So you want to be a superstar bar manager.
Bar managers are charged with keeping their bars running smoothly by handling day-to-day operations, managing resources and employees, and creating a safe, brand-aligned environment for staff and guests. While that may sound like a lot – and the role certainly comes with challenges – it doesn’t mean you can’t take the job by the horns and really succeed.
With the proper tools, resources, and people, and a can-do attitude to get you there, you can expect to stress less and thrive more in a bar management position. Listen to our episode of The Garnish where we interview Sam Treadway, Bar Manager at backbar, who tells us his career story.
Here are ten ways you can be a successful bar manager.
1. Sign up for bar management training courses
You don’t always need an education or certification to be a bar manager. There are plenty of people who manage bars that learned the business through work experience. But if you’d like a more concrete understanding of the ins and outs of bar management – and if your bar wants someone with more formal education – there are training courses you can take, many of which are online.
Some universities and colleges offer bar management courses online, like Cornell University. There are also other online resources available that offer courses and certifications in bar management. Check them out, and see what works for you.
2. Have a full understanding of the bar’s operations
To be an effective bar manager, you need to understand the full scope of the bar’s operations and how everything comes together. Here are a few things you can do:
Having a firm grasp on these areas will set you up for success – no more guessing or trial and error.
3. Know your local market
Knowledge of your bar’s operations and the industry as a whole is key to succeeding as a bar manager. While this information sets you up with a strong base level, it’s almost just as important to have an understanding of your local market.
Who are the people in your community? What do they look for in a bar? Who are your competitors and how are they bringing in guests? Is there a void in the market that you can help fill? Go out there, and do the research. Chat with people in your community to understand what they look for in a bar when going out for drinks – and what keeps them coming back.
4. Take care in your hiring
Your employees are the face of the business. If a bartender or server rubs a customer the wrong way and misrepresents your bar’s brand, the customer may never come back – and they may leave a negative review online.
Even the best employees make mistakes and have the occasional mess-up or bad experience with a difficult guest. What matters is how your staff is able to recover from such moments, and this usually comes down to their attitude and behavior.
When hiring people for your team, you may be tempted to go with the person who has impressive experience at big-name bars. While experience is important, focus on hiring for attitude and not solely for skill. Team dynamic, personality, and work ethic are harder to teach than the best pouring methods.
5. Join your staff on the front lines
To be a successful bar manager, it’s important that you join your team on the front lines and interact with guests. As opposed to monitoring from nearby, actually pitching in and helping with bartending duties will help you develop a greater understanding of the experiences of both your staff and your customers. No amount of research or training can replace this level of experience, and it will only enhance the way you manage your bar. It will also help you connect with your bartenders and support staff, and building positive rapport with members of your team can boost morale and turn them into advocates for your restaurant brand.
Mingling with guests is also a great way for you to develop relationships and collect feedback. Listening to and establishing a more personal connection with customers can turn them into regulars.
6. Stay on top of the latest technology
The latest innovations in bar and restaurant technology are focused on keeping your team and operations running smoothly and swiftly so you can focus on the guest experience.
If you feel any systems that are currently in place at your bar are hindering the bar management process and your employees’ abilities to their jobs – from the POS system for your restaurant to your payroll processing – think about where improvements or updates can be made. There’s likely already technology out there that can help you, like Backbar, a new bar management solution available from the team at Uncork'd.
7. Keep your bar clean
This might go without saying, but don’t underestimate the impression given off by an unclean establishment. In fact, 75% of consumers will not visit or patronize a restaurant with negative reviews about its cleanliness.
Broken glasses, sticky floors, and messy tables will happen. Just make sure your staff knows to address these things quickly and efficiently so customers are served in a bar setting that will keep them smiling and not grossed out.
8. Work to maintain and amplify your bar brand
We all know it’s cheaper for guests to drink at home. So how can you help your bar be more than a place that serves drinks and get people to walk through the doors?
Provide experiences like trivia nights and live music featuring local artists. Run contests and create customer loyalty programs to drive engagement. Get involved in the community and participate in local charities and causes. Create a unique social media presence that amplifies your brand and builds an engaged audience.
Online and offline experiences like these will give your bar brand a boost and help customers perceive your bar as more than just a place to grab drinks.
9. Always be innovating
Once things are established and going well, leave room to try new things. As a manager, you should always strive to improve or develop your bar. This could mean thinking up new signature drinks or specials or brainstorming new ways to promote the bar.
Don't feel too tied to the way things are and let that stop you from trying something new with any excess funds. It might be worth it in the long run to take a risk and try to bring in a new group of patrons to the bar.
10. Don’t lose sight of laws and regulations
When you're swept up in the day-to-day operations of bar management, you can lose track of some of the big details. Make sure you stay on top of your bar licenses, permits, and professional certifications. Always be ready for health inspections and stay on top of food and drink safety.
Be fully aware of local laws and regulations and ensure that your bar is always operating under these legal requirements. Failure to abide by your local laws and regulations can result in fines, lost profits, legal actions, or even the closing of your bar.
You’ll face any number of challenges as a bar manager, but the suggestions above should alleviate any stress and help you on the path to bar management success.
This post was originally published in 2018 and has since been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.