Bar Management: 10 Ways to Be a Smart and Successful Bar Manager

By: AJ Beltis

6 Minute Read

Jul 26, 2018


So, you want to be a bar manager. Or perhaps you are one and you feel like you could be doing a better job. As you likely know by now, running a bar is no easy feat. But being an effective and successful bar manager could be simpler than you may think.

With the proper tools, resources, technology, and people by your side, you can expect to stress a lot less over successful bar management.

Here are 10 tips on how to run a successful bar and become a better bar manager.

Listen to our interview with award-winning bartender Sam Treadway on how to be a better bar manager.

1. Know Your Market - Not Just Your Industry

Don't get me wrong - knowledge of the bar industry is key. Comprehension of industry standards, best practices, and suppliers should be second nature to any good bar manager, but that isn't all. What's the market like where you are?

For example, who are you competing against? Why might someone go to the bar down the street instead of yours? Is there a void you can fill, or is the bar you manage just another place to go? Understanding the competitive landscape you occupy is a necessity for all bar managers.

2. "Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

Your employees are the face of your business. If a bartender rubs a customer the wrong way, it's not very likely they'll come back. If you feel your staff is underperforming, ask yourself: Can you trust your crew to run the bar in your place but not be caught off guard when you check in as-needed?

Obviously, every employee has dry spells. When the rare mess-ups from great staff members do occur, they seem to happen all at once. What matters is how your employees recover. If their attitude is affecting other staff members, let them go before they bring the whole bar down with them.

This all comes back to the bar hiring process. If you bring someone on board who has impressive experience but a terrible attitude, your drinks will look pretty but your bar will soon be empty. Team dynamic, personality, and work ethic are a lot more difficult for bar managers to teach than the best pouring methods.

3. Implement a Reliable POS System

Make no mistake - the right staff and attitude are crucial for a smooth operation. But in order to solidify sanity in your bar, a reliable and easy-to-use bar point of sale system is crucial. Not only does a top-notch POS system expedite and ease the bar management process, but a firm grasp of inventory management, cash flow, and data is something your bar can't afford to ignore.

Related Post:Nightclub and Bar POS Systems: 10 Must-Have Features

4. Believe in What You Do

As I mentioned earlier, being a bar manager isn't as easy as everyone makes it out to be. If you're pursuing this career because you think it's a glamorous profession, you may want to reconsider your career path. However, if you want to manage a bar because you want to manage a bar, have confidence and be passionate. With the right attitude, your customers will remember their experience fondly next time they're thinking of a place to go out.

5. Don't be Afraid to Mingle with Guests

Being a bar manager doesn't mean stepping away from the front line, but it doesn't mean micromanaging your staff either. In order to reach that happy medium, you have to understand what your bartenders go through during a normal shift. If you're pitching in and helping with bartending duties as opposed to monitoring from near or far, you'll have a stronger understanding of the feelings and trials of both your staff and your customers. No amount of research can replace the experience of working alongside your employees, and it will only enhance the authenticity of the way you manage your bar.

6. Give Your Patrons More Than Just Drinks

Let's face it - it's much cheaper to drink at home. With the right training, anybody can mix a Long Island Iced Tea and properly pour a Guinness. Bars need to do more than this to be successful. Find out what your clientele enjoys - trivia, live music, contests, resturant social media engagement - and give it to them! Look for opportunities to dish out incentives to return to the bar. People want to go to your bar for more than just a drink, so make sure you capitalize on this fully. The more enjoyable and innovative your bar is, the more success you will see as its manager.

7. Keep Things Clean

Never underestimate the impression given off by an unclean establishment. In fact, 14% of consumers reported lack of cleanliness at one location would send them somewhere else, and 96% consider cleanliness first when choosing an establishment.
Broken glasses, sticky floors, and unbussed tables will happen; just make sure your staff knows to address them quickly and efficiently so customers are served, but served in a bar that doesn't make them cringe.

8. Form Relationships

Some might say business isn't personal. In many industries, the strength of this statement is withering. When bar managers form relationships with customers, they establish a personalized connection with someone who could become a regular and hopefully a promoter for your bar. Take the time (and encourage your staff) to interact with patrons, learn some names, and do more than make a beverage and hand over the bill.

"Take the time to interact with patrons, learn some names, and do more than hand over the bill."
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On the same token, you should always be treating your staff this way as well. Great bar managers know that success comes from managing your staff wisely. Make sure you establish positive relationships with them to establish an open and positive rapport. A frustrated employee affects morale, performance, and ultimately the guest experience.

9. Don't Get Stuck in Your Ways

Once your bar is established, set aside some funds every month to do something new: a type of drink, decor, or some other new initiative that may be worth a try. Obviously you - like all businesses - work with a limited budget, so don't go crazy. But don't feel too tied to the way things are and let that stop you from trying something new with some of your 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 your bar or nightclub.

10. Never Forget Formalities

When you're worrying about the day-to-day operations of bar management, it's easy to forget the big picture. Your legal licenses and professional certifications can be revoked much quicker than they were earned if you don't pay attention to health and safety laws. Don't open a can of worms by thinking regulations are optional. If unhealthy or unsafe behavior is spotted by the wrong person, your doors might close for an extended period of time. Break the rules completely and your doors may close forever.

It's easy for a bar manager to get overwhelmed, but following these simple suggestions and implementing a POS system for bars can give your bar a signature flare, a happy staff, a smooth technical operation, and a slew of returning customers.

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