But it’s not for everyone. If you want to know whether it’s for you, check out our 8 considerations before you head behind the bar. Before you begin with the big list of realism, though, it wouldn’t be right to forget to sing the praises of tending bar. It has a lot of perks, and for the right person, it’s an energizing, off the beaten track career path.
My favourite bit? You can learn on the job, you don’t need a degree to do it, and you can continue learning as long as you’re willing to keep pushing yourself. Your cocktail knowledge, rapport, and juggling skills can always be improved.
It’s also incredibly fun when you have a great team behind you, you love your bar, and you’ve honed your skills. And, even if you don’t pick it as a career, it’s a skill you’ll always have, and there’ll always be bar jobs if you want the work. With that said, read on for the realism…
When you’re working behind a bar, you need to be vigilant and look out for underage drinkers. And if they have no ID? Get used to saying “I can’t serve you” 44 times on a Friday night.
Test purchasers come into pubs, bars, and shops – literally anywhere that has an alcohol license – and request a drink. After a while, you tend to get used to the types that police send in, but you shouldn’t rely on your nose. Your job is to recognize anyone who isn’t 21 and ask for ID.
Fail, and you put yourself and the bar you tend at risk. Which is scary stuff, the more training a bar offers, though, on how to spot a fake ID and asking for proof of age the more they and you are protected against this risk – and, if it does happen, the owner of the bar can prove they’ve taken action to train employees on alcohol licensing laws.
The shift patterns are never nine-five. So, are you willing to work late nights and weekends? Working in a bar 100% means working unsociable hours, but working them is fun if you’re working as part of a good team and you like the job. It can also mean missing out on cinema trips and Sunday hangouts with your nine-to- five pals. You okay with that?
Are you the type of person who can keep busy? Part of bar work is all about preparation – there are barrels to shift and counters to clean and the slow moments are the time for them. If you’re not the type of person who wants to keep busy, bartending isn’t for you.
When you’re being responsible and asking that Macaulay Culkin look-alike for their ID, you will have to deal with some verbal abuse – some might even threaten physical abuse.
Are you a customer orientated person? Do you have good customer service skills, do you enjoy catering for people and are you comfortable dealing with complaints and queries? These are the kind of considerations you need to make – because you are entering the hospitality and service industry where customer service skills are everything.
When you cut someone off, it means that you’ve made the decision to refuse to serve them because they’re too intoxicated. It’s a hard conversation, like, really, truly, awkward or horrible. (Although, it doesn’t even have to be a conversation – one trick is to serve a shot of coffee or ask them to drink a pint of water and see how they get on.) You need to be the kind of person who can stand their ground, remain unintimidated and be confident, calm, and creative enough to handle the situation with charm and charisma.
Tending bar is physical work – which, depending on your perspective, is a good or bad thing. Me? I’m all for it. Sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day is terrible for your mental and physical health. Get a real good pair of orthopedic shoes on your feet and bartending sure feels like the healthier choice. But, if that’s not for you, bartending could make you grouchy and lazy. You’ll dislike it, and your colleagues will be annoyed if you don’t pull your weight.
It’s not all pouring drinks and serving smiles – the job does entail admin. You have to take inventory and order in more, and it isn’t just liquor and mixers. Well-stocked bars need to make sure they have plenty of fruit, eggs, and other garnishes. Are you willing to be accountable? Inventory is important no matter how busy your shift has been – if it needs doing, it needs doing.