Once you have your liquor license, you need the right staff to run your operation smoothly.
Opening a new bar is an exciting business venture. Bars, pubs, nightclubs — they can each become the social hubs of the community, and locales known for fun and relaxation. One of the main challenges in getting a licensed business off the ground, though, is finding the right people to fill each role.
Staffing needs vary depending on the type of licensed establishment. A small pub doesn’t need a sommelier on staff, for instance, but they will need bartenders and servers. A nightclub might need an onsite DJ or bottle service staff, and a brewpub might require a full-time brewer on staff.
No matter what kind of licensed venue you run, you’ll need to fill a few of important positions, such as:
- Bar manager
- Security/ID checkers
Staff responsibilities and skills
Each of these jobs comes with a different set of responsibilities and skills.
Bar manager: A bar manager is responsible for recruiting, training and motivating staff. They keep up to date with licensing legislation and take legal responsibility for the premises. They may perform inventory and accounting tasks, and their role may also encompass the general upkeep of the establishment. A bar manager needs to have experience in restaurant and bar environments, as the role, though rewarding, can be challenging and demanding.
Barback: A barback is like a busser for a bar environment rather than in a restaurant setting. The barback ensures bartenders have what they need, from garnishes to ice to clean glassware and bottles. They help retrieve supplies as they run low, they clean up spills, and serve as an intermediary between front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH). Barbacks are often hired with no previous experience in the alcohol service industry. They need a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and the physical strength to carry heavy kegs or other cumbersome items. Barbacks are often aspiring bartenders, and the role can be a stepping stone to higher positions.
Servers: Servers need to be experts at dealing with the public — they are the front-facing representatives of your company who often spend the most time with each customer. They need to be quick, capable of working efficiently under what can sometimes be extreme pressure, and able to multi-task.
Hosts: Hosts welcome people, show them to their seat, and work with serving staff to ensure the first impression customers get of your business is a good one. They need to be able to provide accurate wait times to guests, and escort them to tables. They need to communicate effectively with servers and customers — strong people and organizational skills are a must!
Security/ID checkers: All staff need to know how to spot signs of intoxication and know not to serve underage people. In some businesses, hosts and servers are also responsible for checking IDs before allowing entry or serving alcohol. In other businesses, security staff or ID checkers are those whose job is to be the first line of defense against any legal liability or danger for staff or customers. They need to ensure no one under the age of 21 is allowed to order alcohol. A bar security guard will likely be exposed to uncomfortable situations and confrontations. They need to be physically fit, and be capable of expertly defusing tense situations. They also need to be presentable, courteous and confident refusing entry to minors and intoxicated people.
Finding the right candidates for the job
Getting the right candidates begins with a comprehensive, succinct job posting that includes the pertinent details around responsibilities and everything the job will entail. Set clear expectations for the person you eventually hire. Make sure they’re old enough to sell alcohol in your area and that they are properly trained for the specific position.
The food industry has a notoriously high rate of turnover. It’s hard work, and it can often be low-paid with no health or other benefits. The difference between a successful food or drink business is effective management and training, and defining your workplace culture from the get-go.
Set up an effective training program
Before you even add anyone to the payroll, you need to create a thoughtful training program that covers all possible areas of knowledge that the person may need to do their job well. You should also anticipate that the person you hire as a host, for example, could step into a serving role at some point. The barback may transition to being a bartender within a few months. A server may eventually take on a supervisor position.
We recommend you prepare staff by giving them:
- Written materials they can refer back to: This could take the form of an an employee manual that describes the rules and procedures employees must follow. This documentation conveys expectations for all employees and also provides them with crucial information they can refer to when needed. An employee manual contains documents such as a code of ethics, emergency procedures, problem-solving procedures, confidentiality policies and — perhaps most importantly — food and alcohol safety procedures. Beyond the employee manual, staff will need details on the menu and products such as all liquors and wines offered, they’ll need to know of any possible allergens in any dishes, and be given knowledge on opening and closing procedures. Everything should be written down and staff should know where to find information they need.
- Hands-on, practical experience: Staff will need on-the-job training specific to their role. For example, have bartenders memorize drink recipes; let servers practice carrying trays. In a licensed business, learning by doing is probably even more valuable and effective than theoretical training.
- A mentoring structure: Developing staff may involve creating a company hierarchy. For example, a “head bartender” could guide and mentor barbacks or bartenders with less experience in the industry. Higher-up employees can be a resource for newer staff, and provide them a point of contact when they have questions or need help.
- Alcohol server and food safety training and certificate: This is training that every food or beverage employee should have. In some states or regions, employees of a licensed establishment are legally required to have a specific certificate for their role.
No matter the type of licensed establishment you’re launching, finding the right staff members is crucial. Prevent high turnover by hiring all the people you need, arming them with a thorough training program and setting them — and your business — up for success.
Need to provide alcohol server training for your staff? Userve’s Alcohol Server / Seller Training Programs teach alcohol servers and sellers essential knowledge in the safe service of alcohol to help prevent alcohol-related incidents and lawsuits. If you need to enroll three or more employees, contact us about getting a complimentary Userve Business Account!