How to Become a Bartender
Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers.
Most bartenders learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training usually lasting a few weeks. No formal education is required.
Many bartenders are promoted from other jobs at the establishments in which they work. Bartenders at upscale establishments usually have attended bartending classes or have previous work experience.
Although most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old, most bartenders are 25 or older. Bartenders must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.
No formal education is required to become a bartender. However, some aspiring bartenders acquire their skills by attending a school for bartending or by attending bartending classes at a vocational or technical school. These programs often include instruction on state and local laws and regulations concerning the sale of alcohol, cocktail recipes, proper attire and conduct, and stocking a bar. The length of each program varies, but most courses last a few weeks. Some schools help their graduates find jobs.
Most bartenders receive on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks, under the guidance of an experienced bartender. Training focuses on cocktail recipes, bar-setup procedures, and customer service, including how to handle unruly customers and other challenging situations. In food service establishments where bartenders serve food, the training may cover teamwork and proper food-handling procedures.
Some employers teach bartending skills to new workers by providing self-study programs, online programs, videos, and instructional booklets that explain service skills. Such programs communicate the philosophy of the establishment, help new bartenders build rapport with other staff, and instill a desire to work as a team.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Some bartenders qualify through related work experience. They may start as bartender helpers and progress into full-fledged bartenders as they learn basic mixing procedures and recipes. Some bartenders also may start as waiters and waitresses.
Advancement for bartenders is usually limited to finding a job in a busier or more upscale restaurant or bar where prospects for earning tips are better. Some bartenders advance to supervisory jobs, such as dining room supervisor, maitre d', assistant manager, and restaurant general manager. A few bartenders open their own bars.
Communication skills. Bartenders must listen carefully to their customers’ orders, explain drink and food items, and make menu recommendations. They also should be able to converse with customers on a variety of subjects and create a friendly and welcoming environment.
Customer-service skills. Bartenders must have good customer-service skills to ensure repeat business.
Decisionmaking skills. Bartenders must be able to make good decisions. For example, they should be able to detect intoxicated and underage customers and deny service to those individuals.
Interpersonal skills. Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers. For example, they should be able to tell a joke and laugh with a customer to build rapport.
Physical stamina. Bartenders spend hours on their feet preparing drinks and serving customers.
Physical strength. Bartenders should be able to lift and carry heavy cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies, which often weigh up to 50 pounds.