When we think of the main player inside a bar, there’s no doubt the bartender is the first to come to mind. But every cocktail-making master would be nothing without their trusty sidekick–the barback. 

Who is this semi-mysterious character that works hand-in-hand with the bartender throughout their shift and what are their main duties? In this article, we’ll cover everything there is to know about the barback job description, responsibilities, salary, and more... 

Barback vs bartender: What's the difference? 


Before we get into the barback’s role, it’s important to understand the difference between a barback and a bartender, as they are not the same person. 

In the bar industry, the barback is the employee who quite literally “backs-up” the bartender(s), carrying out a variety of tasks to ensure that their shift runs smoothly. In busy establishments, more barbacks may be needed to support bartenders so that customers are not stuck waiting long periods to be served. 

They both work as a close-knit team and really do rely on each other for success. However, the barback normally does not sell and make drinks, though they may have some elementary knowledge of how to do so. 

Think of the barback as the bartender’s assistant, without whom their role would be much more difficult.

Barback responsibilities

Responsibilities are divided into different tasks before, during and after bar service. Between stocking, cleaning and other miscellaneous duties, here’s a complete breakdown of what’s expected:  


Before service


During service


After service

✓ Ensuring the bar is fully stocked

✓Cleaning counters consistently and directly after spills

✓Emptying all trashcans/recycling bins 

✓ Preparing all garnishes 

✓Cleaning any glasses and dishes from the bar

✓Cleaning counters/furniture

✓ Prepping all juices and mixers into bottles 

✓Sweeping broken glassware

✓Cleaning glasses and dishes

✓ Refilling ice wells

✓Running drinks to customers and clearing the bartop

✓Tearing down the bar 

✓ Replenishing counter items i.e. napkins, toothpicks, coasters, glasses, etc.

✓Taking out the trash

✓Mopping floors behind and in front of the bar 

✓Changing beer kegs

✓During busy shifts, assisting the bartender by inputting orders into the system 

✓Tracking liquor inventory for the night 

✓Restocking liquor bottles 

✓Chatting with customers and answering any questions they may have

✓Unclogging sinks with draining issues 

✓Ensuring there are clean bar rags for bartenders

✓Empyting dishwasher and restocking glassware and plates 

✓Ensuring that the bar is in great condition for the next shift


✓Managing keys and bringing back new bottles from storage 


While the above tasks are generally divided during service hours, it’s important to remember that they will often overlap. For example, a barback will need to continue stocking the bar and replenishing counter items throughout their shift, not only before service. In short, the best barbacks make a bartender’s job easier from start to finish.

How much does a barback make? 

The typical barback salary varies from state to state, as different locations have different minimum wage standards. The average hourly wage for a barback in the US falls between $10 and $12 (including tips), while the annual salary is around $25,0000 on average

Like bartenders, barbacks supplement their base pay with tips. They are ‘tipped out’ at the end of the shift by the establishment itself or the specific bartender they were working with. For example, if a bartender makes $300 in a shift, the barback could be tipped out as much as $50. But this amount can also vary depending on how busy the night is and how many bartenders are working. 

How old do you have to be to become a barback? 

Although the legal drinking age in the US is 21, both barbacks and bartenders can be under 21 depending on the state’s policy. In California, for instance, the legal age to serve spirits, wine and beer is 18, while in Nevada it is 21 and in Nebraska it is 19. 

The same goes for barbacks, so be sure to check your local laws before hiring a barback or applying for a barback position. 

How to hire the best barback 

If you’re a bar establishment or restaurant in search of a new barback to join your team, the first step is understanding what qualities to look for. Here are a combination of hard and soft skills to consider when evaluating potential candidates.

Hard skills

Soft skills

Basic bar knowledge 


Stock management


Physical strength/Stamina 


Customer service


POS systems

Stress management

Alcohol safety 


Cash handling


A person with a mixture of the above qualities is a promising candidate for your open barback position. But how do you go about finding the perfect fit? By writing a killer barback job description!

How to write a barback job description


Writing the best barback job description starts with being clear and concise about things like responsibilities, skills needed and salary. After all, you don’t want to waste the job seekers time or your own. 

Start by providing a bit of background information about the establishment and its culture, including details such as location and dress code. Next move onto describing the role in more detail, outlining what day-to-day barback duties may look like and how many hours the employee can expect to work. 

Lastly, don’t forget to add both the hard and soft skills that will make a successful candidate. After you’re all done, upload your barback job description onto the most popular online portals for job seekers like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster and wait for the applications to start trickling in!

How to go from barback to bartender 

On the flip side, if you’re the one looking for a job as a barback or bartender, we’ve got a tip for you! 

Many bartenders begin as barbacks to get their foot in the door and understand exactly what a busy night behind the bar looks and feels like. In many establishments, just one year could be enough time for the manager to see your skills in action and trust you with the promotion you’ve always dreamed of

Taking a bartender course doesn’t hurt either, so keep that in mind as you work your way up the bar industry ladder. Who knows maybe one day you’ll be the one hiring your own barback!