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The Craft

The ultimate resource for alcohol beverage news, trends and reports for bars, distributors and suppliers.

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Keeping your bar staff at the top of their game is vital to running a successful bar. Even experienced bartenders joining your bar or restaurant will not know your house rules or drinks, meaning they’ll still have something to learn. Bar staff training, like any other position in your restaurant, is critical to ensuring success for your bar and your new team members. 

Training Manuals 

Providing bartender trainees with a detailed training manual guarantees they have all of the information they will ever need. A training manual can help minimize any gaps in physical training and also serve as a future reference tool for bartenders. Good training manuals will welcome the new bartender and provide information about the company, including your establishment’s values, history, policies and standards, as well as employee benefits and rewards. This manual should also have information specific to bartenders and other bar staff like drink recipes, POS system details, cash handling procedures and other common practices.  

Having bar staff training manuals can also be beneficial for future training and continued learning. It is critical that the bar manager keep these documents up to date.

bartender mixing many drinksBar Training Manual

The bar-specific section of the training manual will be key for bar staff. The most important information within this section will be your bar’s recipes. Standardizing these recipes within the manual ensures each bartender is trained the same way and guarantees your customer’s favorite house specials will always taste the same, regardless of who is tending the bar. 

The job-specific section of the training manual should also include information about your company’s systems and regulations. Bar staff should know the intricacies of the POS system and your company’s policies on fixing bills and comping drinks. Bar staff should also be familiar with the basic procedures of the bar. The manual should include opening and closing policies and checklists, cleaning routines and any other pertinent information. For example, if the bartender is also responsible for inventory management, details regarding this process should be in the manual. 

Finally, basic laws, regulations and other alcohol guidelines should be described in detail in the training manual. In the event these guidelines change, the manual should be quickly updated and the guidelines should be distributed to staff. It is vital that bar staff know, understand and follow all of the guidelines for your area. Bar staff must know who they can and cannot serve. Any mistakes on their part could lead to a lengthy, expensive legal battle for your business. 

Barback Training Manual

Barbacks provide essential backup to bartenders, offering drink assistance, cleanup, sanitation and other duties. In addition to your business’s bar policies, barbacks may have additional requirements to follow. For example, some barbacks may have to maintain certain appearance standards. It is also important to understand the role of barbacks versus bartenders. Barbacks must know how to complete smaller, yet important tasks to help bartenders stay productive. Necessary tasks, like restocking items or cleaning certain areas of the bar, should be included in the training manual. 

Physical Training

Every team member should be able to support a new bartender, but you should only designate one person as a formal team trainer. Having one trainer means all staff will be trained the same, with no gaps or discrepancies. The trainer will be responsible for ensuring bar staff understand and follow the guidelines set in the training manual. This person is usually a bar manager or lead bartender but can be any leader within your staff. Regardless, you and your team should trust the trainer will provide clear and accurate training. 

As we mentioned earlier, even the best bartenders will not know your bar's standards. Some drinks, such as a Margarita or Long Island are common. Your bar, however, may dress Margaritas differently than other establishments. Because of these nuances, refresher courses are often necessary when training. The physical component of training can be an excellent time to do this. The best bartenders will be excited to revisit these essential topics and learn how they may differ for your bar. 

Critique and Feedback

During their first few shifts, managers and leaders should actively engage any new bar staff. This is a great time to track their progress and address any issues in a constructive manner, but it’s also important to make sure new hires don’t feel like they’re being micromanaged. 

And let’s be honest: any new hire will make mistakes. But you have to give them adequate time to get used to your specific requirements. Being patient and allowing staff the opportunity to correct their mistakes is a valuable training tool. It allows for independence and accountability and is generally perceived as a better way to learn. Not getting upset about mistakes keeps employee morale high, and encourages staff to try harder.

While understanding mistakes is important, it is also important to establish a timeframe for training. The timeline should be reasonable and new bar staff should feel comfortable making mistakes and asking questions during this time. In general, it is recommended to formally evaluate a staff’s performance after one month. Another evaluation should take place during the employee’s third month. This should be a broad performance evaluation, similar to those given to employees annually. Smaller, check-in style evaluations should be performed in between these periods to provide a full picture of the new employee. 

When training bar staff, it’s important to be patient and understanding. Mistakes will happen, but training manuals can help eliminate mistakes caused by gaps in physical training. By providing your new bar staff and bartender with the detailed guidance of a training manual, you help them acclimate to your bar. Proper training gives them the tools they need to succeed. And, of course, successful bar staff translates to happy, loyal customers.

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