5 key skills to become an outstanding restaurant bar manager

Take a look at the qualities and characteristics needed to excel as a bar manager; Excellent bar service increases the profitability of restaurants

TableCheck

TableCheck

Feb 22, 2023 - 3 min read

5 key skills to become an outstanding restaurant bar manager

A bar manager's position is crucial to the success of any bar or restaurant, yet it rarely receives attention in trade publications or blogs. Despite its significant impact on profits, the position attracts little attention. This is surprising given that the sale of alcohol accounts for a sizeable portion of the profits made by hospitality companies.

Although a Google search reveals varying statistics for how much a hospitality operator can make from alcohol sales, the range is significant, from making 25 percent of the profit to nearly 80 percent. In fact, many restaurants in the United States were able to stay afloat during the pandemic because of alcohol sales.  

Wearing multiple hats

Managing a bar and consistently generating revenue remains a challenging task that's why a restaurant needs a talented bar manager to excel in this role. A bar manager needs to know the ins and outs of the business. The job responsibilities are not just limited to ordering alcohol stocks and menu engineering but also payroll and even marketing. It also includes shadowing other staff to understand the nitty-gritty of every role to gather information and utilize it to enhance the company's customer service and bottom line.

Lead Bartender vs. Bar Manager

Lead bartenders and bar managers are two of the most common career paths for bartenders. There are substantial differences between the duties associated with these two leadership roles. A lead bartender works behind the bar and juggles other duties. Not only do they need to come up with new and interesting drinks, but they also make connections in the local liquor industry and train new bartenders. In contrast, the bar manager has more responsibilities on his or her shoulders. They have a more comprehensive role, from hiring staff to dealing with inventories, stakeholders, and compliance.

Bar Manager responsibilities in a nutshell

  1. Bar promotion via social media, menu engineering, and BTL (bottom-line activation)

  2. Driving sales on the premises

  3. Vendor management, including negotiations

  4. Ensuring financial profitability

  5. Ensuring compliance with and adherence to health, safety, and food-control regulations

  6. Managing inventory 

  7. Dealing with customer grievances

  8. Interviewing, hiring, and training bar employees

  9. Food and wine pairings

  10. Bartending when required

Restaurant bar manager

Overall, bar managers can impact restaurant success, by maintaining a high standard of quality, increasing restaurant profitability, and achieving customer satisfaction.

Let's look at what skills one needs to become a great bar manager:

1. Strong leadership skills

A bar manager is a leader who oversees a group of employees whose responsibilities and skill sets are extremely varied. Even though the bartender might or might not interact directly with customers, their tasks differ from those of the wait staff, whose primary duty is to deal directly with customers and increase the sales of alcoholic beverages. The bar manager has to solve exceedingly complicated job-specific problems and fill in gaps, which altogether impact the guest’s experience. People management is an ongoing requirement in this role, whether allocating work to staff or compiling rosters.

2. Excellent customer service skills: Keeping the guest happy

Diners who have had too much to drink, guests with dietary restrictions, and large groups placing complicated cocktail orders just a few minutes before closing time, are some examples of complex customer encounters that are common in bars. The manager is responsible for overseeing operations, in a manner that will not result in a poor guest experience. They have to care about every customer and set a high standard for good service that the rest of the team has to follow.

3. Strong knowledge of beverages and mixology

The person in charge of bar management at a restaurant needs to have comprehensive knowledge of alcoholic beverages, how to mix them, and how to come up with creative drink recipes. It's common practice for the bartender to handle the drinks, but the bar manager may occasionally need to step in and help out (or even take over) for the evening. The manager would benefit from a more well-rounded understanding of bar management in general and solid knowledge of the art of mixing drinks. Getting familiar with the beverages and recipes will lead to success in bar management.

Here are some of the questions a bar manager needs to ask to plan the bar operations:

  • What drinks are most popular?

  • Which drinks have the biggest return on investment?

  • Which cocktails require the fewest ingredients?

  • What drinks customers with nut allergies should avoid?

4. Stakeholder management

One requirement to become a good bar manager is learning how to deal with different parties. In addition to the staff reporting to the bar manager, the marketing team, payroll staff, and kitchen crew also need to consult with him or her about various topics. Then there are external stakeholders like customers, with whom the bar manager may need to communicate to resolve grievances, address complaints, or receive feedback. There are also vendors with whom clever negotiations have to be carried out, as well as government personnel with whom tactile conversations have to be made.

5. Strong understanding of industry regulations

In the majority of countries, there are very strict laws governing the sale of alcoholic beverages in dining establishments like restaurants and bars. A manager of a bar needs to have a solid understanding of these rules and regulations. In general, failure to comply with these laws could result in severe penalties, and the restaurant might even risk losing its liquor license. Having a very clear grasp of these laws will help bar managers better prepare to handle any challenges that may arise when serving alcohol on the restaurant's premises.

Training and development

Bar managers who have received the right training can help increase a restaurant's profitability while also building guest loyalty and driving repeat business. Their expertise can improve bar operations and at the same enhance the reputation of a restaurant for professionalism and customer service, especially for guests who are looking for unique dining experiences and a place to socialize. By prioritizing the training of bar managers, restaurant owners ensure the long-term success of their business and help it thrive in this highly competitive hospitality industry.

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