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How to Hire a Bartender: Bartender Jobs Guide

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Isabelle HahnAuthor

How to Hire a Bartender: Bartender Jobs Guide

The bar is a well-oiled machine. Actually, it’s multiple creative, dedicated, service-oriented individuals who are always on their feet. 

Hiring the right bartender makes all the difference in providing an exceptional experience. The best bartenders make you feel at ease. They know your customers, and oftentimes, they have their own regulars.

When hiring a bartender, restaurant owners and managers want to ensure their chosen candidate meets all their expectations and fits into their restaurant family. This is easier said than done, as more than half of restaurant owners cite hiring staff as the top challenge faced by their restaurants.

Building out a plan to hire your new bartender makes that challenge easier. 

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How to Hire a Bartender

First, know who you’re looking for.

What is a bartender?

Social, creative, service-oriented, physical. A bartender is all of these things at once. 

A bartender mixes and serves drinks to patrons, directly or through waitstaff. They serve nightclubs, music venues, craft cocktail bars, fine dining, small restaurants, pubs, chains – you name it.

A bartender is also responsible for the bar itself, making sure it is well-stocked for service and ordering or restocking any necessary supplies if something runs out, making sure the bar is clean during and after service. 

According to Toast research, restaurant employees (46%) are motivated by making money and supporting their lifestyle — while 18% of restaurant employees are motivated by career development and growth within the restaurant industry.

The easiest way to hire a fantastic bartender is to know who you’re looking for. 

Define Your Needs

Hiring a bartender for a small/medium chain looks slightly different than hiring a bartender for a nightclub. Here’s what to consider when identifying what you need in this position: 

  • Schedule: Does your bar/restaurant close at 2 a.m., and closing takes until 4:30? Or does the restaurant take last call at 10:30 p.m. and out by 11? How many days of the week? Is this a seasonal position? The majority (56%) of restaurant employees said they accepted their most recent restaurant job because of the flexible schedule.

  • Salary range: What can you afford to pay a new employee? What does the tipping structure look like? 

  • Service: Quick service, full service, full bar or not. 

  • Experience: How many years of experience are you looking for in restaurant work and/or bartending?

  • Culture: How can you build the most efficient, effective team? Consider ways to bring new perspectives and points of view into your team. 

Create an Effective Bartender Job Posting 

A typical job posting has: 

  • Job details such as position, location, position type (full-time/part-time), and salary range

  • A description of the role, the restaurant, and what you’re looking for

  • Information on who to contact

Write a Detailed Job Description

To attract the right candidates, you must have a well-written job description with the skills necessary to excel.

Since you’ve already defined your needs, this part should be easy. Write out in a few sentences what you’re looking for. 

Here’s an example we found on LinkedIn: 

“In search of bartender for high-volume restaurant and craft cocktail bar program in Charlotte, North Carolina. This position is ideal for someone with a creative mind and the drive to create unique cocktails based on seasonal ingredients. Should have at least 3 years of bartending experience.

Duties include: 

  • Ordering 

  • Maintaining supplier relationships 

  • Cleanliness and organization of the bar 

  • Seasonal cocktail development 

Closed every Monday, 5-day work week, hourly or salary position plus tips, negotiable based on previous experience. Please provide a resume of relevant experience.”

Take a look at a few examples of bartender job descriptions here. Some things to keep top of mind: 

Mention Key Qualifications and Expectations

Any bartender's job description should include clear expectations and minimum qualifications for the job. Most states also require alcohol server training in some form, so be sure to emphasize any necessary certifications. 

If you’re looking for someone with more experience, you can list a salary range that reflects that. This will help you attract the right candidates for the job. 

Highlight Your Restaurant's Unique Selling Points

Including specifics about your restaurant or bar’s culture and atmosphere will help you find the right fit. Sure, job postings should provide information like pay, benefits, and schedule, but your job posting and subsequent interviews should also include a snapshot of what life is like with your team and the team’s core values

Here’s a great example from Homeroom Mac & Cheese based in Oakland, CA.

The Team

We're all friends here. We're made up of people of all different beliefs, cultures, colors, and backgrounds with one thing in common…we’re in this together. We’re here to make a difference in our community, and in ourselves. And while it’s hard work, we support each other and have fun doing it! When you work with us, you have a voice. In fact, we expect to hear from you. You have the opportunity to learn and grow with the company and will be supported with training and tools to reach your goals.

This description showcases how Homeroom invests in talent and wants to build a diverse team – it’s more than just a mac & cheese spot. 

Advertise the Bartending Job 

Now that you have your job posting, you can advertise it in various ways. 

Most new employees have discovered their latest restaurant jobs through friends (55%) or social media (50%) — with new QSR team members being much more likely to discover their job via social media than their FSR counterparts (56% QSR / 45% FSR). 

Share with your employees

Bartending is all about who you know, especially in big cities with lots of competition. Since your employees are already in the industry, they might know someone suitable within their connections. Referral bonuses are a great incentive to spread the word.

Post on Online Job Boards

Online job boards are a popular option for reaching a broad audience. To maximize responses, choose the right platforms. Indeed and LinkedIn are good starting points, but you can also check out industry-specific job boards. 

Leverage Social Media

Have a version of your job posting you can share far and wide. Instagram, Instagram stories, Facebook, Reddit - you name it.  If you have a budget for it, boost your post to reach more people. 

One bartender posted on Reddit: “There are tons of options for different types of bars, but it’s nearly impossible to get a job without knowing someone. I’ve been trying to get a better job for months to no avail. If anyone needs a bartender with over 10 years of experience HMU.”

Screen the Resumes

The aftermath of publishing a job description is (hopefully) loads of resumes to choose from. Your job now is to sift through the options and select the most suitable candidate. 

Screening resumes is the process of reviewing resumes and job applications to identify who you want to hire. It involves assessing past experiences, qualifications, skills, and potential fit for the restaurant. 

Develop a Screening Criteria

Setting screening criteria can help you with all future resume screenings as well. Consider which qualifications are non-negotiables and which are nice to have. You can also create a scoring system to help you compare candidates more easily. 

Tools are also available to help screen resumes and cover letters, so you don’t have to do it all yourself.  Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) use artificial intelligence to scan resumes for keywords, skills, and qualifications relevant to the job posting. 

Conduct Bartender Interviews 

Once you’ve selected a handful of candidates, it’s time to schedule some interviews. 

Here are examples of questions to ask in bartender interviews.

Phone or Initial Screening Interview

With an initial phone screen, you want to gauge communication skills, personality, and whether the candidate and job align. Oftentimes, you can eliminate quite a few candidates by confirming the salary range and expected days on the schedule/shift times. 

When conducting a phone screen, you should be polite and friendly. Interviews are a two-way street, both parties should be happy with the result. 

Let your candidate know who you are and how this process will go. Then you can dive into some questions

  • Can you walk me through your bartending experience?

  • How do you handle high-pressure situations?

  • Can you give me an example of a challenge you’ve faced behind the bar and how you came up with a solution? 

  • Tell me about your training and certifications.

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • Do you have any current or potential schedule conflicts?

Leave time at the end of the phone screen for the candidate to ask you questions as well. 

In-Person or Video Interviews

After the quick phone screen or initial interview, it’s time to dive in a little deeper. Here are a few example bartender interview questions to get you started. 

Behavioral Questions

  • How do you handle running late to work/your shift?

  • Can you describe a time when you had to handle a challenging customer or a difficult situation at the bar? How did you resolve it while maintaining a positive guest experience?

  • Describe an instance where you made a mistake while preparing a drink. How did you handle it, and what steps did you take to rectify the situation with the customer?

  • Can you recall a busy night or a special event where you had to work under significant time pressure? How did you manage the rush, and what strategies did you use to maintain service quality?

  • What are some ways you make customers feel important?

  • Share an example of a time when you introduced a new cocktail or drink special to the menu. How did you promote it to customers, and what was the result in terms of sales or customer feedback?

Skills Assessment 

  • Can you walk me through the steps of preparing a classic cocktail of your choice? Please include the ingredients, measurements, and any specific techniques involved.

  • Explain the process of creating a balanced cocktail, considering factors like flavor, sweetness, and presentation. Provide an example and describe your thought process.

  • Can you upsell a margarita?

  • How do you ensure the cleanliness and sanitation of your work area and bar tools? What steps do you take to maintain a hygienic bar environment?

  • Can you demonstrate your knowledge of different glassware types and their appropriate uses for specific drinks? 

  • Describe the procedure for opening and closing the bar. What tasks are involved, and how do you ensure everything is in order at the beginning and end of your shift?

  • How do you recognize a fake ID?

  • What are some signs you need to cut off a patron?

  • What alcohol safety training have you had?

Cultural Fit 

  • Why do you want to work here as a bartender?

  • Can you describe the type of bar or restaurant you thrive in? 

  • How do you contribute to creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere for customers at the bar?

  • How do you ensure effective communication with other members of the bar team or staff? 

  • Describe a time you went above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.

  • What role does professionalism play in your bartending approach?

Look out for red flags

In your interviews, look out for vague descriptions of responsibilities. If a candidate claims to have experience but struggles to answer basic questions, it could indicate that they exaggerated their qualifications. Also, watch out for candidates with a negative or dismissive attitude during the interview. 

Review Cover Letters and Personal Statements

It's possible that some of your candidates go above and beyond by including a cover letter in addition to their resume. It’s fine to prioritize these applications first, especially if your job description doesn’t ask for one. 

Review References and Background Checks

Part of the hiring process is reviewing references and conducting background checks. It’s an essential aspect of bartender recruitment that candidates will expect. This way, you ensure your bartenders are not only skilled but also trustworthy, and reliable, and will contribute to the success of your business. 

Contacting Past Employers

Work history and references can be extremely helpful in hiring a candidate. You should always ask permission before contacting previous employers to respect privacy. And before sending an email or making a call, have a list of relevant questions ready.

Previous employer questions:

  • Was [candidate] ever late to work? Or other questions about reliability

  • How was [candiate] with rowdy bar patrons? Did they have regulars? Or other questions about customer service skills and ability to operate under pressure

  • Would you rehire them?

Criminal Background Checks

Ensuring the safety of your restaurant or bar is paramount. Background checks also help with legal compliance to make sure you’re following all relevant laws and regulations governing certifications. 

Like contacting past employers, you must obtain a candidate's consent before conducting a background check. Provide the necessary information and forms and make sure they understand the process. 

An important note on discrimination: a candidate’s criminal record should only be used to evaluate job suitability and not be the sole basis for disqualification. 

Verification of Qualifications

In the world of bartending, qualifications matter. Check their certifications, such as bartending licenses or alcohol service training. Ask about professional development and other relevant expertise.

Make the Offer

The best part of the hiring process – making the offer!

It’s time to extend a compelling offer to the candidate who best fits your team. 

Provide a Written Offer Letter

A written offer letter serves as a formal legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of employment. Begin by addressing the hire by name, and express your enthusiasm for having them join your team. 

Repurpose the job description here as the job details: clearly specifying the position and responsibilities. Outline a compensation package, including base salary or hourly, and any bonuses or tip structure, as well as pay frequency (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly).

Detail benefits, terms of employment (an employee agreement contract), and start date. Include conditions of background and certifications check, a deadline for acceptance, and a signature line. 

Compensation and Benefits

Be prepared for the possibility of negotiation. Some candidates may want to discuss their salary or benefits. Emphasize any unique aspects that will make your offer stand out. 

Set Expectations for Start Date and Onboarding

Confirm the agreed-upon start date with your new hire, and tell them about anything they need to bring on their first day and what to expect.

How to Create an Effective Restaurant Training Manual

Restaurant training manuals help your employees get onboarded and ready to go. Follow our downloadable restaurant training manual template to get started.

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Retaining Employees with Onboarding and Training

Using the most recent data as of July 2023, the average annual restaurant industry turnover rate is 79.7% over the past 10 years.

This is why hiring the right candidate the first time is so important. You want your new bartender to stick around, and you’ll do so with proper onboarding, training, and professional development.

Toast data shows that two weeks or more of training is the sweet spot for successful staff sentiment — though nearly three-quarters of restaurant staff (74%) receive two weeks or less of training and onboarding. 

Operators may consider common pain points of current restaurant employees and how they can overcome those to grow retention. For example, poor hourly pay (47%), not being recognized for hard work (44%), and bad managers (37%) are the top pain points listed by restaurant employees. 

Here’s what to cover in your new bartender’s first 90 days. 

Orientation and Restaurant Policies

During orientation, set expectations early and give new hires the information, tools, and resources they need to become excellent employees. 

To make your new bartender part of the team from day one, introduce them to as many people as possible. Give them a brief tour of the establishment, and review restaurant policies and the employee handbook. It’s important to discuss policies like uniforms, work hours, alcohol service, health, hygiene, and confidentiality in the first few days. 

Here’s our guide on how to train new restaurant employees.

Training on Equipment and Processes

Outline a training plan, including dedicating specific shifts to learning the restaurant’s menu, drinks, and operational procedures. A walk-through of the POS system and everything your bartender needs to succeed in their first shift alone. 

Encourage your new bartender to ask questions and provide feedback throughout orientation. 

“Bartender training is essential to helping your aspiring bar team grow into genuine hospitality professionals. And a great training program and the promise of career progression will motivate your bartenders to stick around.”

Encourage Career Growth within the Restaurant

Orientation is just the beginning. To support your new bartender's growth and success, maintain open lines of communication and provide ongoing training and feedback. 

By focusing on teamwork and teaching, you can ensure your bartender is equipped with general industry knowledge, such as what a profit and loss statement is or how to manage a team. Investing in your staff’s skills and knowledge is an investment in your restaurant's future, and why not provide professional development to your employees when they directly contribute to your restaurant's success?

A restaurant that promotes employees fosters a motivated workforce that feels appreciated and seen. Creating a culture with professional advancement baked in is a win for everyone. Things like cross-training opportunities, mentorship programs, and performance reviews are all things that can be baked into your hiring and onboarding process that create benefits for employees later down the line. 

***

The key steps in hiring the perfect bartender are:

  • Define who your perfect bartender is. What problems can they solve? What are their hours, and their pay? How do they fit in with your existing restaurant culture?

  • Write a job description with those values in mind. Remember to include the basics, such as location, position, and type of job. 

  • Share that job description far and wide. Give it to your employees, your mom, your uncle. Post it on job boards, social media, and industry-specific platforms.

  • Screen resumes of potential candidates after creating a list of screening criteria. Reiterate who you’re looking for and who has the qualifications to fit your needs best. Choose a handful for the next step in the process.

  • Conduct phone screens and interviews with a few qualified candidates. Ask all sorts of questions that cover skills, behavior, and culture fit. 

  • Review other application materials such as cover letters, personal statements, and recommendations. Call your candidates’ references if they have any. 

  • Make an offer on your top candidate.

  • Begin the onboarding process with retention and training top of mind. 

With the right preparation, you can hire a bartender that becomes part of the team. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.