One of the really great bartender duties is when bartenders lean on the bar with a towel thrown over their shoulder and a welcoming smile. Picture that. Don’t you want to pull up a stool? If you’re anything like other Americans, you probably do.
We spoke to the bartenders we know and came up with a list of 7 of the most important bartender duties and responsibilities and a handy bartender duties checklist to go along with it.
Whether you’re writing a bartender job description, considering going to bartending school, in bartending school earning a bartending certificate or license, or learning how to become a bartender on your own, focus on these 7 bartender responsibilities and you’ll be golden.
The first bartender duty is a social one. A bartender is responsible for serving their customers at the bar. That breaks down into two pieces: flexibility and recommendations.
While sticking to the menu is easier, there are a lot of people out there who need something on the menu tweaked just so. A good bartender happily obliges. In bar and restaurant terms, this is hinted at with phrases like “killing them with kindness” or “going above and beyond.” But the reality of being a flexible service professional is simple. Do what you can within your resources to provide a good experience.
People naturally look for reasons for things. Should they order this? Should they order that? A bartender will push them over the edge of indecision. That’s why curating hospitality experiences is so important. There is a world of difference between the winter cocktail on your menu and a bartender genuinely recommending the winter cocktail on your menu. Give them a reason.
With a few questions, a bartender can make great recommendations that can turn an otherwise standard experience into a memorable one. They can also use these recommendations to upsell cocktails and walk away with a little more money that night.
Making & Serving Drinks
The mixing and combining of ingredients—alcoholic and not—is the big kahuna of bartender duties. There are two levels to this. The first is knowing all the classic cocktails. The second is being familiar with the basic ingredients to experiment with them and make original cocktails. You should also know how to pour a beer, but that seems less impressive to customers. Depending on your state, you may also need to attend alcohol server training.
Knowing the Classics
Check out any of the hundreds of “most popular cocktail” lists on any given year, and they’re all pretty similar. If a bartender commits 30 cocktail recipes to memory, they can probably handle 75% of orders that come their way. They'll also need to know the standard pour for each drink sold so they can maximize profit.
Creating Signature Cocktails
This is where familiarity with the main liquor families (brandy, rum, gin, whiskey, vodka, and tequila) brings huge benefits. Then a bartender has a good feeling for the primary liquor types and how they interact with mixers and juices. And then they’re ready to unleash their inner mixologist.
A familiarity with mixology allows bartenders create drinks on the fly for guests who may not want what’s on the menu. It also helps bars create signature cocktails, which can be huge profit drivers if they take off, especially if they're made using well liquor.
Filling Drink Orders
Often, servers will be ringing in drinks and the bartender will need to fill those drink orders and place them at the service bar. The service bar is the little area on the side of the bar where bartenders make drinks and put them for servers to pick up and run to their tables in the dining room. Or at a cocktail table in the bar area. Point is, these are not drinks ordered directly from the bartender by guests, but by other restaurant and bar staff.
Keeping the Bar Area Clean
While bar managers are responsible for creating bar cleaning checklists, it's ultimately falls under bartender duties. They execute them so frequently, in fact, that keeping a tidy workstation becomes a way of life for bartenders. They also stock up the bar cleaning supplies and delegate much of the cleaning in the barback job description. Because when the bar environment isn’t organized, it can quickly devolve into chaos. Beyond efficiency, bartenders keep a clean bar for health and hygiene purposes.
Pay special attention to the bar cleaning tasks that are done throughout the shift, not just during opening and closing. These are the tasks that are front-of-mind for bartenders while they’re interacting with guests and mixing drinks.
Having a balanced drawer at the end of the night is obviously important for any retail sales business. And bars are no exception. The trick with bars is that it’s a much more hectic environment than most other retail environments. Keeping accurate tabs, closing out payments quickly, and having a balanced drawer is no small feat in a busy bar. It requires great attention to detail. That’s why this rises to the level of one of the 7 most important bartender duties.
Like creating bar cleaning checklists, managing bar inventory and stocking a bar (with a bar liquor inventory list) are technically the responsibility of the bar manager. But a good bar manager will always leverage the expertise of their bartenders when managing their beverage program’s inventory. This includes alcohol and mixers and also bar supplies like cocktail napkins, glassware, and more.
At the minimal level of involvement, bartenders will take part in counting the inventory. That means they’ll comb through all the bottles of alcohol (handles, fifths, pints, all the liquor bottle sizes you have) in the building and note their levels on a spreadsheet. If using beverage inventory management software like BinWise Pro, they’d be quickly scanning labels on each bottle.
Some bartenders will take over the bar inventory management entirely, though. And that means coordinating the inventory counting and then using those inventory numbers to:
- Place new orders
- Determine causes of spillage and leakage (also known as variance)
- Learn how to control liquor costs by tweaking ingredients in popular drinks. See our liquor cost calculator guide.
- Decide what stays on the menu and what goes
- Know how much beer is in a keg and when its about to be tapped
- Understand wine bottle sizes and which ones are worth purchasing
- Know the 86 meaning and if you need to switch recipes due to inventory issues.
Because bartenders create signature cocktails and help with bar inventory management, they often have a hand in menu construction. Or, as it’s more strategically known, menu engineering.
We have a whole guide on the subject of menu engineering for bars. Once you take your bar’s inventory, you’ll be able to figure out the pour cost of every drink you sell. The idea behind menu engineering is that your menu is a tool. It turns your most profitable drinks into your most popular ones and vice versa. This is done by taking advantage of how people interact with menus: where they look first and what draws their attention.
Bartenders are uniquely qualified to engineer menus for bars. That's because they’re familiar with what drinks are profitable, what drinks are popular, and how guests respond to the menu. They've also got a talent for creating signature cocktails. That means they can create high-profit drinks they know will sell and make them as visible as possible. This is the same regardless of menu type, so feel free to engineer your prix fixe menu.
Placing Food Orders
Lastly, let’s face it, most bartenders will be placing food orders. Unless you're using qr code menus. That means our final bartender duty is to become an expert on the food menu. Then apply the same flexibility and suggestiveness that they would on the drink menu.
Thankfully food and alcohol pair wonderfully together! If your bar offers food, you’ve opened up the suggestive selling opportunities exponentially. Which is a fantastic way to increase your profit margin.
Those Are the Most Important Bartender Duties
Well, there is one more. An unofficial one. If you read this whole post, it won’t surprise you. It’s multitasking. Not only are these the most important bartender duties, but many of them are done simultaneously.
It’s not an easy job, as these duties and responsibilities make clear. But it can be a fun and lucrative job. If you’re thinking about becoming a bartender, or you want to improve your bartending fundamentals, check out the bartenders guide we linked to above.
And if your ears perked up when we mentioned automated beverage inventory scanning, then book a demo to see how BinWise Pro will help. We’ll have an expert walk you through exactly how BinWise Pro will make taking bar inventory faster, easier, and more informative.