Working in a Bar

David Soffer, September 4, 2018 12:28 pm

You may be interested in working in a bar, and are wondering about the types of roles that are available in bars, clubs and similar, licensed establishments. As with all other jobs in hospitality in the UK, before applying for a job at a club, pub or bar, it is very important to understand what the role will entail, what will be expected of members of staff in different positions and what jobs actually exist at each establishment.

The team at any bar are the heart and soul of this sector, within hospitality; helping to ensure that the customers are kept happy and also that they keep returning to the same venue, which is vital for any successful bar. Being a bartender or bar-back is a great way to supplement and even increase your income too, steering clear of unnecessary payday loans and borrowing money from friends and family, allowing you to stand firmly on your own two feet. We take a look at the different positions and jobs in bars, what are available with these kinds of roles, as well as what to expect, potential challenges and the chances for progression in this fast-moving, exciting arm of the hospitality and entertainment sectors.


Working as a Bartender

Perhaps the most well-known of all bar roles is the position of the bartender. The hours in these roles tend to be flexible, and very rarely fit into a standard 9-5 pattern. The bartender is the person who serves customers behind the bar, whether it be within a club, [wine] bar, pub or hotel. The bartender has the responsibility of preparing and making the drinks, as well as knowing how to make a number of different cocktails.

Other typical tasks as a bartender include:

  • Handling cash
  • Creating a welcoming, friendly atmosphere
  • Engaging and conversing with customers
  • Remembering and addressing drink orders on busy nights
  • Planning bar menus
  • Keeping the bar clean and tidy
  • Using a till to take orders and payments

Some of the main challenges you can expect to encounter includes having the responsibility of dealing with any inappropriate behaviour in the establishment and restricting alcohol intake if need be. As it tends to be a fast-paced environment, you will need to make sure you are able to handle the pressure of having to deal and serve with many drinks and food orders in a hot, often noisy location.

How Much Does a Bartender Earn?

In terms of the amount of money you will make, this depends entirely on whether you work on a full-time or part-time basis (or on a seasonal basis) as well as the kind of establishment you work at. A starter salary may be around £12,000, but this may increase up to £35,000 if you become a bar manager. You can also earn a little bit of extra money via tips from customers.

To work as a bartender there are no rigid entry requirements (this is the case for most jobs in the bar industry) however you may find that you are able to increase the likelihood of getting the position if you have previous customer service experience. In the case of students for example, this is very useful with many students having worked at one time or another in customer-facing retail roles.


Bar Staff / Bar-Back

Sharing similar working hours to a bartender (likely to work evenings, weekends as well as public holidays) a bar-back helps to keep the bar stocked with supplies and dishes needed to help the bartenders run the bar more efficiently. Bar Staff jobs are popular with students looking for jobs in hospitality and are a common starting role for those just starting out.

This means making sure that there are always clean glasses for drinks on hand and utensils if the bar sells food. You will also help to prepare and deliver drinks and table service (if appropriate) as well as playing a supportive role to the rest of the team.

You will generally be required to be over the age of 18 in order to take on the role, as is the case with most roles in this sector. You will usually be paid the equivalent of the hourly minimum wage in this position, but this may increase depending on experience, age and performance.

Waitresses and Waiters

Waitresses and waiters don’t just work in kitchen and catering roles. They also play a vital role in the bar, taking orders from customers as well as serving them once the bartender has prepared them. Other tasks may include:

  • Greeting customers and maintaining a friendly atmosphere
  • Preparing bills and processing payments
  • Setting tables
  • Maintaining familiarity with all menu items, with an ability to answer customer questions in a satisfactory manner
  • Preparation of certain drinks
  • Keeping the working environment clean

Challenges you may face in this position are very similar to those experienced when working as a bartender or bar-back. For example, you will be required to to meet the demands of a very physical job that is fast paced, and should be able to keep calm during busy hours, perhaps having to juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously. You may also have to handle difficult customers, some under the influence of alcohol efficiently.

Waitresses and waiters are often paid the national minimum wage, but can earn more depending on the location and establishment they work at. Many make additional income from tips they receive from customers too.

Opportunities for Progression in the Bar Industry

All of these roles provide you with the opportunity to work your way up the ladder to become a bar or restaurant manager, general manager, mixologist, or even become self-employed and run your own bar, having learnt the skills you need to know for one of these jobs. However, the exact route you go down depends on exactly what you are looking for in terms of career progression.

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