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Bar Management: Responsibilities and Essential Skills of a Great Bar Manager

Marcel DeerAuthor

Bars are back, and business is booming as the industry returns to normal pre-pandemic rates. As one indication, beer revenues in the USA have reached $120 billion in 2023 and are expected to continue growing by 4.77% in the next four years. This is why it’s more important than ever to have an excellent manager running your bar.

So, what makes a bar manager great?

Like a restaurant manager, a successful bar manager has all the essential skills needed to take on their roles and responsibilities effectively. They work seamlessly with staff to create a superior customer experience that keeps people coming back. They also possess superior leadership qualities and an understanding of the industry, which makes them essential for the bar’s success. So, let’s take a look at these responsibilities and skills to paint a clearer picture of the kind of person who can be a great bar manager.

In this article, you will learn:

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The Roles and Responsibilities of a Bar Manager

Depending on the size of the bar, a bar manager can wear many hats and take on responsibilities in many areas. Here are some of the main roles a bar manager usually plays in a bar-based business.

Hiring and staff management

While larger bars, especially chains, might have their own dedicated HR personnel, this is uncommon for most businesses in the industry. This means that the duties of hiring and firing staff usually fall to the bar manager. They also have to advertise for new staff when help is needed, and of course, manage the whole team on a day-to-day basis.

Inventory management and supplier coordination 

The bar manager is ultimately the person responsible for keeping track of inventory and communicating with suppliers. They may delegate some of these tasks to bartenders or stockroom employees, but they still need to check up on this work to maintain inventory effectively. Ensuring that you have solid agreements and great communication with suppliers greatly reduces the risk of running out of stock and losing out on valuable revenue.

Financial management 

Financial management of the bar goes a lot further than billing customers. The manager has to keep the books balanced and coordinate payments to suppliers. They also need to cover payments for rent, utilities, and all other costs associated with the bar’s operations. 

They also may need to keep an eye on the bar’s bottom line by analyzing the financial statements. Bar financial statements tie together daily operations with financial performance, providing critical context behind how a restaurant is actually doing while helping to alert restaurateurs to concerning or inefficient aspects of their business.

Marketing 

Getting people into a bar when they have a lot of choices can be one of the biggest challenges facing a bar manager. They’re normally responsible for creating and implementing a marketing strategy. For smaller bars, they might have to do a lot of the legwork themself, while in larger establishments, they may work with a contracted marketing firm or have an in-house marketing person. It’s important for them to understand their target customer and create marketing that appeals to enough people to keep the bar hitting its sales targets.

Customer service 

When things go wrong, it’s a part of the role of the bar manager to step in and make things right. But customer service goes a lot deeper than simply solving problems. While restaurants can sometimes make up for poor service with outstanding food, bars depend much more heavily on the ability of their staff to deliver what customers want. The manager should set guidelines for staff and also make assessments to ensure they’re working to the standards set. The manager can also manage customer feedback and use it to create new policies and standards.

Regulatory, safety, and legal compliance 

Because alcohol is a closely regulated substance, bars need to take great care to ensure they’re following laws about serving it to customers and turning away underage persons. The bar manager has the responsibility of training staff and overseeing compliance to avoid any liability. In addition to this, the manager also has to ensure staff safety and workplace standards for safety, cleanliness, and accessibility.

Essential skills of a bar manager 

While we’ve outlined what a bar manager has to do, the question still remains: what makes a great bar manager? A successful manager has to have a number of personal and professional skills that enable them to deal effectively with staff and customers while running the business. This mix isn’t always easy to find, but when you do have someone who possesses all of these essential skills, it can be like striking gold.

Leadership 

To succeed as a bar manager requires great leadership skills. A manager has to have a vision for the business and use this to inspire their staff. They also need to lead by example and should ideally have years of experience working in a bar that will enable them to relate to their staff effectively. They need to be able to set goals, motivate staff to hit targets and demonstrate great judgment in dealing with any problems that arise.

Communication 

The last thing you want to see in a bar manager is a quiet or antisocial person. Bars are highly social places, often made more so by alcohol as a lubricant. Communication skills are essential, and these have to extend in many directions. A bar manager should have excellent and active communication with staff. They need to keep great relations with suppliers and other supporting businesses. Of course, it’s paramount that the manager can communicate effectively with patrons to ensure their experiences are always positive and any issues are quickly and satisfactorily resolved.

Organization 

An effective bar manager has to be organized. They’re in charge of maintaining staff schedules and keeping business hours on track. They organize opening and closing routines, cleaning and maintenance, and the all-important delivery of supplies. They also have to keep on top of bill payments and staff salaries to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Problem-solving 

Be assured that problems will crop up, perhaps more in the bar industry than in most others. Whether these relate to staffing issues, supply problems, income, or especially customer service, a great bar manager should be resourceful and creative in their ability to solve problems. One other thing that many people forget is that it’s also the bar manager’s job to asses why things went wrong and institute steps to change things for the better. A proactive bar manager will actively look for challenges and try to make changes before real problems even arise.  

Understanding of the industry

Someone who has management experience in other areas may still struggle to transfer their skills and knowledge successfully to the challenges of the bar industry. Even great restaurant managers will find that there is a steep learning curve if they’ve never worked in bars. Ideally, a bar manager will have years of experience as a server, bartender, or both. This experience will provide insight into how the bar operates and also create greater empathy with staff and customers.

Tricks to being a successful bar manager 

Build an Outstanding Company Culture

Cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment can greatly impact overall success. Foster a strong company culture that attracts and retains talented staff. Give people a voice in how things are run. When people feel seen and when they’re given opportunities to challenge themselves and succeed, they’ll find their jobs all the more rewarding.

Create a great guest experience

Keep your patrons entertained and satisfied, and address customer concerns quickly and efficiently. As famed chef Anthony Bourdain said, “If you have a good experience in a restaurant, you tell 2 people. If you have a bad experience, you tell 10 people.” The same is true for bars, so it’s crucial that every potentially negative experience is addressed and made right.

Stay up to date with staff training and cross-training

Ensure your team is knowledgeable and capable of handling different roles by implementing comprehensive training programs and cross-training initiatives. This way, staff can fill in for shifts in other roles when needed and also better understand and appreciate everyone’s contribution to the success of the bar.

Never stop learning 

If you want to stay ahead in the ever-evolving bar industry, ongoing education and professional development are vital. Bar managers don’t have to just learn through experience how to do their jobs. There are bar management courses, certifications, workshops, and industry conferences available to help managers improve their knowledge and skills to do the best job possible. 

Great Bar Managers

There is a specific mix of skills, experience, knowledge, and talent needed to do this demanding job. A bar manager has to take on a lot of responsibilities, but for the right person, rising to these challenges can be tremendously rewarding. Great bar managers push themselves to succeed and develop their skills continually throughout their careers.

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