Part of the American dream has always been associated with owning your own business. For many, this comes in the form of being a restaurant or bar owner. The idea of creating a space for your community to have a cool hangout spot while enjoying your mixology know-how is incredibly attractive. If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to make a self-sufficient cash cow too, giving you the ability to live the comfortable life you’ve always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, owning and managing a bar takes a lot more work than investing money and going on your way. The same goes for management, the service industry is a tough job full of highs and lows necessary to keep things running smoothly. We’re going to go over what really goes on behind the scenes of owning and managing a bar or restaurant. Before you dive into owning or managing a bar, it’s essential to be well-educated on the risks associated with the job.
Why So Many are Sick of Being a Bar or Restaurant Manager or Owner.
The allure of being an owner or manager is familiar to anyone who’s worked in service or hospitality. You want to call the shots and see how you think things should be run, you have amazing ideas and want to share them, or you want those extra benefits and pay. When you actually talk to a bar or restaurant manager or owner, however, you’ll start to see a different picture.
- It’s a high stress environment for a restaurant/bar manager. Restaurant and bar managers often wear several hats. You have to be available to answer emergent questions at any given time or risk the bar or restaurant suffering profits. The POS system could go down, deliveries could be wrong, or the health inspector showed up at a very bad time. On top of this, you have to maintain calmness. You have to manage customer complaints with tact and you must always have a solution for any problem that arises. You do nothing but eat, sleep, and breathe the restaurant or bar you work for, and you have little room for error on top of that. This creates a high turnover rate as well for management if gone unaddressed, leaving bars and restaurants without direction, and running the risk of losing profits.
- No days off for restaurant/bar owners. It’s common for restaurant and bar owners to want to take a hands-off approach, but this is rarely the case. Management has to report to ownership for finances, employee issues, customer feedback, and anything else that would be above their heads. Owners also have the responsibility of keeping up with the public, figuring out ways to advertise, and improving customer experience. They have to balance profits and monitor how well certain things are selling, and often do a lot of hard unseen work to keep employees happy.
- Wellness often does not apply to the bar manager. Managers can end up working full weeks without a break and extra hours over what they’ve been scheduled. You’ll frequently end up being left behind when your coworkers have time to go do things for fun. Many businesses don’t offer health insurance either, so you can forget about prioritizing your health. Because you’re there so often, the food available to you at the bar or restaurant tends to be your main source of nutrition. The amount of prolonged stress managers endure can make them more prone to getting sick as well.
- Anxiety about communication when you’re not at work. Phone anxiety is something we have to deal with now in the age of smartphones. You’ll have to worry about getting a text about work or resist the urge to check Slack messages. Even on your days off, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to handle a phone call, text, or message to help someone at work.
- Bar/restaurant staff can be transitory. Don’t get too attached to your coworkers. Turnover rates are high in the service industry as most don’t view it as a career path or simply can’t hang with how socially and physically demanding the job is. Throughout your job in management, you should actually expect a portion of your staff to leave. This can make the job feel empty at times and even a bit lonely.
Other Hard Truths About Being a Bar Manager or Restaurant Manager
Many outsiders don’t realize how much goes into working in service, especially service management positions. It’s an intense job not many people can handle, and there are more truths to be told about the work.
- Low pay for hospitality managers. While you’d think management would get a decent pay increase, this is widely dependent on where you work. Some managers get paid as little as $14/hr for their hard work, with the high end of that range being $24/hr. It’s also important to note that many managers are excluded from tip-outs, as it’s implied their extra wages should make up for the tips they’re not making out on the floor. This can sometimes create an environment for management to be paid less than their subordinates. With the average cost of living increasing, the pay after taxes generally doesn’t cover a decent life either, especially if you’re a family and have children to take care of.
- Constantly training others. Because turnover rates are so high in the industry, you’ll end up with unskilled staff the majority of the time that need training you likely don’t have the time for. Mistakes will be frequent and it can become frustrating to have to constantly show people what to do, teach them the rules, and help them quickly learn the ins and outs of your facilities. It can feel like an endless cycle when your restaurant or bar has become a revolving door for employees.
Figuring Out How to Get Out of the Restaurant/Bar Industry
For many, these truths are something they’re very familiar with already. The camaraderie and the industry knowledge you gain can ease the stress of being a manager, but many want a way out. You can start by upskilling in what little free time you have and thinking about what truly interests you. Online school could be an option, or you can start listing your transferable skills on a resume. Whatever you decide to do, there is a way out.
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