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Developing and Training Stellar Restaurant Bartenders: An Inside Look

Image of a waiter typing an order into a POS system.

There's more to the restaurant industry than just the food. It's about the people, the ambiance, and the stories that unfold over a glass of well-crafted cocktail or a pint of the finest brew. In particular, it's about the bartenders - those unsung heroes who do more than just mix drinks. They set the tone, they're the lifeblood of the bar.

The art of bartending isn't just about knowing how to shake a martini or craft a flawless Old Fashioned. It's about creating a memorable experience for the guests. As a restaurant owner or manager, you need to understand that the process of developing and training these wizards of modern chemistry behind the bar is a crucial part of your business.

Let's delve into the nitty-gritty of how you can develop and train your bartenders, and how services like Clock'd can help you hire the right candidates.

1. Hiring Right

Finding the right bartender can be a daunting task. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 644,100 bartenders in the US in 2019. By 2029, this number is expected to increase by 6%. However, not all of these bartenders have the chops to take your establishment to the next level.

This is where Clock'd comes in. It's a staffing service that specializes in hiring for the restaurant industry. With a comprehensive understanding of the industry's needs, they can help you find both hourly and managerial candidates who fit your business's ethos and can deliver the experience your patrons expect.

2. Training and Skill Development

Once you've hired the right candidates, training becomes crucial. According to a study by the National Restaurant Association, 90% of restaurant managers started at entry-level. This suggests that with the right training, bartenders can not only excel at their current roles but also grow within the industry. We always recommend to our clients to have a bar-back position or bar training program; you’ll see 15% more applications on average across the board from candidates looking to learn the trade.

Here's what you should focus on:

  • Product Knowledge: It's essential for bartenders to know their spirits, beers, wines, and mixers. They should be able to recommend the right drink to pair with a dish and explain why they've made a specific cocktail a certain way.

  • Technique: This includes everything from shaking, stirring, muddling, pouring, and garnishing. Most importantly how they handle the bottles, how clean they keep the wells, and making sure they put everything back in its proper place. On a packed night, Id take an organized bartender over a fast hot mess any day.

  • Customer Service: Your bartenders should know how to engage with customers, handle difficult situations, and foster a friendly, inviting atmosphere. Most importantly they need to work with the floor staff. The worst thing is to make the bartender position an ivory tower, they should never be above working a bar-back or serving shift. Rotate them in every once and while on the floor to ensure a good relationship with your floor staff.

3. Continuous Learning and Improvement

The world of cocktails and spirits is always evolving. Just as chefs need to stay updated with food trends, bartenders must also stay on top of the latest in the beverage world. Encourage your bartenders to participate in workshops, tastings, and industry events. Remember, a good bartender is a knowledgeable one.

4. Encouraging Creativity

Let your bartenders experiment and create. Encourage them to come up with their signature cocktails. Not only will this give them a sense of ownership, but it can also draw in crowds looking for a unique drink experience.

In the words of Bourdain, "Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund." This applies to bartending as much as it does to the culinary world.

Developing and training bartenders is no small task, but it's one that can pay off in the long run.


Marc LaPierre is a 10-year veteran of the food and hospitality industry, Certified Staffing Professional, and CEO/Founder of Clock’d + SEEN. From cooking in James Beard award-winning kitchens to opening and managing a nightclub in Mexico, he worked every job in the industry. Today he connects professionals looking to advance their careers with clients eager to find an all-star team.


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