Why Is the Bar In Business?

Make no mistake – the bar owner (or bar and restaurant chain), is in the business to make money. Period. Yes, I know that there are some types of bars out there that are a front for all sorts of nefarious means – but usually just on TV.

It’s all about profit and loss. Let’s move on to what the bar owner’s responsibilities are:

The Bar Owner’s Responsibility

It is the bar owner’s job to make people aware of the bar. To get them in the front door. To provide a safe, comfortable environment with great food and drink. In other words – to ensure that all of their customers have a great experience. The owner hires management, bartenders, and additional employees who understand his priorities – and do whatever it takes to help him achieve his goals.

The bar owner hires the management staff – if he isn’t the on-site manager himself. Kitchen Managers and Bar Managers are the most common. Dining room/Food managers are uncommon unless it’s a fine dining establishment. The Bar Owner may have a “General Manager” overseeing all operations.

Many Corporate Theme Restaurant and Bar chains will have a General Manager and 1 – 4 assistants. All of them could be in a position to hire bartenders. All of them could be considered “Bar Managers.” All companies and bars are different!

Side Note: Hotels can be very different with all parts of the operation having their own management team. We won’t get into that here, but we will discuss Hotels/Banquet Bartending in Section 14 – Banquet Bartending. Hotel Management is usually handled through the parent company and a strong Human Resources Department.

The Bar Owner may be the person who interviews you. In fact, he may be the one who makes all of the hiring decisions.

Bar owners generally leave the tough decisions to the bar manager. I’m talking about firing employees here. Why? Mostly because bar owners have hired Bar Mangers that really know their stuff, and understands that they know the “ins-and-outs” of the daily operations better than they do. So be it.

If there is a reduction in shifts/hours worked for everyone it’s usually because the bar owner and manager have made financial decisions together. Possibly a drop in sales or higher prices for products.

Bar owners like to frequent their own bars. Most likely, all of their drinks will go on a tab. No problem. They own the bar! If they say buy a round of drinks – you buy a round of drinks on the house. Document it by putting it on the owner’s tab. Or, they may instruct you to put it on a separate “local promotion” tab – or something like that.

You’ll find that most Bar Owners are great people. Friendly, concerned about their employees’ well-being, and fair.

The Bar Manager’s Responsibility

It is the Bar Manager’s responsibility to implement and oversee the House Policies dictated by the owner. Whether it’s a small one-owner type bar or a chain restaurant and bar. The Bar Manager, hired by the Bar Owner has many responsibilities:

  • Hires and trains the staff
  • Manages inventory
  • Handles the marketing along with the bar owner
  • Oversees the budget
  • Ensures safety and cleanliness
  • Maintains a friendly and professional relationship with vendors
  • Leads by example

Many Bar Managers have a reputation of being too tough. Although they may be strict, understand that they are trying to achieve the Bar Owner’s goals. Sales, pouring cost, and bottom-line profits are constantly on the mind of a good Bar Manager. They have to be strict. And remember that they’re “middle management.” They take the heat from all sides.

There is no need to go into great detail here. Just know that the bar owner and bar manager are two very different people with different jobs. If the bar manager wants things done in a certain way – it’s most likely coming from the bar owner.

The Chain of Command

“Chain of Command” is a military term, but it certainly applies to the Food and Beverage Industry. In a nutshell – know who your immediate boss is, and resist the urge to go over his or her head.

You can get in deep trouble by bypassing the head bartender (or bar manager), and going straight to the bar owner with a problem or idea. The same goes with the rest of employees.

I won’t go into any great detail here – just know that you really need to stay in touch with your immediate supervisor. No one likes a kiss-ass who sucks up to the bar owner.

And, don’t ever make your immediate boss look bad. Stay professional. Of course, if you happen to have a really bad boss – keep it low-key and figure out how to solve your issue with a minimum of hassle. You’ll get better at this with experience.


The bar has any number of permits and licenses that need to be updated – and on file somewhere on the premises. These may include:

  • Business License
  • Sign Permits
  • Liquor License
  • Food License
  • EIN Number
  • Resale Permit
  • Music License
  • Dance License
  • Occupancy Certificate
  • Health Permit
  • Employee Health Permits
  • Seller’s Permit
  • Valet parking Permit
  • Trash/Dumpster Permit
  • Live Entertainment License
  • Vending Machine/Pool Table Permits

I’m not going to go into any detail here. I just want you to know that it costs money to operate a bar. A lot of money. And, bar owners are very protective of their permits and licenses – especially that million dollar liquor license.

Bar owners take this stuff seriously – you should too.

Profitability vs. Customer Satisfaction (free drinks, comps, etc.)

This is an on-going battle between bar owners and their customers. Bar owners want their customers to come back, time and again, so they really need to show that their customers come first.

Free drinks, complimentary food, and the like does have its place – but so do bottom line profits. Bar owners get really good with this balancing act.

All bar owners are different. Very different. Some have no problem giving away a lot of free stuff – other don’t. You’ll find that most chain type restaurants and bars are more strict. Usually no free drinks, employees cannot drink or give out free drinks or food – and everything must be strictly accounted for.

I won’t go into any detail here. Just know that the bar owner puts in place his house policies to maximize profit.

Accounting: The Controller

You know – that person that spends a whole lot of time back there in the office. For small bars and restaurants, it could be one of the owners. For larger bars and chain restaurants and bars, they may be on premises – or at the corporate office.

These employees do just what their name implies: They account for and control the money. The finances. The bean counters.


Bar owners decide how much money to spend on advertising and promotions. There’s usually a line on their P & L (Profit and Loss), statement for these expenses.

For now, just know that bar owners will monitor their spending in this area very closely. They will spend a lot of money on this stuff with the idea of getting customers in the front door.

This is why it is so important for bartenders to understand that the bar owner is spending this money with the idea that people will keep returning to the bar and spend money.

If the bar owner is spending all this money – why would he want rude or inept employees driving customers away?


You’re going to see OSHA signs all over the place. usually in the kitchen. It’s all about safety here. And, it’s not just the Food & Beverage Industry – but all industries.

Follow the rules along with some good common sense and stay safe!

The Health Inspector

We discussed the health inspector in Section 9 – Bar Sanitation. Review that section if needed as I go into great detail. For now, just know that health inspectors will visit your bar on a regular basis.

Bar owners know this, and should have everything up to snuff. It is your responsibility to follow all house policies regarding sanitation and hygiene.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

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