A bar manager or supervisor wears many hats. They know their bar inside out. They’re shrewd businesspeople. They’re empathetic people managers. It’s a complicated job that takes an impressive set of skills and a bar management guide can come in handy. So we asked the bar managers we know for the bar manager duties they think are most important. And here they are!
Let’s take a look at what bar managers do in bar manager jobs, what a bar manager makes, and how many hours they typically work.
What Does a Bar Owner, Bar Manager, or Bar Supervisor Do?
The simple answer is that a bar owner or bar manager supervise all the business aspects of a bar. Of course, some bar owners take more of a backseat. They’ll invest in the bar initially, then let the bar manager run the day-to-day bar and restaurant operations.
The duties of a bar supervisor are managing inventory, hiring, training, and overseeing staff, maintaining a budget, managing operations, taking bar inventory, conducting marketing, restaurant SEO, bar promotion, and driving sales.
Bar Manager Job Description
If you’re writing a bar manager job description or applying for a bar manager position, focus on all 9 of the following bar manager duties.
One of, if not the, most important things a bar manager does is decide what beverages to order based on what’s been sold. Then negotiate contracts with suppliers to buy those beverages. This process is called bar inventory management. Done consistently and accurately, it gives bar managers a look into what drinks are most popular and what drinks are most profitable. Those are two important things to know if your goal is to be a popular, profitable bar.
Most bar managers will either use a bar inventory spreadsheet to take inventory manually or automate the process with liquor inventory software. Depending on how busy the bar is, this task can be done either daily or weekly. In either case, bar managers shouldn't wait until an item runs out completely to order more. Whether they choose to take inventory themselves or assign other staff with the task, it is ultimately the bar manager’s responsibility to ensure that the bar is always fully stocked.
Hire, Train, and Oversee Staff
A bar manager is responsible for coming up with bartender interview questions, hiring bar staff, and building the team. While the bar manager doesn’t train new hires, they choose the trainers and direct the creation of all the bar staff training materials. Just make sure you know the answer to "how old do you have to be to serve alcohol?" You'll get used to viewing bartender cover letter options and other resumes, and you'll learn quickly what makes a candidate a good fit.
Once staff is in the door and trained up, a bar manager oversees their work every shift. That means the bar manager has written the schedule, assigned stations, and prepared the staff for the upcoming shift. They'll even have to know how to spot a bartender stealing.
At the same time, a good bar manager must focus on the staff’s growth. It's on them to have relevant learning materials and resources available for staff to continue their professional development. For example, you could encourage (and possibly even pay for) employees interested in wine to get an alcohol server certification or take the Introductory Sommelier course. Which is one of the four sommelier certification levels.
Lead by Example
A successful bar manager understands that they are not simply managing their staff, they're leading them. They establish leadership is by setting examples through their own behavior and decision making. From bussing tables to bartending, a manager should happily roll up their sleeves and get on the front lines. With energy and enthusiasm to boot. This shows that everyone's job in the building is important and makes the bar manager much more accessible—to both bar staff and guests.
Bar operations refers to everything that needs to happen for the business to run effectively each day. This means the bar manager creates:
- How to clean a bar and bar opening and closing checklists
- Weekly and monthly cleaning checklists (which may even include BOH tasks like restaurant hood cleaning if the role is managing both bar and restaurant)
- Bartender duties checklists
- Training materials
- Order of service (how to greet and sell to guests)
- Shift changeover guidelines
- Emergency protocols
- Employee policies (time off, rules, uniforms)
- Your full bar liquor list
- Making sure all the necessary bar equipment and supplies are stocked
- Optimal bar equipment layout
These are all collected in a bar operations manual.
Ensure Bar Cleanliness and Safety
A clean bar is a sure-fire way to impress guests. And on the staff side of things, a well-organized bar allows staff to be more efficient. While cleaning the bar and maintaining its top-notch appearance throughout the day is a team effort, the bar manager is responsible for assigning these tasks to staff, creating cleaning schedules, acquiring bar and restaurant cleaning supplies, and ensuring all tasks are completed at the end of the day using a bar cleaning checklist.
Getting customers in the door is another big responsibility for bar managers and supervisors. That covers everything from coming up with happy hour ideas to bar promotion ideas to handling the bar’s web and social media presence.
Maintain a Budget
This is where the bar manager’s shrewd business sense shines through. Bar owners set a budget for all of the bar’s expenses. To maintain a profitable bar, bar managers must have all the expenses come in under it. Everything new hire, operational decision, and marketing tactic is viewed through the lens of the budget. A good bar manager maximizes resources, minimizes spending, and comes in under budget keeping the restaurant chart of accounts in a good state.
Build Relationships with Clientele
Regulars are the backbone of a bar business’s success. Not only do they provide revenue that will help the business during slow seasons, they also refer the bar to their friends and bring in new business. That's why it's important to build close relationships with every guest, especially the regulars. If a regular drops in and you know their name, they'll appreciate it. If you know their name and what they order, hoo boy look out. They'll love you for it. And as a bar manager, you can occasionally offer a free drink or discount to keep your regulars happy. It's the small things that show them they're appreciated. And that'll keep them coming back.
Once their marketing has paid off and people are in the door, the bar manager’s duties don’t end. They’re also responsible for how many drinks are sold and how profitable those drinks are.
After taking and analyzing their beverage inventory, a bar manager knows what drinks are the most profitable and what drinks are the most popular. Their goal is to make the profitable drinks popular and the popular drinks profitable. The tools at their disposal are menu engineering, up-selling, mixology, and supplier discounts. Often when trying to drive sales, bar managers will strategically adjust prices based on the results of their drink engineering. QR codes in restaurants and bars make that much easier—when used for menus. Menu prices can be updated instantly at no cost. That gives bar managers a lot of freedom to test pricing strategies.
How Many Hours Does a Bar Manager Work?
We asked an experienced bar manager in Chicago what their and their peers' schedules looked like. “A bar manager can expect to work about 60 hours a week. That’s five shifts of, on average, 12 hours per day. But some people who get really good at their job are able to cut those down," they said.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bar Manager Jobs
Beyond this breakdown of bar manager jobs and what you can expect as a bar manager, there are a few more things you may want to know. Whether you're looking to hire bar managers, or you want to be a bar manager, these questions will help you out.
How do you write a bar manager resume?
For those of you who are looking to become a bar manager, writing your bar manager resume is as easy as including the above skills throughout your resume. Of course, you'll start with a standard resume format, but in each section, think about the skills you need for bar manager jobs, and curate your resume to include those skills.
What will be a surprising part of bar manager jobs?
Generally, the most surprising part of bar manager jobs is the level of inclusiveness a bar manager has within the bar structure. Often, when you think of the job of a manager, you think of someone who is managing from an outside perspective. Bar manager jobs will have you working within every part of the bar in some way or another. You'll be, effectively, both a manager and a coworker for everyone you work with. You'll handle anything that comes your way, and be invested, monetarily and mentally, in every aspect of the bar.
Do bar managers bartend?
While bar manager jobs don't necessarily include bartending duties, a lot of bar managers start out as bartenders, and retain those duties after they're promoted. Often, this will depend on the bar and your own personal skillset. That said, having a bar manager who is able to step in and help out with bartending as needed is a great addition to any bar or restaurant.
So That’s What They Do!
Yep! Sure is. Learning some kitchen slang is helpful, too. Hopefully you’re more familiar with bar manager duties and responsibilities. You can also pick up some restaurant management books for additional information.
The reason we at BinWise created BinWise Pro is because we believe the most important bar manager responsibility is beverage inventory management.
With our liquor inventory app, bars and restaurants cut down on the time it takes to count inventory. They can also ensure accurate counts every time and immediately generate all of the useful reports that come with consistent inventory taking. Inventory usage, pour cost, par level, and everything needed to make profitable inventory decisions. That means no more manually calculating how many shots in a handle.
Book a demo and we’ll walk you through exactly how we can help.