Bartender School Online

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Bartender Soft Skills

(Section 4 of the Bartending Course)

If you would like to see a complete list of the 20 sections/chapters of the Bartending Course – Go Here

Let’s Talk Bartender “Soft Skills” Here

Definition: “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others.” OK – that’s one definition. I think it fits best with the profession of Bartending.

So, what are “Softs Skills” and how do they apply to the bartending profession? Briefly, soft skills are interpersonal skills, and coveted by every manager out there in every business and industry – the Food & Beverage Industry included.

Where “Hard Skills” have to do with knowledge and expertise in your particular field (Like the ability to make drinks efficiently), soft skills are about who people are – and not what they know.

You can get better at hard skills over time, with practice and experience, but soft skills are tough to change. You cannot change someone’s attitude. You cannot change their personality.

Many studies have been done concerning soft skills – far beyond the scope of this Bartending Course. Based on my experience, and my opinion, I have listed below some of the most desired soft skills in the Food & Beverage Industry:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to work as a team
  • Problem solving skills
  • Work ethic
  • Critical thinking
  • Demeanor
  • Personality
  • Flexibility/Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork
  • Positive attitude

What I find interesting with the above list is that many “Top 10 Bartender Skills” lists usually cite a couple of entries from the above list. Or maybe just one. That’s fine, and it’s certainly true, but cherry picking one or two qualities from the above list just doesn’t cut it.

Guess what? I also have a “Top Ten” list of what bar managers and owners are looking for. However, my list has only 7 entries. That’s right – “The 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers are Looking For.” And Soft Skills is on the list.

An exceptional bartender has MANY, if not all, of the coveted “Soft Skills.” Think about it. You can hire someone with a great personality – but they consistently have the highest pour cost among the house’s bartenders. Or, customers rave about how “nice” the day bartender is– but he has no idea how to handle a “weak drink” situation. I could go on and on. Personality is not the king of the soft skills!

A great personality alone is not going to get you the job. It certainly helps, but these days bar managers are asking a lot more detailed questions during the job interview – trying to dig a bit deeper into a person’s character and skill levels.

There are many more types of soft skills, as I noted above, but when it comes to working behind a bar, in my opinion, demeanor is the king.

A Bartenders Demeanor

I go into great detail on Bartender Soft Skills in Section 4 of the Bartender Course. I just wanted to stress here how important demeanor is by taking a few minutes to explain my thoughts – based on my many years of bartending experience.

Demeanor: behavior towards others; outward manner

            Also: the way that someone behaves, looks, dresses, speaks, etc., that shows what their character is like. Demeanor is a combination of many soft skills.

Take a good look at that bartender working behind the bar. How does he conduct himself? Is he polite? Attentive? Does he carry himself well? Does he go about his business in an efficient manner?

How about his personality? Yep – we finally get to the word “Personality.” Personality is listed on almost all “Top 10” lists of bartender skills and characteristics. I don’t have a problem with that, it’s just that “personality” is just one part of a human beings’ character. It’s just one part of how a bartender conducts herself behind the bar.

How about facial expressions? A person’s demeanor is expressed not just verbally, but in many non-verbal ways. How many times have you gone to a restaurant or bar and been served by an employee who has a sad face, a furrowed brow – or even a scowl on their face? That’s their demeanor, my friends, and there’s no place for it behind the bar.

Exceptional bartenders understand that it’s all about perception. Customers are smart – they can sense other’s emotions.

Mark Unger

A bartender with an exceptional demeanor has a winning attitude, engaging personality, and communication skills that will knock your socks off – all rolled into one. She’s flexible, adaptable, and great at conflict resolution and problem solving. Her work ethic? Beyond reproach. The total package, loaded with “Soft Skills.”

Think the bar manager isn’t trying to detect some of these “Soft Skills” during the interview? Think again. Besides experience, Soft Skills are what’s going to get you through that interview with flying colors. Yeah, I know – I just used the word “experience” above, but remember: Many bar managers WILL NOT pass up an inexperienced bartender job applicant who oozes “soft skill” attributes. Count on it.

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