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The Joy of Bartending, and How To Get There
Why would you want to be a bartender? There are quite a few reasons one might consider becoming a bartender. The money is probably the biggest reason most people become a bartender: a good bartender in a busy venue can work part time and make a decent full time income. If you enjoy meeting people, this is just another reason to work in the hospitality industry – bartenders meet new people almost every night they work. Also, bartending is probably one of the most fun jobs you can have.
Most people tip a minimum of $1 per drink, if they pay for each drink in cash. If they run a tab, the base tip is considered 15% and a good tip is around 20% if you do your job well. There are people who tip even more. If you serve 200 drinks in one night and everyone’s paying cash, that’s going to translate to around $200 in your pocket for a short, fun shift. If they’re all running tabs, your sales at the end of the night are going to be around $400 on 200 drinks, if it’s a $2 beer night and everyone got the cheap beer. At 20%, that’s $80 which is actually a lowball estimate because a lot of people are still going to buy more expensive, higher-end drinks. On top of the tips you’ll be making (which you can see are impressive), you’ll also be getting paid an hourly wage to supplement your tips, as well as potential tip share if you make drinks for servers or cocktail waitresses. With your hourly wage and tip sharing, your income grows very quickly and there’s a potential to make a lot of money.
In most venues, bartending is a very social job. Your job will consist of meeting, talking to, and entertaining the various guests in the establishment. You’ll get to know many new people in this line of work as there’s almost always someone new coming in. You will meet, talk to and enjoy the company of many new people on a regular basis. Who knows? Your job may even introduce you to new friends or a romantic interest?
The fun or party atmosphere associated with most bars or clubs means you’re going to have a more relaxed working environment. Dress code guidelines are generally less strict, and the patrons generally rely on the bartender for good conversation. Many bartenders have an arsenal of tricks, jokes and conversation skills to keep their patrons interested and enjoying themselves. Your patrons will spend more time with you if you’re fun, and the longer they stay, the more they spend. Obviously, the more they spend the more they tip – so your income is directly related to how entertained you can keep your patrons.
Now you know why you want to be a bartender, so how do you get there? You could take the long, hard way as a server or a barback, but no one likes the long hard way. Is there an easier way?
The answer is yes. As a server or a bartender it could take you months or even years to pick up everything you need to know to be a successful bartender. Instead, you can attend a bartender’s school. These schools are designed to give you all the basic information you’ll need to be successful in most any bar environment in a short time, so you can jump into the fray without having to worry about learning the basics with everything else going on around you.
You can expect to learn around 100 of the most popular and classic recipes that you’ll need to know in most any bar. You’ll learn by watching a professional bartender mix the drink in front of you, explaining what’s being done and why and then repeating the process yourself until you’re comfortable with the process.
You can also expect to learn basic such as customer service, garnishes, and the correct glasses to serve drinks in. Also, basic beer and wine knowledge will be taught such as how to properly poor a draft beer (yes, there’s a proper way) and how to pour a glass of wine and present a bottle of wine.
There will be a short class on alcohol responsibility, and a certification that you passed. This course involves how to properly check IDs and how to spot fakes, as well as state and federal laws regarding the sale and serving of alcohol. You’ll know how to spot a fake ID and when you should cut someone off after this short course.
Many schools will help you find a job with a job placement service. Through deals with bars, the schools can help you find a job at many of the bars and clubs in and around the area you attend school in to help you get real experience behind a real bar.
When you’re looking for a school, make sure you pay attention to how they teach. A lot of bartender’s schools, unfortunately, have become scams. You want relatively new books and text materials, as well as a professional classroom setup. The good schools will have classrooms that look and feel like a real bar when you walk in. You should see everything you’d expect in a real bar: a bar, bar stools, three compartment steel sink, soda gun, speed racks, ice bins, and real liquor bottles. (The liquid inside the bottles is not real liquor, but a special liquid made to look and act like the liquor it’s supposed to be.) This allows you to get a real feel for working behind a real bar. Some may have “workstations” that look like miniature bars. Don’t settle for a school that you wouldn’t have a drink in, chances are they’re a ripoff.
Now that you know what to look for in a school, and why you would benefit from going to a bartender’s school, get out there and start learning. Once you’ve finished the class, you won’t regret the choice and should be making money and having fun in your new job soon. Enjoy your new vocation, whether you just need some extra cash or you’re wanting to make a full time living slinging drinks.
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