Staffing a Bar: 5 Ways to Attract Top Talent

By Reggie Woo


Reggie Woo

July 5, 2016

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

Attracting great talent is a hallmark of a great establishment.

With high turnover rates being a persistent challenge within the food and beverage industry, it can be a struggle for bar managers and owners to find and hold onto top talent when staffing a bar. But every bar has its own unique character and draw, and for an industry professional, the appeal of working at a gritty dive bar is simply not the same as that of a cosmopolitan hotel bar.


Here are 5 ways to attract top talent to your bar’s staff, regardless of the establishment:

1. Be active in shaping the culture

One of the worst things a bar manager or owner can do is have a Field of Dreams mentality. Just because you’ve built a cool and hip bar, doesn’t mean the best talent will come out to fill it. (Unless you’re Kevin Costner.)

It is the responsibility of owners and managers to clearly define the vision of the establishment. While you don’t necessarily need a mission statement plastered on your wall, you should be directly crafting your bar’s reputation within the community through a selective hiring process and consistent brand messaging to your guests.

2. Be direct and transparent with expectations

The hospitality industry is constantly changing, but your expectations for your employees’ performance shouldn’t. Vincent Woo, Owner/Manager of the award-winning restaurant You You Japanese Bistro, explained to us that a clearly defined system for division of labor and steps of service is vital for establishing a stable work environment for your talent. Tools like an employee handbook or a consistent agenda for pre-service meetings can help keep everyone on the same page.

3. Celebrate your employees’ individuality

It’s plain and simple: No one likes working under a micromanager. Give your employees the freedom to showcase their individuality and take advantage of their unique perspectives. When choosing to join or stay at an establishment, veteran Boston-area bartender Johnny Allen from The Plough and Stars told us, “[Having] the freedom to express myself is always important.”

If you’ve hired and trained the right people, they shouldn’t need a line-by-line script to engage your guests appropriately. They also shouldn’t feel intimidated or uncomfortable to approach you with helpful feedback or ideas.

4. Recognize both team and individual achievements

According to the majority of industry professionals we talked to, team camaraderie is a key factor in choosing to stay at an establishment. When your team forms trust and bonds with each other, those connections can save that star team member from walking out the door after a rough service.

This strong work culture and sense of belonging needs to be actively forged by bar managers. Fulfilling team-building gestures like pre-service shoutouts for outstanding performances, or working with a bartender to feature their own personal creation on your cocktail menu can keep that star firmly on your roster.

5. Be a leader

Ultimately, it is up to the bar managers to lead by example. Being an open resource for professional support and mentorship goes a long way toward building your staff talent goals. Your reputation among your peers as a knowledgeable and dependable leader, both in your establishment and in the community, will naturally draw the best talent to you.

Want more useful bar management tips? Check out the Bar Management section on our blog! Continue to build your industry knowledge and stay ahead of the game by subscribing to the BevSpot blog below. And let us know of any talent retention tips that worked for you in the comments section!

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