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The Ultimate Guide to Training Bar Staff and Mastering Bartending Skills

Table of Contents

Preparing to Train Your Bar Staff
Teaching Basic Bartending Skills
Training to Deliver Excellent Customer Service
Teaching Practical Training Techniques
Promoting Teamwork and Communication 
Tools for Continuous Improvement 
Understanding Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Appendix: SAMPLE TEMPLATE: Bartender Performance Evaluation

A bar’s greatest asset is the dedicated staff that runs it. So it makes sense why investing in proper training and skill development is essential to its success. This guide will go over the ins and outs of training bar staff with tips on how staff can become better behind the bar.

Preparing to Train Your Bar Staff


Teaching Basics Skills Relative to Your Bar

Understanding the Bar Environment

Creating an organized and clean training space is essential for effective staff learning. Prioritize pre-training preparations by organizing the bar area and ensuring that all necessary tools and equipment are ready. During this phase, focus on detailed explanations of the various tools used during service. Train your staff on how to dismantle and fix equipment properly, as well as the correct post-service cleaning procedures. Additionally, share insights on handling any unique characteristics or quirks specific to your bar setup.

Product Knowledge

Continuously updating product knowledge is crucial for building staff confidence, especially for those with less experience. Begin with the basics, such as the products frequently used, like those found in the well. Encourage staff to sample these products and discuss tasting notes and their intended use. Gradually introduce knowledge about wines by the glass, draught beers, mixers, and garnishes. Personalize this training by including specifics like citrus preparation techniques and garnishing methods tailored to your bar's unique style.

Proper Glassware and Presentation

The next step in staff training involves familiarizing them with the glassware used during service. Take the time to discuss common drink orders, such as the Old Fashioned and Martini, and explain their presentation requirements. Dive into the details of any signature cocktails that are served in specific glassware. Differentiate between types of glassware, such as martini glasses and coupes, and clarify which drinks are best suited for highball or rocks glasses.

Standard Drink Recipes

Arguably the most critical part of training revolves around house recipes for both classic and signature cocktails. Consider providing a bar training manual as a reference during these sessions. Delve into the specifics of each cocktail, covering the ingredients used and the rationale behind each choice. Offer a brief historical perspective for added context. For a hands-on approach, demonstrate the step-by-step preparation and execution of each recipe, and encourage staff to taste and understand the cocktails they'll be serving.

Teaching Practical Training Techniques

Mixing Techniques

In the world of bartending, mastering proper mixing techniques is essential. It's not just about shaking, stirring, or layering drinks; it's about doing it right. Show your staff the art of cocktail mixing at your establishment. Ensure they know how to accurately measure, shake, stir, and strain cocktails. Discuss alternative mixing methods like "rolling" or "throwing," and when each technique is most appropriate.


Speed and Efficiency

Bartenders need both speed and efficiency in their toolkits. While speed is a valuable trait, it should never compromise accuracy. When the rush hits, maintaining a sense of urgency is crucial, but not to the extent that it leads to mistakes. Teach your staff how to prioritize drink orders during busy times and how to support each other to ensure a smooth flow of service.

Inventory Management

Proper inventory management is the backbone of a well-run bar. It not only keeps your bottom line healthy but also ensures that you never run out of essential items. Train your staff on documenting and communicating when items are running low. Implement detailed opening and closing procedures that account for items out of stock or in need of replenishment. These seemingly small processes play a significant role in streamlining daily operations for maximum efficiency.

Streamline your inventory with Provi’s free inventory spreadsheet resource

Training to Deliver Excellent Customer Service

Interpersonal Skills

While interpersonal skills aren’t easily taught, they can be developed through promoting a work environment that values active listening and communication. The best bar staff pick up strong interpersonal skills by serving their guests properly. These skills are useful among staff too, ensuring streamlined service that eliminates mistakes and misunderstandings.

Handling Difficult Customers

One area where strong interpersonal skills are useful is when dealing with difficult guests. It’s inevitable that a tense situation will occur at a bar due to the nature of serving alcohol. Teach staff the proper ways to handle a customer who has overconsumed or who is being disruptive to other patrons. If handled properly, the situations typically are resolved quickly and without further incidents.

Tips for Handling Difficult Situations


Responsible Alcohol Service

Unfortunately, overconsumption is all too common at bars and unruliness can ensue. Responsible alcohol service is crucial to maintaining an incident-free environment so that all guests can enjoy their experience at your establishment. Train bartenders on the signs of overconsumption and how to handle a situation where a guest may need to limit their intake. Additionally, ensure your staff are up to date on the latest laws in your state. After all, each state has different laws around serving alcohol and it’s important they must be followed accordingly.

Suggestive Selling

Suggestive selling is not just beneficial for your bottom line, it can create a sense of trust between your staff and guests. Why? For guests who aren’t 100% sure what they want, having knowledgeable staff who can pick their brains and suggest a drink that leaves them satisfied is an easy way to create a loyal following. Encourage staff to recognize these opportunities. 

Cleanliness and Sanitation

A clean bar is the best bar. This should be foundational to training your staff. Wiping, cleaning and sanitizing tools and equipment is essential to a well-oiled and organized bar. Ensure staff are trained on the proper methods and cleaning techniques and urge them to clean during downtime. Cleanliness leads to organization; organization leads to great service.

A Few Always-On Cleaning Best Practices to Instill in Staff

Promoting Teamwork and Communication 

Communication in High-Stress Situations

High-stress situations come with working in a bar or restaurant environment. The only way to get through them is to overly communicate. Engrain this teaching in your staff. When times get tough, ask them to communicate clearly and often so that everyone is aware of what’s happening. For example, if an item runs out of stock, or a keg kicks, make sure everyone is notified so that other staff can communicate this back to guests and suggest alternatives.

Conflict Resolution

Working with people will inevitably lead to conflicts. We’re just wired that way. As a manager, make sure you practice proper conflict resolution techniques. 

Conflict Resolution Tips for Bar Managers


Tools for Continuous Improvement 

Feedback and Evaluation

Constructive feedback is one of the most valuable tools when it comes to training staff. After all, wouldn’t you want to know what you’re doing well and where you can improve? Support your staff by offering routine feedback and evaluation through the training process so that they can feel confident in their progress toward learning and mastering their skills. 

Ongoing Training and Skill Enhancement

Verbal feedback can only go so far. Ongoing training and skill development are equally as important in the process. Hold regular meetings with your staff to train them on new techniques. Hold regular tasting sessions to explore and learn about new products and flavors. Invite other master bartenders to come in and teach some of their methods to broaden their learning. 

Staying Updated with Industry Trends

Last, always urge your staff to stay up to date with trends happening in the industry. Subscribe to industry magazines and other resources and encourage them to follow industry-specific social media accounts to stay up to date on trends. Learning never stops and supporting staff with materials is the best way to help them grow their skills and careers. 

Understanding Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Alcohol Laws and Regulations

Now, the nitty gritty. Alcohol is heavily regulated and there are numerous laws and red tape in all aspects of the business. For your staff, it’s vital that you teach responsible alcohol service and it’s up to you to make sure they’re up to date on any certifications or licenses they must have to legally do so. Following the rules and regulations is part of the game and an important one. 

Age Verification and ID Checks

Last, but not least, engrain the constant act of checking IDs to verify a guest’s age. It’s not a comfortable practice, but an essential part of ensuring the safety of your guests and that of your staff. 21 years of age is the law of the land, and it’s up to you and your staff to make sure that’s followed regardless of the age someone appears. 

Find the right products for your seasonal menus   Refresh your cocktail menu for the upcoming season with new products that will get your regulars to wander from their usual order  


SAMPLE TEMPLATE: Bartender Performance Evaluation

Review all staff member’s performance on a monthly or quarterly basis. Check the boxes where a high level of compliance exists, leaving others unchecked where further development is required.

Download Customizable Template Here

Corey Hines

Career bartender turned Content Marketing Manager at Provi, covering all things beer, wine and spirits.


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