Q. Why is this lesson important?

A. This is not what I would call a “crucial” lesson. I just want you to know some basic differences between the management personnel of the bar. Simple stuff here, so give it a quick read and move on.

Q. Will any of this stuff be asked during the job interview?

A. No. However, I want you to be aware of who is interviewing you . An interviewer will usually introduce themselves by name and let you know what their position is. It could the bar owner, bar manager, assistant manager, or even the head bartender. It may even be someone from Human Resources. It’s nice to know who you’re interviewing with.

I debated on whether or not to give this subject its own lesson. Well, here we are. I’ve found that most people new to the Food & Beverage Industry, and especially bartending, have no idea what role the bar owners and bar managers play in the overall picture. I’m going to give you a heads-up here.

Before we move on, just let me say this: In all my years of bartending, I have found almost all bar owners and bar managers to be great people. Most of them really know their stuff, and you won’t have any problems getting along with them. Just follow the House Policies!

On the flip side, I have worked with a few duds. Fortunately, it never really affected my work – but I did tend to start looking for an upgrade on the job a little quicker than normal. If you stay in this business long enough, you’re going to find out exactly what I mean. However, if you’re known as a top bartender – fear not, as you’ll be constantly getting job offers.

More of the technical stuff will be discussed in Section 13 – Bar Operations. That section will be a real eye opener for those of you who have never worked in a bar or restaurant. And, we’re not going to talk about a bar owner’s (and your), legal responsibilities here – that’s the next lesson.

Here we go…

Many times the bar owner IS the bar manager. Smaller Mom and Pop type places operate this way – and quite possibly the most lucrative and fun places to work.

Here, we’re going to discuss your “bosses.” Namely…

  • Who does what
  • Influence on house policies
  • The hiring process
  • Management styles

For the most part, I’m going to keep things simple here. We’re going to assume that the Bar Owner is NOT the Bar Manager. You’ll get the jist. But first, let’s discuss the relationship between the Bar Owner and the Bar Manager.

Bar Manager

Let’s assume that they are two separate people. It could be a small place, or even a larger place (or places), where there is a definite line drawn between the owner and his management team. This could also mean the difference between “Corporate” (Large Human Resources Departments), and the manager at the bar and restaurant actually running the show.

The bar manager implements the policies that the bar owner has come up with to run the bar the way that the owner want’s it run! It’s that simple. Right or wrong, whether the bar manager (or you and other employees), agree with the owners policies is immaterial. Fortunately, bar owners usually know what they’re doing and have the owner’s ear. Most of the time.

Do bar owners and bar managers always get along? Of course not. Sometimes major policy decisions need to be made, or altered, and the bar owner is hesitant to make those changes. Other times, the bar manager may take it upon himself to make some changes that conflict with the overall idea of how the bar should be run.

Either way – stay out of their way! Let them make the changes or decisions while you take home a pile of cash every night! Of course, many times you will be asked for your opinion, so just be honest and helpful. Don’t be a complainer! If something isn’t right, approach the owner and manager with thoughtful, POSITIVE solutions!

The Bar Owner

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 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 they have hired a Bar Manager that knows his stuff, and understands that he knows the “ins-and-outs” of the daily operations better than he does. A bar manager is in a better position to observe employee performance – or lack of. 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 Manager And Owner Making Decisions

Bar owners like to frequent their own bars. Most likely, all of their drinks will go on a tab. No problem. He’s the owner. If he says 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, he 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. I have worked for some absolutely fantastic bar owners in my day. And, I have seen Bar Owners jump behind the bar during busy times and perform just as well as their bartenders!

The Bar Manager

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 bar 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. Obey both!

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

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