender can keep each station clean and organized, ensuring that everything is in place for the next order. This ensures that when the bartender or a coworker is at the station next, they can quickly begin an order, increasing efficiency and, of course, customer satisfaction.
Experienced with Good References
Every bartender has to begin somewhere — usually bartending school. However, when looking for a bartender to work during the busiest times, experience should always be valued. An experienced bartender will possess all of the skills above, expertly tending to the bar while maintaining high customer satisfaction. Less experienced bartenders may benefit from gaining experience working as a bar back on busy nights or bartending during less busy shifts. Ideally, the manager will communicate with the bartender’s previous employers to determine their customer service skills, how well they can handle a busy night, and their reliability and trustworthiness.
Understanding Bartending Regulations and Procedures
Bartenders should thoroughly understand federal, state and local laws regarding drinking and bartending. They should be thorough when reviewing ID cards and actively work to prevent underage drinking. They should be aware, ensuring guests are drinking responsibly. Certifications by training courses such as ServSafe or Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) can highlight bartenders who are especially knowledgeable of bartending rules and regulations.