How to Train Your Bar Staff

By Reggie Woo


Reggie Woo

July 11, 2016

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

Would you like a shaken Manhattan?

Or perhaps a White Russian made with your best gin? For the bars without a robust staff program beyond a bartender’s initial basic training, your guests might be suffering through these gaffes, or maybe even worse.

In order to save yourself, your guests and your establishment from these embarrassing mistakes, it is vital for your bar to have training and education platforms in place to keep your bartenders informed and accountable. But how do you know what is right for your bar?

Let’s take a look at some of the standard industry tools for staff education and training. Here are 4 ways to train your bartenders and bar staff.

1. Drink Bibles

An inherent element of the beverage culture is that there are endless variations on even the most classic of cocktails. For example, when you Google the recipe for a Manhattan, the first four results are all slightly different from one another. Is it ½ oz or 1 oz of sweet vermouth? Is it 1 dash, 2 dashes or 5 dashes of bitters? These are the variations your bartenders will probably randomly draw from if they are unfamiliar with a cocktail.

Some might argue that these small differences in recipe would be largely unnoticeable by the average guest. But, inviting your bartenders to create inconsistency in your guests’ experience is a classic recipe for disaster. A common industry method to eliminate this possibility is generating a drink or cocktail bible for your establishment that covers detailed recipes for not only the cocktails on your menu, but also any cocktail your guest might ask for outside of it.

If creating a consistent bar experience is a goal for your establishment, a drink bible will keep your bartenders responsible for sticking to the right recipes for your bar.

2. Pre-Service Meetings

It can be easy to solely frame pre-service around a quick and easy agenda of what to expect from the upcoming service as well as running through any 86’s and any current food or drink specials. But, the best establishments will often also dedicate a portion of pre-service toward continuing their staff education.

For bar managers, that might entail something like picking a sample from what you offer, whether it be a beer, wine, cocktail or spirit, and explaining its origin and significance to your staff. For your experienced and well-versed team members, this might be an undesired refresher course. But, for the less knowledgeable, it can provide a newly gained understanding of what exactly your establishment offers for your guests.

If you’re prideful of your menu’s offerings, pre-service is an opportunity to fully channel your pride throughout your entire staff.

3. Staff Tastings

A common part of the education portion of pre-service, and sometimes held in their own individual sessions, is an organized staff tasting. Serving product to your team members that could just as well go to a buying guest might appear counter-intuitive toward profitability. However, this practice has more long-term value to your team and the culture of your bar. The investment you’re making with tastings benefits your employees’ ability to confidently and accurately sell the product to your guests.

Directly instilling into the minds of your team members what your beverages taste like and why they taste the way they do can lead to much more organic and engaging descriptions that will provide a rewarding satisfaction for your more curious patrons.

4. Written Quizzes

Utilizing quizzes in your bar program can be a point of contention among bar managers. There is a certain fear and discomfort that comes with forced written tests that could generate added stress in your working environment, especially if continued employment is conditional upon passing.

However, if your goal is to establish a higher standard of service and knowledge, frequent quizzing can promote a culture that actively pursues bar and beverage education outside of the workplace. Even if done in a more casual manner, quizzes can be incredibly useful for bar managers to identify and address holes in a desired knowledge level of individuals as well as the team as a whole.

Ultimately, bar managers need to decide what tools fit the desired character of their bar within their training and education programs. What tools didn’t we cover that you’d like more info on? Let us know in the comments below. And make sure to continue your bar management education by checking out our exclusive resources like The Bar Manager’s Handbook.

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