Bar Management 101: 19 Tips for How to Be a Successful Bar Manager

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5 min read

Jan 6, 2022

Bar Management 101: 19 Tips for How to Be a Successful Bar Manager

Did you know there are almost 70,000 bar managers in the United States alone? As one of the highest-ranking roles in a bar or restaurant, bar managers have a lot on their plates. During any given shift, they’re responsible for leading a team, engaging with customers, overseeing day-to-day operations and more. 

So, what does it take for a bar manager to stand out and advance their career? We’re covering all that and more in this guide to being a successful bar manager.

What is a bar manager?

A bar manager oversees the daily operations of a bar, whether that’s a standalone bar, or one within a restaurant, hotel, theater, nightclub or other venue. The typical bar manager job description includes managing staff, interacting with guests, overseeing back-of-house bar operations and identifying opportunities for business growth.

Bar manager responsibilities and qualifications

Here’s a closer look at a bar manager’s duties and qualifications.

Bar manager duties:

Managing staff: Training employees, scheduling shifts, doing payroll, handling interpersonal conflicts and overseeing professional development.
Interacting with customers: Conducting satisfaction checks and addressing customer concerns.
Back-of-house bar operations: Developing the beverage program, managing and ordering bar inventory and vetting vendors.
Business operations: Helping the business grow, analyzing bar business data and suggesting marketing initiatives to promote the beverage program.

Bar manager qualifications:

Educational requirements: High school diploma
Optional: Bartending license or certification or associate’s or bachelor’s degree in hospitality management
Experience requirements: 
Experience working as a bartender, preferably with some leadership responsibilities.
Excellent knowledge of mixology and classic cocktail recipes.

Bar manager salary

The average wage for a bar manager in the United States is $19 per hour, or just under $40,000 annually for a full-time role. This range varies from $15 to $23 per hour, or $31,200 to $47,840 per year.

How to succeed as a bar manager

Landed the role or already working as a bar manager? Here’s how to impress customers and your boss:

Look for upselling opportunities
Make VIPs feel special
Keep guests engaged while they wait
Stay on top of local regulations
Optimize seating
Organize events
Share tips equitably
Implement tiered inventory
Leverage a guestlist
Embrace checklists
Incorporate promoters into your bar management strategy
Get to know your regulars
Enforce minimums
Implement reservations
Embrace self-service ordering
Introduce online ordering
Switch up your menu items regularly
Find out what customers want
Watch out for employee theft

1. Be on the lookout for upselling opportunities

Train bartenders to offer higher-shelf liquor to increase your average tab.

Secure revenue in advance and offer upgrades (like a birthday cake add-on or a champagne and sparkler greeting) via online bookings.

2. Make VIPs feel special

Make sure you know when VIPs walk up to the bar. When your bar uses a CRM that’s equipped with guest profiles, key team members get an alert when a celebrity or the bar’s owner walks in via Apple Watch notifications. When you know who you’re dealing with, you can give them the star treatment right away.

3. Keep guests engaged while they wait

Make sure guests don’t abandon the waitlist on a busy weekend night. With a virtual waitlist, waiting guests can join the list before they arrive at the bar, see their wait time in real-time and communicate with the host stand.

4. Stay on top of local regulations

As part of your role as manager, you need to keep your bar’s licenses and permits up to date, and keep guests safe. Always be ready for a visit from the health inspector by creating and enforcing food safety and hygiene protocols. Enforce noise ordinances to keep your neighbors happy and your bar in business. Train your staff to recognize intoxicated guests and avoid over-serving them.

5. Optimize seating

Every seat at your bar is precious because it’s an opportunity to generate revenue. Instead of randomly assigning guests to tables, use AI-powered table management software to seat every party at the right table. A seating algorithm can review thousands of combinations per second to assign guests to tables that will generate the most revenue and promote turnover.

6. Organize events

As a bar manager, you’re responsible for getting the word out about the bar. Events can put the business on the map and generate revenue.

Create ticketed events, such as dance parties with DJs, live music nights or football watch parties to achieve both goals. Ticketing software can help you manage tickets with ease.

7. Share tips equitably

Making sure your team is happy and getting along is critical to great bar management. One of the best ways to keep everyone working well together is to create a fair tip sharing policy.

There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to tip sharing, but here are a few ways you can structure your policy:

Every person for themselves
Share tips evenly among staff
Give a higher percentage of tips to customer-facing staff

8. Implement tiered inventory

Give your regulars and VIPs exclusive access to the best seats in the house. With tiered inventory, you can reserve special packages, tables or sections only for your most notable guests. Online bookings make tiered inventory easy to manage and convenient for guests.

9. Leverage a guestlist

Whether your bar operates like a nightclub all of the time or just sometimes, a guestlist can help you manage who comes into your venue and create an air of exclusivity that generates buzz. Leverage guestlist tools to streamline operations and give credit where it’s due.

10. Embrace checklists

Staff forgetting things? Implement checklists for cleaning and opening and closing shifts to ensure consistency from your team.

11. Incorporate promoters into your bar management strategy

Promoters can help you spread the word about events at your bar. Work with experienced promoters and make sure you have an easy way to track their success.

Promoter tracking and reporting tools can help you know how guests found you, so you can continue working with your most successful promoters, and say goodbye to the ones who aren’t pulling their weight.

12. Get to know your regulars

The better you know your customers, the easier you can provide personalized service that keeps them coming back. Leverage a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that has guest profiles so you can keep track of customer preferences, spending habits, visit history and more.

13. Enforce minimums

On your busiest nights, you need to make sure you don’t give a six-top table to a party that’s only going to order one round of drinks and linger for an hour. Introduce and enforce spend minimums to maximize revenue.

When you integrate your POS system with SevenRooms, you can track table spend in real time. You can also collect prepayment for your busiest times, such as New Year’s Eve or Superbowl Sunday.

14. Implement reservations

Reservations aren’t only for restaurants. They can streamline bar management, ensure you’re maximizing every cover and help you know who to expect. 

Make reservations available to guests and make it easy for them to book tables online. Leverage a tool that comes with automated reservation reminders to reduce no-shows, without taking up your staff’s time.

15. Embrace self-service ordering

During the hospitality industry’s unprecedented labor shortage, you need to do the most you have with what you’ve got. Implement self-service ordering to accept more on-premises orders without adding more staff.

With mobile order and pay technology, guests can scan a QR from anywhere in your bar, place an order and pay for it.

16. Introduce online ordering

As bar manager, you need to come up with new revenue streams to increase sales. If your bar serves food, why not introduce delivery and pickup

When customers can place orders online and enjoy your food at home, you can make more money without expanding your bar’s capacity.

17. Switch up your menu items regularly

With a menu of house cocktails, draughts and wines that change often, you’ll be able to keep guests coming back for new experiences.

Consider changing your menu with the seasons and take inspiration from the change in weather and availability. For example, you could serve ciders as specials in the fall, rosé in the summer and hot, spiced cocktails in the winter.

18. Find out what customers want

Measuring guest satisfaction is an important part of bar management. However, sometimes in-person satisfaction checks aren’t helpful because guests may avoid bringing up something they’re unhappy with.

Find out what customers really think by monitoring online reviews and sending post-visit feedback surveys. With the right tools, you can automate these critical tasks and focus your attention on implementing feedback.

19. Watch out for employee theft

Employees giving out free drinks and overpouring is par for the course for bars. If you’re running out of bar inventory faster than your inventory management system says you will, you could be a victim of employee theft.

Keep a close eye on staff, install cameras and enroll in a secret diner program to keep employees in check.

Wrapping up: Bar management tips

When you’re one of 70,000 bar managers in a competitive job market, it can be difficult to stand out. By keeping your guests first, finding innovative ways to drive revenue and embracing technology like SevenRooms, you can turn first-time customers into regulars, stay in business and streamline operations.

Book a demo of SevenRooms today.

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