handful of cash

How Much Money Can a Bartender Make?

Bartenders make very good money. The salary and tips will always vary depending upon the type of place you work at, the particular shift you work, and the number of hours you spend behind the bar.

So, how much money can a bartender make per shift? On average, a bartender can make around $50 – $200 per shift just in tips. Bartenders working in a corporate theme restaurant and bar type of establishment will usually be on the low end of the tip average because of the ‘house’ tipping procedures and lack of consistent traffic.  Bartenders working in nightclubs have been known to make upwards of $500.00 per shift.

Of course, working in the establishment’s main bar, with the best shifts, can double or triple your salary over the bartender working in a service bar type atmosphere.

On the flip side, there are some bars and restaurants that have a “tip pool” policy. It operates by lumping all tips from bartenders and servers (and anyone else that is normally tipped), into just one pool and then distributed according to house policy.

Many restaurant and bar employees like this tipping policy – many don’t. Regardless, tip pools are here to stay.

Bartending is a fun, challenging, and financially rewarding job. It can be hard work, but hanging out and socializing with a lot of interesting people for eight hours is a nice way to make money.

One of the greatest advantages of working as a bartender is flexibility. If you are able to land a job in a fairly high-volume bar, you can work your way up the ladder and get the best shifts. And make a substantial amount of money in the form of tips.

A typical bartender shift is usually less than eight hours. I know of a great many bartenders (usually very experienced bartenders), that work multiple jobs. A couple of shifts per week at each bar, coupled with the best hours, can prove to be quite lucrative.

For some up-to-date statistics on the bartending industry, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This site will provide you with a very general idea of how much bartenders make, the working conditions, and the general outlook for the future of bartending.

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of bars that you could work at, and what each has to offer in the way of salary, wages, and tips.

Bartender Salary, Wages, and Tips

Yep, just like the wording on your W-2 form. Bartenders get paid in different ways. Some get paid per shift. Others are on a salary – but that’s usually a working bar manager or head bartender. Most get paid by the hour. And, of course, they all bring in that tip money.

Generally speaking, tips will account for over 50% of the overall salary. It pays to find a bar that’s busy, and the tips are known to be generous in order to maximize your salary.

It’s important to note that the United States is going through some major changes pertaining to wages. Many states have implemented strict minimum wage laws – increasing the hourly wage substantially. Others are still able to pay less than minimum wage simply because their employees are tipped.

More than ever, it makes good sense to inquire as to the hourly wage policy at every establishment you are applying at. If you can make $15.00 per hour, plus tips, it’s certainly something to consider when applying for a job.

Most Lucrative Types of Bars to Work At

The most lucrative types of bars, in no particular order, fall into a few categories. Generally speaking, the higher the volume, or, the more traffic a bar receives – the higher the tips. Here are some more popular types of high-volume bars:

  • Nightclubs
  • Sports Bars
  • Local High-Volume Restaurant & Bars
  • Dive Bars

It’s important to remember that all bars are different. Management styles, the amount of volume (how busy are they?), and ‘in-house’ tipping procedures can all have an effect on the amount in tips a bartender can make.

Inexperienced bartenders, at first, may not have the choices that experienced bartenders do, but anyone can make decent tips if they get hired at the right place.

Mark Unger

Money You Can Make Bartending in Nightclubs

Nightclubs are generally considered to be the most lucrative of all bartending jobs. This may be the case in most instances, but I have seen bartenders working in ‘dive’ bars that make just as much. And “theme” bars. And Sports bars. Again, it will always depend upon the volume.

how much money can a bartender make

When people think of nightclubs, they have this idea in their head that they only open their doors after 8:00 pm and serve until 2:00 am. Not true. Many are open all day, develop a great lunch and happy hour crowd, and then ease into the night.

These are extremely successful bars. Maximizing profit throughout the day helps create a terrific profit for the bar. And, it’s great for bartenders as they can work any number of shifts, different times of the day, and make great tips no matter what their shift is.

Believe it or not, not all nightclubs are high-volume. Actually, every type of bar has the potential to be high-volume – but it depends on a number of things. Location, of course, and let’s not forget the product. Great food and drinks always bring a crowd.

How much can you make working as a bartender in a nightclub? Tons. Many bartenders earn $200 – $500 per shift. In extremely high-volume bars, they probably have barbacks, so there will be a certain amount of money tipped out.

The advantages? Shorter and flexible shifts, higher tips, and time can really fly. It can be exhausting at times, but for those in good physical shape – it’s the way to go.

Sports Bars Are Tip Money Makers

Bartending at a Sports Bar is another great way to make really good money. Especially if the bar has invested in a great TV and satellite system to get all the sports. Gone are the days of showing just weekend sports and Monday Night Football.

These days, sports bars are now carrying just about every sport imaginable on their in-house video system. Being able to purchase ‘ala carte’ sports programming has changed everything. Many sports bars specialize in certain sports and gain loyal, dedicated customers who return again and again.

Bartenders working in sports bars can make, generally speaking, about $100 – 200 per shift. Or more. House tipping procedures will be a bit different, as they’re probably selling a lot of food and tipping out to other members of the staff.

However, there are additional advantages to working in a sports bar. Free or discounted meals, flexible shifts, and great sports programming to watch while you’re working. Not a bad job at all, I must say.

Local High-Volume Restaurant & Bars

Corporate Theme Restaurant types of bars can be a great place to work. However, a possible downside is that if they really specialize in the food aspect of the business.

Many times, customers will sit at the bar waiting for the table – and then transfer their bar tab over to the food server.

bartenders can serve a lot of food in the bar

Not the greatest of situations, but at least in these types of bars the food servers will tip their bartenders. Regular customers can supply these types of bars with huge volume, so the chances are good that you’ll make decent money.

These types of bars also have some drawbacks. Corporate rules and procedures that can get on your nerves, tip pools, and non-flexible shifts can put a dent in your serenity.

How much do bartenders make at these types of places? Anywhere from $50 – $150 per shift. Keep in mind that the shifts will probably be around 8 hours. And, of course, working the day or night shift will make a big difference.

This is a great ‘medium’ type of place to work on your way up the bartending ladder. If you can get some good experience at this type of bar – you’ll be primed to move into a much more high-volume type of atmosphere.

Dive Bars Can Be Great For Tips

The most underrated of all bars. Casual, usually high-volume, and great tippers. Bartenders are pouring drinks at a frenetic pace, the atmosphere is a bit crazy, and there never seems to be any real ‘rules.’ My kind of place.

The term ‘dive bar’ is a bit misleading. We’re not talking about a dirty, unsanitary place here with nothing but undesirables sitting at the bar. These are usually local bars that don’t put a whole lot of money into frivolous things. The staff is tight, and everyone has their own way of doing things.

These types of bars are usually smaller than nightclubs or corporate theme restaurant and bar types – but are extremely busy. Crazy busy. The staff is small, the owners are usually involved in the business, and their bottom line always shows a very nice profit.

Bartenders working in these types of bars can easily make upwards of $100.00 per shift. Usually much more. Again, it’s probably not the place to begin your bartending career, as bar managers in Dive Bars are a bit hesitant to hire people with little or no experience.

Money Inexperienced Bartenders Can Make

Inexperienced bartenders have a major disadvantage when trying to get that first bartending job. You pretty much have to take what you can get, gain some experience, and then start applying at busier establishments.

The above-listed types of bars may not be your best starting point. I have seen brand new bartenders get hired at a high-volume type of bar and then ‘flunk out’ after the first week. They simply couldn’t handle the volume.

There may be exceptions, but it has been my experience that you need to start at a less busy place. It’s fairly rare to see an inexperienced bartender working in one of the above places.

Final Thoughts on Bartender Tips and Wages

There are many factors involved in just how much a bartender can make. Experience gets you that prized job, but it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to make more in tips. And, are they paying minimum wage – or less?

Take all factors into consideration. Visit the bars that you plan on applying at, and get a general feel of the way everything ‘flows.’ If you’re totally inexperienced, check out my post on how you can get that first bartending job by nailing the interview.

Related Bartending Topics

Can a food server make just as much as a bartender? Yes, they can. And do – consistently. Of course, it always depends on what type of place you work at – and whether or not you have to split tips or ‘tip out’ a certain percentage of the tips you make.

What drinks should I know before I start applying for a bartender job? This one is easy. Check out my post on how many drinks a bartender really needs to know. Contrary to popular belief, you really need to know only about 60 drinks to get started.

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