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Bar Biz: The Multitasking Bar Manager

Stanislav Rozhkov /
Stanislav Rozhkov /

Bar managers are not created overnight. From my own experience, a bar/beverage manager must have previous bartending experience in more than one venue and must have worked for at least 5,000 hours or three and one-half years at 30 hours a week. And as importantly, bar managers must master the following tasks before they can properly hire and train their staff:

Understand the laws that govern your establishment’s license. Obtain your state’s question and-answer pamphlet concerning the Alcohol Beverage Control Act and its related constitutional provisions. Also, be aware that your county’s sheriff ’s department may periodically conduct undercover programs.

Create the master sheets necessary for optimum beverage control. Inventory, ordering, receiving, pour cost (PC) calculation, liquor cage, perpetual sales analysis, waste, labor cost, and bar par are all vital parameters that must be accurately and regularly tracked.

Set up and monitor the establishment’s standard pour for spirits, wine, and beer. Consistency, proficiency, and adherence to the bar’s pouring policy are key components of profitability. Create a cleaning and maintenance checklist and an opening and closing procedure. You never know when the health department will drop in for an unannounced inspection.

Know your products, suppliers, and service providers. The product list includes white and brown spirits; liqueurs; mixers; juices; beers; sparkling, still, and dessert wines; and sodas on and off the gun. Keep a contact list handy of all distributor outlets for your area, including who supplies your CO2 tanks, replaces filters in ice machines, cleans tap lines, and repairs refrigerators.

Understand all bar staff positions and their interaction with each other and the waitstaff. Delegation of specific tasks and responsibilities underscores a satisfactory service flow. A key to the success of a bar manager—and the enterprise—is his or her ability to hire good staff, create an atmosphere that fosters cooperation and goodwill among employees, and provide effective training. Here’s how: Hire the most experienced bar staff available in your area, and pay them well. Look for an attractive collection of personalities who will work together, create an excellent flow with the waitstaff, and perform well visually so that your bar patrons can enjoy watching the smooth choreography of a bar in action.

Set up a flexible but precise work schedule. Interview and hire with this flexibility in mind to fill full-time, part-time, on-call, temporary, and seasonal positions. Avoid back-to-back shifts, because they inevitably cause staff burnout.

Foster an atmosphere in which the staff thinks as owners and managers. If you allow your staff to develop their own sense of confidence and creativity, they will act more responsibly.

Observe the habits and moods of your bar staff. Correct bad habits, breaches in etiquette, and inattention to detail as quickly as possible. Likewise, be sure to praise your staff for their positive work habits and customer-pleasing service.

Equip your staff with the best tools and products. If a bartender requests a specialty product or shaker, procure it if you can. Solicit advice from your staff on new products. Staff harmony, respect, and pride are built on these details.

Hold tastings for your staff on all bar beverages. Each staff member should understand every product, so take the time to conduct focused and educational tastings. And including everyone in the tasting builds esprit de corps.

Work to establish a mutual trust. Allow your staff to get to know you as the bar/beverage manager, and listen, communicate, guide, and assist them to build a smoothly running team. Build respect for your position as the coach of the team, but remember that an effective manager needs to be present and invisible at the same time.

Kyle Branche is a Los Angeles-based bar professional and writer. He has worked at a number of nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, and private venues in the city, and written more than 75 feature articles and columns for leading consumer and trade publications.

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