As a bar manager, it’s your job make sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly.

You work hard to motivate your staff, keep your customers happy, maintain positive distributor relationships, stay on top of your bar’s sales and inventory data, maintain a clean establishment, bring in business, and reinforce the big picture of your bar.

This is such a diverse role, so we’ve put together a list of 15 good habits we recommend you pick up in order to be a successful bar manager.

1. Hold frequent trainings     

Holding recurring employee training sessions will give your staff members the opportunity to practice current skills and learn new ones. For example, use this time to regularly test your bartenders’ free pouring accuracy to ensure they’re not overpouring and driving up your costs. Trainings are also a good time to expand your staff members’ customer service skills and product knowledge.

2. Create the staff schedule in a timely manner

Stay on top of scheduling to keep your staff informed and your bar fully operational. The earlier you post the schedule, the easier it is for your staff members to maintain it. By posting the schedule four or more days before the upcoming work week, it’ll give you a cushion of time to resolve any scheduling conflicts that may arise.  

3. Know your regulars

Unless you work at an airport bar, regulars make up a substantial percentage of your overall revenue. To keep them coming back, it’s important to make them feel appreciated. Be sure to learn their names and what they usually like to drink, and occasionally offer them discounts or give them free drinks to show you appreciate their business.

4. Lead by example

As a bar manager, you shouldn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. If you’re going to properly train and earn the respect of your staff, you need to know how to make all the drinks on your menu, work efficiently during busy hours, and deal with rowdy customers, firsthand. If there’s any part of your bar that you find yourself unfamiliar with, schedule your shifts in that area so you can learn through experience. Remember, as a manager, you should be able to perform and train your staff on any task at your bar.

5. Take regular bar inventory

Taking regular liquor inventory is essential for running a profitable bar. It helps you identify theft, weed out poorly priced menu options, assess pouring accuracy, avoid 86’ing products, and understand inventory dollar usage information. Without efficient bar inventory, there’s no way to measure your bar’s success, making it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to manage.


6. Listen to staff members’ opinions

Encourage your employees to voice their opinions and concerns. If your staff members know their thoughts count, they’ll feel a sense of ownership in their work, making them less likely to leave your establishment or participate in fraudulent behavior. Your employees are also an excellent resource for new ideas. Pick their brains for new cocktail menu items, creative promotions, or what your next craft beer selection should be.  

7. Routinely change your offerings

The question shouldn’t be if you’re going to change your drink menu, but when. In the competitive bar and restaurant industry, it’s important to frequently switch your offerings to keep things fresh. Capture new prospective customers and keep them coming back for more by following seasonal trends, using popular ingredients, and continuously modifying your cocktail list.

8. Brainstorm creative ways to bring in business

In order to bring in customers during your slower times, you should constantly be thinking of new promotions and entertainment ideas.

Have slow Monday nights? Offer a wine special! Don’t have much business on Tuesdays? Host a game night! It’s smart to always be brainstorming new ways to increase your foot traffic. Don’t forget, your employees might have some good ideas, too!

9. Keep up with industry news  

Although keeping up with bar industry news might just seem like another task to add to your to-do list, it’s important to know what’s going on in the industry. Staying informed will help you make better decisions and spot trends early on, giving you an edge on your competition. As a bar manager, you’re also expected to be an expert in your field. When your bar staff looks to you for expertise, it’s important you know the facts so you can earn their trust and respect.

10. Advance your education

Just because you’re a manager, doesn’t mean your training has come to an end. In addition to keeping on top of beverage industry trends, you should constantly be learning about the best bartending and bar management practices.

Visit other bars to see how they function, attend bar management seminars, stay up to date with new bar and restaurant technology, watch bar training videos, and read tactical articles to offer better training to your staff members and run a more successful establishment.

11. Have systems in place

Your backbar should be both visually pleasing and highly functional. After you do your initial organizing, be sure to keep your products in their designated places. No only will this make it easier for bartenders to locate products when they’re pouring drinks, it makes it easier for you to count product when taking weekly or monthly bar inventory.

12. Make time for customers

As a bar manager, it’s easy to get caught up in overseeing your staff. Although leading your team is an essential aspect of your job, you should also take time to interact with your customers. Ask patrons how they’re doing and what they think of your establishment, greet regulars when they walk through the door, and be available to smooth out details, explain drink histories, and answer any of your customers’ questions.

13. Cut off customers when necessary

In order to protect the safety of your customers, your staff, and the general public, everyone in your establishment should be dedicated to serving alcohol responsibly. To do this, you should provide alcohol-awareness training to staff so they can confidently refuse to serve an overly intoxicated customer. In most circumstances, your bartenders and servers are in a better position to determine a customer’s sobriety. To make it easier for them to exercise their judgement, you should always support their decision if they decide to cut off a customer.

14. Be vigilant

Although you might not like to think about it, your bartenders can drive up your costs by over-pouring, giving away free drinks, and stealing product. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, 75% of inventory shortages are due to employee theft. Although you don’t want to be overly paranoid, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for fraudulent behavior. To protect your bar from theft, consider installing security cameras, reconciling cash drawers, routinely checking bartenders’ tabs, and using some of these other methods.

15. Double-check your orders

In order to keep a fully stocked bar, you’re constantly placing orders and receiving deliveries. In order to keep your beverage costs down, make sure your invoices reflect your orders. When you receive a delivery, comb through the invoice while the delivery person is still present to make sure you got exactly what you ordered. This way, you won’t pay for product you didn’t receive and you also won’t pay for extra product that you didn’t order.

Bar managers have a lot to stay on top of. Developing good habits will help you to effectively manage your staff members, keep your costs down, delight your customers, and run a successful establishment.

To stay up to date with industry news and best bar management practices, subscribe to our blog, below! If you have further questions about how to improve your beverage program, schedule a free bar consultation with one of our product specialists.

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