Bar management 101: How to manage a bar

If you manage a bar business, you know how important successful bar management is — and just how difficult it can be to dial it in. As a bar manager, you’re responsible for leading and managing staff, inventory, customer service, and more. And when you’re successful, the team and business are successful, too. 

In this guide, we’ll help you learn all you need to know about successful bar management. Keep reading to learn more about what to do to make this your best year, including bar, winery, and/or brewery scheduling options.

How to manage a bar

From retaining regular customers to improving bar profits and managing the point of sale system, knowing how to run a bar is a key point of management experience in the hospitality industry. What’s more, itcan provide a solid boost in bar profit margins.

Stay on top of employee happiness

Whether it’s your bartender or kitchen staff, employees are happy when they feel respected and acknowledged. 

By regularly keeping track of employee satisfaction and ensuring that you’re providing the flexibility and guidance your team needs to succeed you’ll keep them happy and working hard at your bar business.

A good way to do this is to conduct regular surveys. They help you keep a pulse on how everyone’s feeling and also give your employees a sense of empowerment.

You can also stay connected and keep your team in sync by using the Homebase app. Our built-in messenger makes it easy to send schedule updates, reminders, and delivery alerts. And, it lets you collect feedback from your employees after every shift. 

Ensure the satisfaction of regular customers

Though the industry has recovered to $799 billion, it’s still $65 billion short of its pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Restaurant Association. So, keeping your regular customers happy should be a key part of your bar business’ ongoing management strategy. 

Post social media specials and email coupons to keep them coming in and bringing their friends. And consider offering the occasional free drink — or even holding events or specials for regular customers — to make them feel recognized and appreciated.

Keep the bar owner from having to focus on the details

Bar owners handle a wide range of responsibilities. When a bar owner hires a bar manager, it’s to take some of that load off of their shoulders and allow them to focus on their business.

A successful bar manager understands the importance of that responsibility and takes strong steps to undertake as much of the bar management process as possible, without stepping on any toes in the process.

This can include making adjustments to the POS system, handling employee scheduling, and working through HR issues to keep everything moving smoothly.

Grow your future career options

A position as a successful bar manager can open doors for the rest of your career. And, in the restaurant industry, taking additional coursework can help you hone your expertise and grow your career options down the road.

You might consider formal education at a university or even simple ad-hoc classes at your place of employment — such as courses provided by a distributor rep on the differences in the flavor and aroma of their new rum versus the other options available on the market.

Tips for managing a bar

How can you run a profitable bar to ensure that you’ll be able to keep your bar management position over the next several years?

There is a wide range of advice out there to help you deal with even the busiest times, but the following tips stand out as most helpful in addressing the most pressing concerns in the industry. And keeping them in mind will help you run your bar efficiently on a regular basis.

Train and cross-train your team properly

It takes knowledgeable staff to do everything that keeps your bar running smoothly — from working the POS system to keeping a liquor inventory for distributor reps, to folding napkins. And, taking the time to both train and cross-train your team helps ensure that you can keep your bar fully staffed at even the busiest times.

Make sure your wait staff knows how to upsell items you’re trying to turn over quickly, and that the backbar staff understands the importance of sanitation in health and food safety. This will keep your team operating efficiently and with a solid understanding of what every position needs to do to be successful.

Listen to your bartenders

From bar inventory management to improving bar sales through free drinks offers, your bartenders have a wide range of knowledge to share with you. Beyond mixology, spillage, and over-pouring a jigger, bartenders can also impart beneficial business insights.

Keep up with them using effective team communication and take their suggestions to heart. It pays to both implement suggestions that have a good chance at success and to recognize their contributions to the bar business as a whole.

Create an outstanding company culture

The best way to retain quality employees when you manage a bar is by creating a solid company culture. That starts with team management that takes into account everything from your employees’ lives and needs outside of work to incentives on difficult-to-schedule shifts to help keep everyone moving.

A team culture quiz or trivia makes it easy to figure out what page everyone is on. Additionally, implementing employee ideas while rewarding them with incentives gives each employee a personal stake in the bar company’s success.

Keep the bar clean

Nothing will turn a customer off faster than a dirty bar environment. It’s vital that your wait staff, backbar staff, and bartenders stay on top of this task throughout the course of their shifts. This ensures that the bar will remain clean and welcoming to all your prospective customers, while also keeping health inspectors happy with the business.

Serve a creative signature cocktail menu 

To help build a name for your bar and build your brand, stand out with a mixology bartender who can develop outstanding signature cocktails that provide a creative edge to your usual menu.

Offer nightly drink specials and a happy hour menu

Though happy hour legality is a constantly shifting factor in many states, offering special menu items and drinks on your social media pages may be a great way to boost profit margins in the bar industry.

Simplify shift scheduling

Employee scheduling can be a difficult process at the best of times in the restaurant industry, especially when you need to have sufficient waitstaff during your busiest shifts. An all-in-one software like Homebase makes time clock management, scheduling, and more much easier.

Hire live musicians

By moving from the position of simply offering alcohol and bar food to providing entertainment, you’ll move from being a place to hang out to a go-to event location. Adding live music to your bar on a regular basis will help increase your profit margins.

Offer private events 

When you manage a bar, you can create lots of opportunities to get people in the door — and coming back for more. Rather than simply sticking to standard open hours, why not offer a range of special and private events? You can host NBA watch parties, corporate get-togethers,  or similar events. You could even prepare a special room for private parties.

Keep your bar fully stocked

There are few things worse than telling a customer you’re out of their favorite indulgence —especially when it’s a common brand. Regular bar inventory and contact with your distributor reps will help ensure that your bar remains fully stocked at all times.

Ensure timely payroll and easy HR

One of the best ways to retain high-quality backbar and front-of-house staff members is to ensure your payroll is managed on a regular, timely basis. This can be much easier when using new bar apps. For example, Homebase HR Pro gives you access to HR experts in real-time to answer questions about issues as they arise, including federal labor laws.

Hire passionate employees

Bar operations are always impacted by your employees — and you can benefit a great deal when you have bartenders who are excellent at mixology and wait staff who stand out at their jobs. An efficient hiring and onboarding process makes hiring the right people for your team much easier, and it can also decrease new employee costs while making accounting and payroll simple.

In need of a bar manager?

Bar owners often find themselves in need of bar staff, including bar management. Similar to the process undertaken in restaurant management, hiring the right bar manager for your bar business will make a big difference in your profit margins.

To find the right bar manager, consider reaching out beyond word of mouth. Look at social media, including LinkedIn, to bring in the right candidates. Once you’ve found the right one, the hiring process can then move forward, giving you someone to help stay on top of things.

Of course, it’s important to stay on top of the onboarding process, too. Though it can seem complicated, it’s easily handled when you have the right app available to get you through the entire process quickly and easily — and without missing any critical training or potential liability issues. Homebase’s free trial is a great way to get started.

Want to become a bar manager?

If you’ve worked in the restaurant industry in the past, you may wonder what’s needed to stand out as a prospective bar manager. Here’s a quick look at steps to take to be a competitive option for a bar management position.

Get a bachelor’s degree

As with many career paths, bar management often requires a degree to prove your knowledge and expertise prior to starting work. Though you may be able to get by with equivalent experience, getting a bachelor’s degree in the hospitality industry will do a lot to boost your credentials in the process.

Pursue bar work as a specialty

Beyond a degree, you’ll want to show that you know your stuff when it comes to the bar industry, specifically. By undertaking some bar work, whether as wait staff, bartender, or backbar worker, you’ll be able to prove that you understand the differences between bar and restaurant industry particulars.

Start with an entry-level management position

In many situations, unless you have a higher level of restaurant industry management experience, you’ll need to start in an entry-level bar management position. Though this may mean quieter shifts and odd hours, a couple of years in this type of position will allow you to advance up the chain.

Advance your career

After you’ve had the opportunity to build a couple of years of experience at the entry level, you’ll be able to start expanding your career options — and you should, if you want to prove that you’re ready for more advanced work.

Continue your education

If you really love the bar industry and want to make it your career, you may consider taking additional coursework — possibly even earning a master’s degree in the hospitality industry. This should set you up for a great career long into the future as a successful bar manager.

How to manage a bar FAQs

Of course, even with this information available, you may still have a few questions about how to manage a bar in a fashion that will both boost profit margins and keep regular customers coming back for more. Here are a few more of the most common questions bar managers tend to have with regard to the industry.

Is managing a bar profitable?

Done right, bar management can be very profitable. . Like all industries, poor management leads to poor profit margins or even losses, while good management can provide good profit margins. At the same time, a successful bar manager with a strong nose for the business can turn exceptional profits, making both the manager and the bar owner very happy with the arrangement.

How can I schedule bartenders?

Bartender scheduling can seem like a complex process. One has night classes twice a week; another has to be home with their kids every other weekend, and a third sometimes needs to shift their schedule to help their home-bound parent with medical appointments and errands. But it can be very easy with the right app to help you quickly and easily schedule your bartenders while keeping their needs into account at the same time.

Is there bar management software?

Yes! Developed specifically for hourly work — and great for the hospitality industry —Homebase does a wonderful job of managing a wide range of options to keep your bar on track and operating profitably. This makes it easy for you to track your HR and scheduling needs, time clock and payroll, remote operations, health and safety, and a wide range of other bar management needs.

Does Homebase help with bar management?

From figuring out how to hire your first hourly employee to managing your bar schedule and payroll, Homebase’s suite of bar management tools makes it simple for you to handle all your bar management needs. Communications are simplified, hiring and onboarding are made easy, and HR tasks are handled in a matter of clicks.

Bar management is far more complex than simply being a member of the waitstaff or a mixology bartender, and it requires special skills to be a successful bar manager. But when you pair your restaurant industry experience with Homebase’s extensive suite of bar management tools, you can easily handle your bar management job while boosting business for your employer and carving out a great career for yourself along the way.

Why not take a look at what Homebase has to offer your bar business?

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