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Bartender Job Description, Career as a Bartender, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Vocational school and/or on-the-job training

Salary: Median—$7.42 per hour plus tips

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Bartenders prepare alcoholic drinks for patrons of restaurants, bars, cocktail lounges, and other places where drinks are served. Alcoholic drinks are made up of many combinations of ingredients, and each drink may be made in several ways. The bartender's main job is to know the standard drink recipes and be able to mix them quickly and accurately. Occasionally, customers have their own preferences or recipes for a bartender to follow. Bartenders also check the identification of customers seated at bars to ensure that they meet the minimum drinking age.

Most bartenders take drink orders, serve drinks, and collect money for drinks. In restaurants bartenders fill drink orders placed by the diners, but the drinks are usually served by waiters. Bartenders may have additional duties. Sometimes they arrange bottles and barware, wash glasses, and clean the bar. Bartenders also remove empty bottles and trash and replace empty beer kegs. In large bars and restaurants they may be assisted by a bartender helper.

Bartenders stock the bar by bringing liquor bottles, mixed drink ingredients, and other bar supplies from the storeroom to the bar. They keep track of wines, beers, liquors, and other supplies. Some bartenders do the actual ordering of bar supplies. Others report what is needed to the owner or to a purchasing agent. In very large restaurants and bars the ordering of supplies is done by a wine steward or a beverage manager.

In addition to bars and cocktail lounges, bartenders work in hotels, in private clubs, aboard ships, and on trains. Many bartenders work in restaurants that have a liquor license. About one-fifth of all bartenders own their own bars.

Education and Training Requirements

Most bartenders learn their trade on the job. Some vocational schools offer courses in bartending. Working as a waiter is good experience for someone who wishes to become a bartender. Waiters can learn how to tend bar by watching the bartender work.

Bartenders must be aware of state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic drinks. In some states bartenders must have a bartender's license or a state health certificate. Bartenders usually must be at least twenty-one years old, but many bars prefer to hire individuals who are twenty-five or older. Bartenders must have a neat and clean appearance and a pleasant, agreeable manner. They often interact socially with the patrons, which works to their advantage as far as tipping is concerned.

Getting the Job

Many bars will train prospective bartenders who do not have bartending skills. Interested individuals can apply directly to bars in which they would like to work. Newspaper want ads often carry advertisements Bartenders work in a variety of locations where alcoholic drinks are served. (© ROB and SAS/Corbis.) for bartending jobs. Many bartenders belong to labor unions. A union's local office can help candidates find out about jobs in the bartending field.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Many bartenders gain experience by working in small restaurants or bars. Then they look for jobs in large luxury hotels, restaurants, or cocktail lounges that offer higher wages. In hotels large enough to have many bartenders, one may advance to the position of head bartender. Skilled bartenders who have a knowledge of accounting can become wine stewards or beverage managers.

The employment outlook for bartenders is expected to grow as fast as the average through the year 2014. The overall number of bartenders is large and the turnover rate is high. There is always strong competition for positions in expensive restaurants where potential tip earnings are greatest. It is important to note that the consumption of alcoholic beverages outside of the home has been declining in the United States—a trend that is certain to affect employment. Opportunities will be best for bartenders with the most training and experience.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary widely. Bars in luxury hotels, restaurants, and resorts offer more plush surroundings than do neighborhood bars. Bartenders must be able to get along well with the public. They should also have good judgment and be willing to stop service to a customer who has had too much to drink. Bartenders must be prepared to work long hours on their feet and lift heavy cases and beer kegs.

Bartenders may work more than forty hours per week. They often work until very late at night and on weekends and some holidays. Some bartenders work split shifts; that is, they work for a few hours, take a long break, and return to work a few hours later. Part-time positions are often available. Many bartenders belong to labor unions.

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bartenders earn a median salary of $7.42 per hour plus tips. Like waiters, bartenders who work in public bars may receive more than half their earnings as tips. Very popular bartenders, especially those who know their customers well and socialize with them at the bar, can make even more in tips. In some bars and restaurants workers contribute all or a portion of their tips to a tip pool, which is distributed among the staff. The tip pool allows workers who are not usually tipped to share the rewards of good service.

Where to Go for More Information

The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education
2810 N. Parham Rd., Ste. 230
Richmond, VA 23294
(804) 346-4800

United States Bartenders Guild
P.O. Box 82241
Las Vegas, NV 89180
(702) 248-3383

275 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001-6708
(212) 265-7000

Some bars supply bartenders with jackets or uniforms. Bartenders who work in restaurants are usually given free meals while they work. Many bartenders receive paid holidays and vacations. Bartenders who work in large hotels and restaurants may receive health insurance, sick pay, and retirement benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHospitality and Recreation