Who are you working with? Who’s in charge? Who’s your immediate boss? What does the “Controller do? I’ll answer all of those questions here.
Side Note: If you have worked in a restaurant or bar before, or are an experienced bartender – you can probably skip this lesson.
I added this lesson here in the “House Policies” section after I had completed assembling the entire course. I remembered that there are many of you out there that have never worked in the Food & Beverage Industry before, and may be a little confused about the “Chain of Command.”
So, here you go – a nice list of your fellow co-workers and what they actually do and are responsible for. Just give it a quick read so you have a fairly good idea of what’s going on.
The Bar Owner
In a small Mom and Pop type place you’ll interact with the Bar Owner all the time. In fact, they probably also have the title of Bar Manager. Sometimes they’re behind the bar working with you. Many of them are fantastic bartenders! My preferred type of place to work at – other than Hotels.
For the rest of this section on Managers – I’ll be talking about larger chain-type bars, as that’s where you’re probably going to get your first job. I’ll discuss hotel employees in later lessons about Banquet Bartending.
Corporate chain-type bar and restaurants have a different set-up than the “Mom and Pops.” The pecking order:
- Big Conglomerate
- Smaller Subsidiary
- Regional Manager
- District Manager
- Your General Manager
Something like that. You will only be concerned with the General Manager, the Bar Manager (if one is designated), and 3 or 4 Assistant Managers. You’ll rarely see the upper echelon of management – but they do make their rounds.
Side Note: Think of the General Manager as the Bar Owner. They’re basically responsible for the same thing. The buck stops here.
You will deal with the GM – and the assistants. One of the assistants will probably kind of be in charge of “bar personnel,” but they all share equal responsibility. There always seems to be a “Manager Trainee” around somewhere, and, from my experience, Assistant Managers are constantly being shuffled around between all of the company’s bars in that general area.
There is probably NOT a “Bar Manager” in these types of bars. The GM and Assistants monitor everything – and have most likely designated a “Head Bartender.” This bartender may or may not be the training bartender. Every bar is different!
Side Note: before I go into the management positions here, I just want to point out that almost all managers I have worked with, and for, are great people. As long as you’re a reliable employee and follow House Rules, they’ll let you be yourself – and leave you alone. And, they absolutely love exceptional bartenders!
The General Manager
Make no mistake: Your General Manager is a “Middle Manager” type of employee. This person gets it from all sides – and it’s a tough job. I’ve been there. Probably makes around 100K per year with salary and bonus. Maybe even a car.
As I mentioned above, think of the GM as the “Bar Owner.” All final decisions are made by the GM. GM’s have full profit and loss responsibility. In other words – the corporate thugs and bean counters will hold these people accountable for the bottom line.
The GM is probably getting his bonus based on the PAC line. What is that? “Profit After Controllables.” In other words, most all expenses and profits are controlled by the GM. Food and beverage costs, supplies, maintenance, payroll. GM’s do NOT have control over insurance, depreciation, rent, the liquor license – things like that, which are designated “Uncontrollables.”
So, if you ever wonder why the managers are getting on you about pouring cost or breaking glassware – it’s all tied to the manger’s bonus!
I’m not going to go into my experience as a GM at this time. You can find my story in the final section of this course – Section 20.
The Bar Manager
If there is a designated Bar Manager – this is the person you really need to be aware of. And work well with. And listen to. Many are former bartenders. It has been my experience that Bar mangers really know their stuff. Most of them, anyway. Good ones have no problem jumping behind the bar during busy times and “one-upping” mediocre bartenders.
They may or may not be tied into the house bonus system. Either way, the GM or bar Owner is going to hold these people responsible for liquor cost. And waste. And equipment maintenance and cleaning. The Bar Manager probably finalizes the liquor, bar, wine, and bar supplies order.
The Kitchen Manager
Similar to the Bar Manager – only food. The Kitchen Managers will spend most of their time “on the line” during busy periods. Responsible for all aspects of food preparation – and putting out food orders.
As a manager, I had a love-hate relationship with Kitchen Managers. As a bartender – I stayed out of their way. Please – never walk down the “cooks line.” Bartenders need to be in the kitchen area only to sign in and out and get ice. But…
If the perishable bar supplies are not stored in the beer keg cooler close to the bar – they may be back in the kitchen’s walk-in cooler. The dry goods storeroom is probably back there somewhere – and possibly the liquor room. You may have access to these areas, so get in and out.
The Dining Room Manager
Probably only in a fine dining establishment. You know – Maître D’s and all of that stuff. Most places simply have a Head Food Server.
You’ll find this in chain-type restaurants and bars. Besides the GM, you might see a 1st Assistant, two 2nd Assistant’s – and a Manager Trainee. Don’t be fooled – these people are your boss. When the GM is away – they are the GM!
I’ve found Assistant’s to be fairly aggressive. They’re working their way up the food chain to GM. All I can say here is listen and follow the rules. Experienced bartender’s find themselves “educating” these newbies!
The Head Bartender
The Head Bartender may simply be the bartender that has been there the longest; however, I know many great bartenders that do not want this position – they simply want the best shifts with no management responsibilities. That’s the way I liked it.
Head Bartenders may also be the trainers. They may be responsible for the schedule. The title may also be just a formality – they have no power. All bars are different!
If you’re the head bartender – you probably know your stuff. I have seen many bartenders get promoted to this position over others that have way more experience. I have no problem with that, and, as a manager, never had a problem putting the right people in the right position – regardless of “time on duty.”
You’ll be working side-by-side with your fellow bartenders. A Mom and Pop bar may have only around 5 bartenders. Or less. A huge, roaring nightclub – maybe 20. A chain-type theme bar maybe around 10. I have worked functions at huge hotels where there would be 40 bartenders stationed around the property on New Years Eve.
You’re going to find that most of the bartenders’ you work with are great people. Their quality of work may vary tremendously – but they’re fun people. Just like any other industry.
On the other hand, unfortunately, I have worked with some really unqualified bartenders. Not because they couldn’t pour a drink properly – it was because their attitudes sucked. They had a hard time getting to work on time. They were thieves. They had a drinking and/or drug problem. Most of all – it was apathy.
You’ll run into some problem bartenders here and there – just don’t let them affect you!
They work hard! They’re probably trying to move up to bartender, but I knew some that were perfectly satisfied remaining as a barback. Good for them! In a very busy place (pretty much the only situation where barbacks are employed), they can make great money – and never have to worry about taking on the responsibility of a bartender.
Barbacks, of course, work directly for the bartenders. Listen to them! Bar Manager’s are their boss, of course, and once in a while they’ll be off somewhere else preforming some other task. Maybe cleaning the restrooms, running some food orders, shoveling the sidewalks. Barbacks are many times the “utility guy” who gets stuck doing a lot of menial tasks.
Barbacks stock the bar. They wash A LOT of glasses! They stock beer and change kegs and CO2 containers. They get ice. They clean up spills – and other messes. They may be allowed to check ID’s and even pour some drinks. And, most importantly, they interact with the customers.
For those of you who plan on starting as a barback – good for you! It’s a tough job.
Underpaid and under-appreciated. Just like the food servers. I have run across some absolutely fantastic cocktail servers. Many know more about drinks and customer service than some bartenders.
I have known cocktail servers that are so good at their job that I offered to train them as bartenders. Some accepted, but many make a ton of money doing what they love – and declined my invitation.
Cocktail servers are out there in the “trenches.” Sometimes they deal with a lot of harassment – but the good ones know how to deal with it.
Cocktail servers know what garnishes go in what drinks. They know their glassware. They certainly know their prices! They master the POS System. They also know the food menu. They’re geniuses at suggestive selling and getting that guest check average up. They know how to handle unruly customers. They also know most of the drink recipes. Sensing a pattern here? Yes, I hold Cocktail Servers in high esteem!
Side Note: You have heard me mention many times that the easiest way to get a bartending job is to be “promoted from within.” (Or getting your first job as a Banquet Bartender.) Get your foot in the door!
In my opinion, Cocktail Servers have one of the most underappreciated jobs in the Food and Beverage Industry.
I have a love/hate relationship with bouncers. The key, as a manager, is to make sure that bouncers (or, “doorpersons”), have a thorough understanding of what their job really entails.
Bouncers are employed in mostly very busy bars, but I have also seen them in small “Mom and Pop” type places. You just never know. Many places don’t really even need a bouncer, but the Bar Owner just feels a little better on those busy nights having someone around. Kind of for show – just to let customers know that things are under control.
There is almost always at least one bouncer at the front door. And, one at any other “exit” from the bar. Nice. They are in charge of checking ID’s, crowd control, and many times collecting money if there is a cover charge.
Great guys. Big, and probably have some sort of nasty martial arts training. Or boxers/wrestlers. Or current/former military. Or off-duty or former law enforcement. The biggest, nicest, most professional bouncer I ever worked with was an active-duty Marine – and power lifter.
Bouncers work for the house. And you. Never be afraid to re-check ID’s, and most bouncers expect you to do this.
Like cocktail servers – very underappreciated. Enough said.
In some bars, the bar owner wants the food servers to do all of the “food” stuff. They will have their bartenders summon a food server to take a customers order – instead of the bartender. This is rare (and I totally disagree with the policy), but it does happen.
In the Food and Beverage Industry – all employees are “runners.” However, some busy places have positions specifically for running food only.
Food runners are just that – they run the hot food out to the appropriate table whenever it’s ready. The food servers are busy – and the last thing the manager wants is food sitting in the window getting cold.
Hard workers. Bussers clear tables and re-set them. Run food. Get ice. Wash dishes. And a whole lot of other things. They are invaluable.
Bussers are a lot like barbacks. They’re in a “support” position, and kind of get stuck performing all of those tasks that other employees hate to do.
Treat them well! Tip them, when appropriate, and a kind word goes a long way. My first job, at 14, was as a busser.
Usually the first person you meet when entering a restaurant. Many times the manager is lurking nearby. They’re probably in the “tip pool” if the restaurant utilizes one.
These employees are responsible for seating guests in the dining room in an organized and efficient manner.
Temperamental. Especially the chefs. Stay out of their way! The cooks you find in most restaurants and bars are great people.
I’ve worked with some highly talented cooks/chefs in my day. Honestly, I find them a bit eccentric. Especially the fine hotel chefs.
There is usually one to three people who come in and clean every day. Sometimes starting around 6:00 am until opening. Many bars have their cleaning crew come in at closing and work until opening the next day. The size of the bar makes all the difference. And the owners’ pocketbook.
These employees are primarily responsible for the floor. The big stuff. Probably dusting, window & wall fixture washing, etc. Restrooms. Maybe the outside snow-shoveling or whatever.
Bartenders may be responsible for pulling the bar mats and mopping behind the bar at the end of the day. All of the small stuff behind the bar is usually going to be added to some sort of cleaning/side work schedule – for the bartender.
Cooks and bartenders take care of their own counter-tops, tools, equipment, and coolers. They might mop the beer keg cooler floor and other house walk-in cooler and freezer floors – but the cooks usually do that.
If needed, the bar will contract out the parking lot snowplowing.
Some bars have the custodial staff on payroll. Others contract the work out.
True Story: I worked part-time as a janitor at a huge bar (2 bars, actually), and restaurant on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I was in high school. 4:00 am – 11:00 am. Tough, messy work.
Nothing for new bartenders to be concerned about here – other than, hopefully, that they’re through cleaning before your opening shift.
Who is that person that is always in the office huddled over their laptop and the Back-of-the-House (BOH) system? That’s the controller. Or, the accountant. Kind of the same thing – just a different title.
This is the person responsible for all accounting. Totaling inventory, ordering supplies, payroll, etc. Profit & Loss, sales, cash flow, balance sheet – all of that good stuff. They work hand-in-hand with the managers – and definitely the corporate office if it’s a chain-type restaurant and bar. They do the bean counting, so managers can be out on the floor.
Larger, very busy bars probably have one. Smaller bars – it’s going to be one of the owners. Probably. You’ll deal with Human Resources when you first get hired – and then probably the controller after that. Again, for small bars – it’s the owner or general manager doing most of the work.
You may see the controller come behind the bar to run reports, possibly help with taking inventory – and meeting with vendors sometime. Be cool – they’re very nice people! And smart.
In larger bars, these are the people that may have hired you. Especially if you applied online. You’ll get the opening employee package and sign a whole bunch of forms. They’ll get you set up for payroll.
Many times, Human Resources are in the same office as the controller – if it’s a big hotel. Sometimes there is just one HR/Controller. Every bar is different!
In larger places, the HR department handles disputes and employee issues. They make sure everything is “up-to-date.”
There you go – an inside look at who’s working at your bar.