Yes, I know you’ve been online checking out what people are saying about how hard bartending can be. You’re thinking about finally taking that first step towards getting a really cool job as a bartender, and all you read about is how hard it is. Hard compared to what?
Before I go any further, let me just say that I have been in the bar and restaurant business for over 25 years and I think it’s one of the greatest industries on this beautiful earth to be in. Flexible hours, great money and benefits, and a whole lot of fun!
Bartending has put me through college and allowed me the time and flexibility to start my own side-business and retire at a fairly early age. I’m very grateful to the profession.
Bartending is Not a Hard Job
I wanted to write this post because, lately, I’ve been getting all of these comments and emails from people thinking about going to bartending school, or just going out and applying for a bartending job.
They were researching the job, and coming away with some really inaccurate and negative comments from so many people. Not everyone was negative, of course, but enough to throw confusion their way.
Now, I’m not referring to those YouTube videos of bartenders pointing out the things that customers do that most annoy them. I think those are funny, basically true, and presented in a way that the viewer understands that it’s just a ‘pet peeve’ and not an overall indication of how they feel about the job.
People searching for information about the bartending profession were reading all of these negative articles on the internet about how everyone in the business says that it’s such a hard job get. That you get worked to death. It really doesn’t pay that much. There are no benefits. You have to deal with annoying people. Ugh.
Take everything you read and hear on the internet about bartending with a grain of salt. While I was researching this article, along with drawing on my own personal experience, I simply started with two search phrases: “is bartending a hard job?'” and “is bartending an easy job?” Some pretty simple searches.
What I found was that most all of the search results, for both searches, returned comments and articles that almost unanimously agreed that bartending was ‘really hard,’ or ‘harder than you think,’ or ‘it’s really hard to get a job.’
Well, that hasn’t been my experience. If you’re looking to enter the bartending field – ignore all of the negativity. Find out what Bar Mangers are really looking for in new bartender hires – and go for it!
Sitting in a cubicle writing programming code is a hard job. So is delivering packages. How about those guys that clean the porta-potties? And, in the food and beverage industry, let’s not forget about food servers, busboys, and cooks. Those are hard jobs.
So, Is Bartending Easy?
Bartending is relatively easy, and if you approach your new job with a positive attitude you’ll find that it’s one of the greatest jobs you could possibly have. Once you have the basic skills down, everything is on auto-pilot and you’re simply “hanging out with people” having a good time.
The bottom line here is that if you have a great attitude, are willing to work, and enjoy socializing – you’re going to be just fine. And, as you gain more experience – you can write your own ticket.
And, before I forget, there is no licensing requirement to be a bartender. That may change in the future, but you’re good to go at this time. You may be required to attend an “Alcohol Awareness Training” class – but that’s just a few hours. It’s also very informative, and I highly recommend attending one.
So, is bartending an easy job? The short answer is yes, but it’s not a job for everyone. The benefits are comparable to any other industry, the shifts are usually short and flexible, and, yes, as much as the IRS doesn’t wish to hear this – there’s a pretty decent tax break.
Bartending is Hard ‘For Some People’
Yes, bartending can be hard for some people. It has been my experience that there are just certain people that excel at the job. The ‘Top-of-the-Line Bartenders.’
Many others are very good bartenders, and some are what you would call just your average bartenders – performing their tasks in an acceptable manner. On the flip side, unfortunately, many people have no business being behind the bar.
Why Bartending is Hard For Some People
People make the job hard! If you really do like people, and have a great attitude, then you can ignore the items below.
- They don’t like people
- They don’t like the hours
- They can’t handle the pace
- They don’t like to work
- They’re constant complainers
- They have a bad attitude
I could elaborate on all of the above, but the point is – some people should not be in the customer service business. Period. And, it’s not just the bartending profession.
We’ve all encountered people in the restaurant and bar business, and other customer service oriented professions, that just ooze indifference. They’re in a position they wish not to be in, and they simply go through the motions.
I suspect that these people are probably going to have the same attitude no matter what their job is. However, maybe they would make a great accountant. Or an astrophysicist. I’m not getting down on accountants and scientists here; the point is that I believe that anyone can excel at something – they just have to find it, and maybe bartending isn’t it.
Bartending Can Be Challenging
Like most any job that you can think of, bartending does have its challenges. News flash: All jobs have challenges. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, so to speak. Your job as an employee is to step up and meet any of these challenges head-on.
No job is perfect, so get used to the fact that there may be some things about the job that you dislike. Make no mistake – bartending is all about customer service. If you don’t like socializing with people, then you should probably find another job.
De-Bunking Bartending Myths
Bartending is not a hard a hard job It’s a myth. Sure, I understand that it may be hard for some people. I hate to admit it, but I have hired people for bartending positions that simply couldn’t cut it – for whatever reason.
Excellent customer service with a smile is not something that everyone can do. For those saying that bartending is a ‘really hard job,’ below are just 10 of their top reasons – and my take.
It’s really hard being around alcohol if you have a drinking problem. Really? Bartenders are known to be partiers, but if you have difficulty staying sober during your shift you should probably be looking for a different job – and seek professional help.
You have to be nice to people all the time. Or, you have to talk to losers or give good service to bad tippers. I have news for you: You do have to be nice to people. For some people, it just comes naturally.
The next time you go out for dinner or drinks – just observe the person serving you. I’d be willing to bet that you can almost immediately determine whether or not they like their job.
You have to memorize 100’s or even 1000’s of drinks. Simply not true. This is probably the biggest myth out there regarding bartending, and I wrote a very informative article on how many drink recipes a bartender needs to know. Check it out.
Briefly, the 30 most popular drinks in your general geographical area, 30 ‘classic’ recipes, and the 20 or so specialty drinks that the bar may be promoting. That’s it.
There’s always going to be a customer who asks for something you’ve never heard of – no matter what your skill level. Experienced bartenders know this and don’t sweat it.
I don’t have any hard-core statistics, but about 50% of the time the customer will tell you exactly what they want. Jack on the rocks. Vodka tonic. Courvoisier in a snifter.
Easy stuff. For those brand new to the bartending profession, spend some time learning the major call, premium, and top-shelf brands of alcohol. Doing a little wine research wouldn’t hurt. Beer is easy – and mostly common sense.
You have to work nights and weekends. Of course you do. If you don’t like working nights and weekends, you probably shouldn’t be in the business. You could always go work in an office cubicle.
Personally, I preferred nights and weekends. Surfing and basketball during the day, and fewer crowds on weekdays out there in the real world. Really, why is this even considered a negative?
There are no perks or health benefits. Yes, there are. Sure, many of your mom and pop types of bars may not carry health insurance, but most corporate theme type restaurants and bars do.
The problem usually arises when they limit the hours you work per week to keep you under that full-time status. This is becoming a frequent occurrence in just about every industry.
If you’re really concerned about benefits, then simply apply only at those establishments that offer them. For the industry as a whole, I think that restaurants offer some great perks. Free or heavily discounted food and beverages, flexible shifts, casual atmosphere, etc.
You have to deal with drunks. Yes, you do. But, just how drunk are you getting these people? Stay on your toes and recognize the signs of over-intoxication and you’ll be just fine.
Again, if people getting a bit tipsy and boisterous bothers you, you might be in the wrong profession. I find it entertaining, and the “Stoners” are really fun to mess with.
It’s too hard to get a bartending job. Sometimes it is – just like any other job. Are you prepared? Have you developed some pretty good bartending skills? Do you have a well thought out plan for applying at different establishments? Persistence and personal appearance are the keys here – even if you have no experience.
Get some experience and work you way into that dream bartending job. I did – many times. Once you get some experience, you can work pretty much anywhere. In fact, Bar Managers will be looking for you!
You can’t get a job if you’re not good looking. This is bogus, so stop making excuses. An outgoing, friendly demeanor wins every time. Check your personal appearance and hygiene and you have the same chance as anyone else applying for the job.
Yes, I know that there are bar owners that will hire only women. Or only men. Or only experienced bartenders. Deal with it and move on.
You have to compete with bartenders that are really good. Hmmmm. Why is this even on the list? Self-esteem issues? Not willing to really work at developing your skills? I have news for you: There’s always someone better at certain jobs or tasks than you are.
It’s the same in any industry. Some people just plain excel at their jobs. Learn from other bartenders – but don’t worry about competing with them. Be the best you can be. Develop your skills and become that bartender that others claim is ‘too good to take his shifts.’
People verbally abuse you. They might. Most people that frequent bars behave themselves fairly well. Most are fantastic customers who make your day. Then, there are those having a bad day, a bad life, or digesting that pint or 6 pack they drank just before coming into your bar.
Here’s a tip: Never take abuse – physical or verbal. You don’t need to. Bars that take harassment issues seriously have strict policies in place for handling unruly patrons.
Just understand that the bar environment is not junior high school – and don’t confuse non-PC banter with abuse. In fact, experienced bartenders will tell you that giving customers ‘the business,” and vice-versa, are all part of the job. In a friendly way, of course.
Bonus reasons: You have to charge cell phones, you have to clean up vomit, you have to break up bar fights, you have to talk to losers, you have to deal with bad tippers, and on and on and on.
Tough situations to deal with, but they’re all part of the job. And, really, how hard is it to handle these situations? Learn how to deal with people in all types of situations and you’ll be just fine. This is the type of experience Bar Owners are looking for in their new hires.
OK – so then bartending is not as tough a job as people make it out to be. What are the benefits and perks of being a bartender? What makes this an easy job?
Minimal Education – Minimal Training
You’re struggling to find a job. Any job, and you think you would make a great bartender. Your basic run-of-the-mill High school diploma or GED is all you need.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the company hiring you for your first bartending job is never going to call your old high school and ask for a diploma. Just check the box.
Training? Many places now have their own in-house training program for bartenders. Of course, the more experience you have – the better chance you have of getting that “dream” bartending job.
Start off as a food server and learn the POS system as well as customer service in and outs and you’ll be off to a good start. Go to a really good Bartending School and land your first bartending job!
The Bartender Work Environment
Working behind a bar is one of the best working environments ever. You’re inside, temperature controlled, usually some decent music playing, and no one invading your “space.” Nice. Comparing that with many other industries leads me to believe that we have it pretty nice.
I read all of the complaints from working bartenders about the noise, crappy music, the bar smells, etc. Really?
One great thing about being an experienced bartender is that you can work anywhere. And I’m not talking about just geographical locations.
There are so many types of bars out there – different themes, music, clientele, etc., that you can work wherever you wish. Here’s a great tip – and one that I’ve acted upon many times: After you get some experience under your belt, go out and frequent other bars. All kinds of bars. Start applying at the really fun, busy bars.
You can get a pretty good idea of where you would fit in. Make the move. Just make sure it’s a step up. No sense in making a lateral move, or worse yet, a move to a bar that’s slow and has bad management. Be smart.
There Can Be Great Benefits Working as a Bartender
I just don’t agree with those that say there are no benefits. Sure, like many other industries, they may not be paying for your health insurance and dental insurance, but that’s not all that uncommon these days. Almost any place will offer paid vacation.
What about the perks? Free or discounted food and beverages, a relaxed atmosphere (in most places), and many times management will allow you to purchase certain items at their cost. And let’s not forget the professional contacts and new friends you’re going to meet.
What about pay? Sure, you’re probably at minimum wage, or less in some states, but tips more than make up for that. Great, but don’t I have to claim all of my tips when I file my income tax? The correct answer is ‘Yes.’ Are bartenders claiming all of their tips? Hmmmm.
Flexibility is a Great Perk
What about the flexibility? Pretty much unbeatable for those of us classified in the “normal job” category. The more experience you have as a bartender – the more work-place choices you have.
Hours and shifts are flexible, extra shifts are usually always available, and you have the flexibility to tailor your hours around school or your ‘real life.’ Nice.
I always took advantage of the flexibility as a bartender. For example, at one point in my career, I worked a couple of shifts a week as a banquet bartender. Great job. At the same time, I worked Friday and Saturday nights at a raging nightclub. A very nice variety, and I could take any banquet bar job whenever I felt like it. Nice.
So, Bartending is Really Not that Hard of a Job
Bartending is not hard. It is not hard to get a bartending job – or keep it. It is not hard to eventually place yourself in a bar environment that fits your personality.
Ignore all of the negativity out there on the internet. I have been in this business for many years, and I continue to love it.
Remember that the more experience you get – the better your options. Think big by looking beyond your job at your current bar. Go out and apply at a place where you think you could do better – or there’s more money and opportunity. Do your homework.
For those of you that are looking for your first bartending job – yes, sometimes it can be a challenge, but remember that it’s a numbers game. Enroll in a Bartending School, keep applying, develop your skills, and you’ll eventually land that job that fits perfectly.
Finally, remember that a bartender’s first priority is to offer the best customer service possible. You work for the house and must be willing to help achieve the company’s goals. This involves interacting with people on a daily basis.
If you’re not comfortable doing this, do not have a reasonably out-going personality, or, worse yet, have a bad attitude – find a job in a different profession. You won’t have to worry about bartending being ‘a really tough job.’
Related Bartending Searches
Is it hard to get a bartending job? No. As soon as you understand that applying for a bartender job is a numbers game – the better off you’ll be. Even for those with zero experience. Develop some skills, observe working bartenders, and have a well-organized plan for applying at different places.
Can I drink on the Job? Don’t be a Bozo. No one should drink on the job – in any industry. Except for maybe beer and wine tasters. Yes, I know that some bars allow you to drink behind the bar but it’s unprofessional and does affect performance.
You better know your liquor laws. In many states, drinking behind the bar is illegal. Even if it is legal – you better know what the Bar Owner’s policy is.