View Full Version : Hey Bartenders -- looking for some feedback
06-02-2012, 01:23 AM
I have an unexpected career change coming up soon, and I was thinking of taking a crash course in bartending. I've read various sites/pages on the Internet on the subject, but I was hoping for some genuine feedback from those of you in the field (or who are intimately acquainted with somebody who is).
I wondering stuff like: How do you like it? Easy to find work? Best part of the job? Worst part? Establishments to avoid, or to look for? Full-time or part-time? Buy your own health care? Does it suck never having weekends off? Also, if you have an idea, what is the average hourly wage (including tips) in your area?
Anything and everything you care to share is greatly appreciated!
06-02-2012, 08:33 AM
I am not a bartender, but I drink a ton, spend a lot of time in bars, have several friends/family members that tended bar (as well as own/owned bars), stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, etc.
Like most jobs, it completely depends on the situation. Unless you are young and a crazy partier, you probably won't like what I affectionally call the "bro-bars" - the places where college aged kids hang out, scream and slam drinks made of red bull.
Try and find a place that fits your personality. If you're a snob, look at cocktail lounges. If you aren't real familiar with mixing drinks, or just don't care, look for a place that mostly sells beer. If a place has a hiring ad/sign, go there and have a couple drinks before expressing interest in a job. That's a good part about working in the service industry, you can get a little hands-on experience with a company before working there.
Pay is all over the map. I've known several places that pay minimum wage plus tips. Fancier places that call their folks "mixologists" instead of "bartenders" pay much better base rates. I've known a lot of folks that will pull $50-100 in tips on weeknights, but then $200-300 on weekends. Working at a dumpy neighborhood bar might get you more steady day-day take without the weekend spike.
Losing your nights/weekends isn't always as horrible as you'd think... The biggest draw to being a bartender for people I know is that it's an extremely social job. Unless you're just slammed with non-stop orders, you get to talk to people, and your friends will come in for drinks from time to time as well.
06-02-2012, 09:05 AM
I've been a bartender for far too long.
The money is good. Anywhere from $10 to $70 per hr. It's great to always have cash in your pocket.
I like it, it's social, you can meet lots of people or keep to yourself.
However, I wish I made the same money or more doing something I love, like music, or something else. I'm in my 40's now and have a child.
Bartending is not an old persons job. Most bar owners nowadays want 19 year old strippers with no bartending experience to come work for them.
I have never in 25 years seen someone hired after going to bartending school.
Stay away from establishments run by mafia dudes.
Obviously the more busy a bar is the more you make. To make the most money you will either want to work at the place where 20 somethings go because they go out every night and drink a lot. You might not get home until 3 am.
The other route is a busy fine dining restaurant. When you serve dinners at the bar tips are big because the bills can be over a hundred dollars for two people. Home at 11.
The only way to get a bartending job is to have experience, even if it is one night of bartending. And of course it's all who you know in life. No one will hire someone without experience (unless you are a young girl or woman with nice boobs).
06-02-2012, 09:51 AM
I've been a bartender for 8 years, and the best advice I can give you is to stay away from the "schools".
Other than that, Mr. Cuthbert summed it up quite well.
06-02-2012, 12:26 PM
Cuthbert explained it well. Bartending is often the top of the restaurant totem pole - bussing, waiting tables and then bartending. I doubt you'll find much success getting work without prior restaurant experience, as most establishments promote from within (from my 30 years of experience). Schools are generally useless other than learning a few recipes. Bars and restaurants like things done their own way which often clashes with what's taught at schools.
06-02-2012, 07:09 PM
Wow, great advice everybody.
Nice advice about finding a place that fits your personality, UncleMeat. I'm mid-40's and not sure I could handle the "LET'S GET F*CKED UP!!!!!" 20-something crowd every week -- although I'm sure there is good money to be made that way. However, as Cuthbert said, they probably wouldn't want my type there anyway.
Point taken about the :BluesBros, as well!
The social aspects are a big part of the attraction for me right now, as is not sitting in front of a screen for 8+ hours a day. Flexibility (and the fact that I am a night-owl) are also part of it. And of course, money.
The only reason I was looking at the school was because I have no training at all, and I'm not willing/able to work my way up the ladder from dishwasher. The school here supposedly has lifetime placement, but of course that doesn't necessarily guarantee anything. I do know somebody who owns a few bars/restaurants, as well as folks in the music biz who book bands for establishments, so I'd probably have a good shot at finding something via networking if I had a some skill.
I might have to see if I can find somebody who will let me train my way in behind a bar somewhere.
06-02-2012, 07:32 PM
Oh, and Cuthbert? Don't give up on that dream of doing something you love, man. I know you can make a long list of reasons why you shouldn't go for it at this point in your life, but there is one reality the other side of the list that carries a lot of weight: Your life will only happen once... you call all the shots, and it's never too late to change.
And remember: Anything that makes you a happier person benefits your kid as well. Read that again for emphasis.
You don't have to drop everything you're doing and start completely over. Just take baby steps. Ease into it.
In fact, bartending for me is a way that I may also be able to pursue a dream I have: Writing a fantasy novel. I'm 46, and have never written anything besides some poetry and prose in an online journal. But I'm going to do it, whether I succeed or fail. If I ever think failure would be bad, I remind myself that being 80 and thinking "I wish I would have tried" would be far, far worse.
On top of that? I'm going to dust that guitar case off, build up my callouses again, and get up at an open mic night dammit! :JAM
40-somethings with unfulfilled dreams unite!!! :dude
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