Staffing Your Bar – How To Recruit Effectively

John Green

Staffing Your Bar: How To Recruit Effectively (And When To Ask For Help)

By the time you’re actively recruiting your bar staff, you’ve spent hundreds of hours creating a business plan, purchasing equipment, and marketing your bar.  You’re ready to open, and you think you’ve got a decent strategy for selecting your staff—hire experienced bartenders and put them to work. Seems simple, right?

Unfortunately, many business owners make crucial mistakes during the staffing phase, which can create insurmountable hurdles.  The people in your business are the key to satisfying your customers and making your business profitable. If your team doesn’t work well together, you’re in for challenging times.

Take a deep breath, because there’s some good news: The right personalities can give your business a substantial advantage. 

Here are some key factors to keep in mind when recruiting your bar staff.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re starting from scratch, but this general approach is also useful if you’ve got high seasonal turnover or you’re incorporating new team members into an existing staff.  

Experience is helpful, but it isn’t everything.  Your customers can head to virtually any bar in the country to get a Manhattan.  However, when they want to drink that Manhattan in a bar where the staff are trained to go that extra mile to make every guest feel special, they should know to head to your establishment.

That is not to say your products can’t help differentiate your business; if you’ve got quality house-made ingredients such as bitters, maraschino cherries, etc., your guests will certainly notice your attention to detail.  However, expertly trained bartenders serving those drinks will be the defining component for success. It all comes down to expert training and the culture you develop in your bar.

Big personalities keep customers coming back.  As I frequently say on this site, good people equals good business.  Your bar staff should be capable entertainers who are dedicated to their profession.  Your customers should feel comfortable around them.

Of course, that’s a difficult skill set to teach—so don’t teach it.  Hire people who have the types of larger-than-life personalities that fit in with your business model.  

One simple tip: During your interviews, ask your bartenders simple, open-ended questions like, “What’s the best part of bartending?” Ask them to tell you a joke.  Let them show off their personalities.

If they can’t keep you interested in a brief 10-minute conversation, thank them for their time and move on to the next candidate.  Regardless of the type of establishment you’re building, great people are the cornerstone of your business.

Consider how your team will work together.  Big personalities can clash, and that’s never good news for a growing business.  Make sure that your hires will work well together; they should have similar expectations of one another, they should know their roles within the business’s structure, and they should be able to address their grievances in a reasonable way.

Some conflicts are unavoidable, but your team should know how to keep calm during busy hours and stay productive during the slow times.  

Training is always necessary.  Even if you’re fortunate enough to find a full team of experienced bartenders with great personalities on your first round of interviews, you’ll need to budget some resources for training.  During this process, you’ll establish clear roles and fine-tune your workflow, but more importantly, you’ll create a shared vision of your bar’s personality and working methods.

What makes sense at your business? How do you describe the ambiance? What types of customers will keep heading back to your bar again and again? By asking (and answering) these types of questions, you’ll build a better team while creating the type of bar that you’d want to visit.  That’s why you’re in this business in the first place, so make sure you’re establishing your goals clearly.

In a sense, staffing a bar is an artistic process, and it’s one of the most exciting parts of running your business.  Even so, you can always use some help, and that’s where my consulting, training, and turnkey services can make a difference.  Get in touch today to learn more.