What to Expect When You Become a Bar Manager

24th February 2017
What to Expect When You Become a Bar Manager

Picture the scene. You’ve been working in a bar for nine months, you’ve formed some great friendships and you now work within a family, not a bar team. You’ve been performing consistently well for a while now, and your general manager takes you to their office and offers you a promotion. Success! You’ve been promoted to bar manager. You’re in charge. You’ve got more responsibilities. You’re getting more money (hopefully). What’s going to happen next?

There are quite a few things that will change in your life during the months after your promotion and it’s beneficial to know what they are so you can get a headstart on the process – you’re welcome.

Bar manager how to

From Friend to Bar Manager

This is all too often one of the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects of becoming a bar manager. Your relationships are going to change, the dynamic of your bar family will shift and if you’ve accepted a job in a different establishment to the one you currently work in, then you face a different set of challenges, most notably the fact that you’re going to be the “head” of a family that you don’t know that well.

Now, in bar teams it’s only natural that you will form close relationships: you’ll joke together, you’ll drink together, you’ll eat together and you’ll gossip about your manager and/or your co-workers. However, you’ll suddenly find that you might not be able to do as much of that as you once used to.

You can’t gossip or complain about other managers because you’re the one who’s being gossiped and complained about, and you might find that you can’t eat together anymore because of your schedules.

Managing a bar team
Photo: Flikr

The reality of the situation is that your relationships are not going to be the same. That might sound a bit too dramatic, and maybe we’re doing it on purpose, but even if they only change slightly you’ll never have exactly the same relationships as you once had.

You can’t show your friends any favouritism or leniency to try and compensate for this because either because you’ll have a mutiny on your hands quicker than you can make a Caipirinha.  

If you’re just starting out in the industry, check out what employers are looking for in a bartender

There’s Loads of Good Stuff Too

It isn’t all doom and gloom. There are bonuses to having well-established friendships and working your way through the bar’s ups and downs and then becoming the king of the castle.

Firstly, you’ll have the trust of your peers. They’ve been with you through the tough nights, the quiet days and the less than desirable vomit soaked toilets. They know that you know what you’re doing (even if on the inside you’re screaming with fear) and they will follow you into battle because of that.

Establishing trust can be one of the hardest things to do when taking charge of a team as a bar manager, and the chances are you’ve already established it.

How to become a great bar manager

Secondly, you already know how best to work with your team. Bar managers are essential for keeping the bar running smoothly and part of that includes having to work on the bar if things get a bit hairy. When it comes to that, you’ll already have a prominent sense of teamwork with your team (if you haven’t then you’re in for a tricky time).

Make Yourself Better

Just because you were promoted doesn’t mean you’re the best you can be. You’re now the point of call for everyone else. If anyone has a question about a drink, it’s you they’re going to ask. If a customer wishes to speak to a manager about anything, it’s you they want to speak to. Spirit reps and Brand Ambassadors? You’re their new contact. Your learning hasn’t ended, it’s increased.

Your thirst for education needs to increase. Constantly go to the training sessions you can make it to. Read those books that have been on the back bar for years covered in dust.

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask questions of your superiors or of your peers in similar positions. The bar industry is great because there’s always someone willing to help out.

Looking for further training on your quest to become the best bar manager? We hear you… 

Bar manager job description

Some Final Words

One of the most important things to remember, and it is repeated all over the internet is, “Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself”. This should be the new cliché that is printed out and on put on the walls of workplaces everywhere.

Its premise is pretty easy to figure out, if you’re not willing to clean vomit off of the walls or clean the bar until 5 am after a 14-hour shift, you can’t contemplate asking someone else to do it; that’s just not how it works.

Another good quote to remember is: “Look after your employees, and they’ll look after your customers.” Again, the premise is there. Make sure you focus on your staff and treat them correctly and fairly, and they’ll reciprocate with their performance on the bar.

The last of our favourite quotes is “Luke, I am your father”, but that has nothing to do with bartending or being a bar manager so you can probably just forget that one.

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Kirsty is the Content Writer at EBS. In her free time, she likes sipping on Espresso Martinis, watching videos of funny dogs, and exploring the city. Originally from Scotland, she has spent many summers working and living in different European cities.