A bartender is the face of the bar, while barbacks are the bartender’s arms. They work behind the scenes and keep the bar running smoothly. If you’re starting your job as a barback or want to learn more, it’s helpful to know what a barback does and how to do a great job.
What Does a Barback Do?
As a barback, you keep the bar together. You work behind the bar to ensure that the bartender doesn’t need to do anything more than serve drinks and interact with customers. Your work involves taking orders, cleaning tables and spills, delivering food, refilling ice, and changing kegs. You also do any additional work the bartender needs to keep things running smoothly.
However, the bartender in-charge might ask you to serve and pour drinks, even though it’s not a part of your official duty. So don’t forget that before you can serve any alcohol, you should get your alcohol server/seller certification.
Opportunities for Barbacks
Whether you are barbacking for a college gig or wondering what the future holds for you, there are numerous opportunities for growth.
Get Promoted to Bartender
At most restaurants and bars in the US, barbacks are directly next in line to be promoted to a bartender. After working for 6-8 months, you have the experience needed to maneuver around the bar and successfully take the lead.
Make More Money in Tips
Although your job as a barback is similar to a busser, you will make more in tips because the tips you do make will be split between fewer people. Additionally, at restaurants across the country, elite groups are choosing to drink rather than dine. So, when you do a good job, you will see an increase in your paycheck.
Take on Additional Responsibilities
When you get better at what you do, employers and managers are more likely to trust you with greater responsibilities. And more responsibilities generally leads to higher pay rates. Plus, if you take on more bartending responsibilities, your transition into becoming a bartender will be much smoother.
Top 6 Skills to Master as a Barback
There are several skills you can master that will ensure you excel at your job so that you can get to that next level.
1. Be Proactive
As a barback, you will work directly under the bartender. If you make it a habit to do things before the bartender asks you, they will value you more. Also, if you’re interested in becoming a bartender in the future, let your manager know. While most restaurants expect that you’ll want a promotion, establishing your interest in advancing shows your manager that you are ambitious and driven.
2. Know Your Bar
An essential aspect of becoming better at work is knowing your workplace. Even if you’re just getting started, try to get a feel of the place quickly. Spend some time at the bar and learn:
- Which drinks run out the fastest?
- How much time before you need to refill ice?
- What are you expected to do during happy hour?
- Who are the regular customers?
- What do the regulars drink?
When you know your bar and its customers, you can deal with problems quickly and won’t have to reach out to upper management for every small issue.
3. Have a Positive Attitude
As a barback, your job requires limited customer interaction. But, you might come across dismissive and rude customers, which could make it challenging to maintain a positive outlook. However, in a customer experience report, researchers found that the #1 reason customers abandon restaurants and bars was due to rude customer service, which was cited 18% more often than slow service and the quality of food. By being more patient with customers and their issues, you can turn things around and make the customer’s experience memorable—in a good way.
Furthermore, customers aren’t the only ones you should pay attention to. It pays to be kind to your bartender. You can earn more in tips, and the bartender might reward you for the improvement in customer service.
4. Be Cautious
At work, you will be required to deal with knives, screwdrivers, kegs, wrenches, glass, and all kinds of sharp objects. During busy times, it is easy to be careless and hurt yourself. However, you should try to exhibit high levels of caution and avoid unnecessary risks, even at the cost of speed. You should also ensure that the bar has a safety procedure in place to deal with accidental injuries.
5. Maintain Professionalism
Barbacking, like any other job, requires you to be professional. Even if you’re not thinking long-term and are barbacking only to earn some extra money, professionalism at the bar will go a long way in your career. The best way you can be professional is by taking pride in what you do. You can also demonstrate professionalism by making sure your interactions with other co-workers are job-focused, appropriate, and respectful.
6. Stay humble
In your job, you will do a lot of work behind the scenes. You will also be asked by the bartender to do everything he or she asks you to do. In stressful situations, it is easy to feel undervalued. But it is important to remember that you are as important to the bar as any other employee.
As Edge Consulting founder Orly Maravankin writes, “Humble leaders know they don’t have all the knowledge or answers, therefore, they actively listen to learn. They also know their own limitations and that self-awareness helps them get better.”
Now Put it All Together
It may seem obvious but practice is the key to succeeding at your job. At work, you can practice being proactive, cautious, professional, and humble. If you’re just starting out and make a mistake, reflect on what you did wrong and practice correcting it. Remember that what you learn as a barback will stick with you wherever your career takes you in the future.