What to Look For When Hiring an Alcohol Server

What to Look For When Hiring an Alcohol Server

5 Min Read

Here are the qualities and qualifications to seek out when hiring bartenders.

There are many types of alcohol servers out there. Decide what your needs are, and fill them properly with the right people for the job. Depending on the size, scale and the type of establishment, you may need to hire several bartenders at once, or just fill a vacancy. The first step is knowing who you need!

Various alcohol server jobs require certain skills and training.

Types of alcohol servers

  • Barbacks: If you have a busy bar, you may need to fill several of these entry-level positions. Barbacks essentially perform all the basic bartender duties that require no prior experience — just a willingness to learn on the go and work hard! They assist the bartenders by preparing garnishes, stocking the bar, changing the kegs — all those important tasks that need to be done efficiently in a busy bar.
  • Bartenders: The most common type of alcohol server is, of course, the bartender. They interact with customers and take orders, pour and serve drinks, check IDs, operate POS systems and generally ensure the customer’s experience is a safe and positive one.
  • Mixologists: These savvy bartenders know how to craft the best cocktails and curate a cocktail menu for your bar that will draw in more customers and retain the ones you already have.
  • Sommeliers: If you run a wine bar or have an extensive wine list, you may want to have a sommelier on hand — these wine experts are highly trained and can recommend the perfect wine pairings, host wine-related events, create your wine list and train other staff regarding wine.
  • Cicerones: If your establishment is a brewery or a bar with a large selection of beer, you may want to hire a cicerone — they are to beer as sommeliers are to wine. They are experts in flavors, styles and service of beer, and can also assist bartenders in their duties as required.

What skills do alcohol servers need?

Alcohol servers need the ability to multitask, as during peak times bars can be extremely busy and fast-paced environments. They need to be able to make quick decisions — such as whether someone has had too many drinks and needs to be cut off.

Depending on their level of interaction with the public, they may need exception social skills, and to be outgoing. They need to be able to communicate and cooperate with other members of both front-of-house and back-of-house staff. They need the confidence to stop service and the diplomacy to do so in a courteous, professional way.

Some alcohol servers such as bartenders, sommeliers and cicerones, need some sales ability and experience — this means upselling by suggesting top-shelf liquors and enticing the customer with food that suits the drinks they’re already enjoying.

All alcohol servers need to be flexible and able to adjust to any situation that may arise at the bar.

What should the job description include?

When writing an ad to hire a bartender, you need to include information such as:

  • Job title: If they’re in the industry, the title alone tells potential applicants quite a bit about what the job will be. Make sure the title encompasses what the role will be, so expectations are met on both ends.
  • Job summary: This expands on the job title, and explains in broad strokes what your establishment is and the main purpose of this job.
  • Job duties: This section — probably the most important — of the ad describes every task the successful candidate(s) will be responsible for, from customer service to making drinks and dealing with money.
  • Essential skills: This outlines the skills and qualifications they will need to perform the job well.

While general job sites may work, you should consider posting your job ad on industry-specific sites in order to attract candidates who are already in the food and beverage service industry or interested in alcohol service specifically.

What questions should you ask?

Here are a few ideas to get you started, although you should always tailor your interview questions to your establishment’s needs.

  • What is your experience working in a bar? What kind of bar was it, and what was the environment like?
  • How do you know if a customer is intoxicated?
  • How would you approach the difficult task of cutting off service?
  • How do you handle stress and a fast-paced environment?
  • What would you say to a customer who is unhappy with the drink they ordered?
  • Have you completed alcohol server training?

If the candidate’s interview goes well, you may want to have them try out parts of the job first-hand by having them make a cocktail or serve a beer. This can give you a feel for how they’ll perform when they start their first shift, and how they interact with other staff.

What training do they require?

If you’re hiring a specialized worker like a mixologist, sommelier or cicerone, they are likely fully trained to perform those specific tasks (be sure to confirm and ask to see their certificate!).

For a licensed establishment, some specific training is nice to have, and others may be legally required. In certain states, a person must complete alcohol server training to legally sell or serve alcohol. If alcohol servers do not have the proper training, your business could be subjected to fines, lose your liquor license, pay increased insurance costs and even face jail time.

Even if alcohol server training isn’t mandated in your local area, it’s always a good idea to ensure alcohol servers are trained in the safe service of alcohol so that they can help prevent alcohol-related incidents such as serving alcohol to minors or overserving a customer.

Userve’s Alcohol Server / Seller Training Programs teach the essential knowledge that staff need to prevent alcohol-related incidents and lawsuits, and other crucial skills in the safe service of alcohol. Our state-specific training ensures that the training your staff receives is compliant with state requirements.

Find the Alcohol Server Course for your state, and if you’re planning to enroll three or more employees, contact us to learn more about our complimentary Userve Business Account!

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