Are you looking for a job in the hospitality industry? Do you have experience as a bartender? If so, you may be interested in becoming a bartender for hire.
A bartender for hire is someone who works at private parties, events, and other functions. Although it shares the same basic responsibilities as normal bartending – making drinks and socializing with patrons – the pay rate, expectations, and other factors are often quite different.
In this blog post, we will discuss 7 tips to help you thrive in this niche!
1. Become a Jack of All Trades
Bartenders with consistent hours at an established restaurant can afford to develop a unique skill set or specialty. But bartenders for hire, especially those just starting, don’t have that luxury. The quickest way to make a name for yourself in the for-hire scene is to become a jack of all trades.
Craft beer aficionados, sommeliers, and self-trained mixologists might have the upper hand in one category, but their bartending limitations also restrict their employment opportunities. They can’t run a full bar by themselves, which is the main qualification that most events demand.
Learning your way around beer, wine, and mixed drinks will open up more job possibilities in terms of pay and frequency. People looking to hire a bartender for an event want someone with a wide range of cocktail-making abilities that will enhance the occasion, not hinder it because of a limited skill set.
2. Acquire the Necessary Certifications
The only thing more important than skill is safety. You need to demonstrate your safe bartending habits to employers by getting two essential certifications:
- ServSafe Alcohol: This certification from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) requires you to read training manuals, attend a class and pass an exam on safe bartending.
- Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS): TIPS is a global leader in the restaurant industry that educates workers on the sale and consumption of alcohol. It also has a training guide, class, and exam.
Depending on your state, your local liquor control board might also offer courses that instruct bartenders on how to identify fake IDs, signs of intoxication, and other hazards. Since bartenders for hire often work alone, they sometimes have to act as the bouncers and servers in addition to their responsibilities behind the bar.
3. Follow the Money
According to research from PayScale, bartenders in New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco make 30%, 44%, and 48% above the national average, respectively. Bartenders in Chicago make 10% below the national average. The local economy’s stability will also impact your hourly rate.
To maximize your income, you need to follow the money. Expect to travel a lot to get those high-paying jobs in the big cities. You might even have to permanently move to a city to be surrounded by a greater number and variety of job prospects.
After location, two other factors can influence your pay rate: the season and occasion. Events during the holidays usually have more generous pay rates, so you should try to book more jobs during that time of year. The more grandiose the occasion, the more money you can expect to rake in – especially through tips.
In any case, you need to be a confident negotiator. Even if you’re satisfied with the initial offer, it doesn’t hurt to see if you can add a down payment or a few more dollars to the hourly rate.
4. Bring Your Own Bar Tools
Some events will have a full bar, with a wide range of drinks and all the necessary mixology tools. Other events will ask you to bring certain items. Bartenders work best in familiar environments, so it’s a good idea to bring your bar tools regardless of the venue's accommodations.
Transporting and unpacking delicate items like bottles, glasses, and mixology tools can be a hassle. A commercial van with plenty of storage space is your best bet, and upfitting that van to accommodate your equipment can show a high level of professionalism.
5. Get Comfortable Working With Strangers
Although most employment opportunities are solo jobs, the biggest events might require multiple bartenders. That means you’ll have to work with strangers behind a busy bar, which is no easy task.
A major component of bartending with strangers is knowing the profession’s language. You might not know each other personally, but you all know how to shake and serve a Cosmopolitan. Once you’re comfortable with the language, you’ll be comfortable working with strangers.
6. Know When to Say “No”
This tidbit of advice has two applications. First, you must know when to say “no” to patrons. Wedding receptions and awards ceremonies can get rowdy. An inexperienced bartender might feel pressured to keep serving people drinks, despite their better judgment. Experienced bartenders don’t hesitate to cut people off.
Secondly, you must learn to say “no” to undesirable jobs. If the employer, venue, or event doesn’t give you a good impression, you’re not obligated to take the job just because they offered it. Take the jobs that enable you to bartend with comfort and confidence.
7. Always Keep Networking
Every patron you interact with is another employment opportunity. Put on a smile, be courteous and keep the conversation going. People love nothing more than a charismatic bartender.
Most importantly, have the courage to ask people about upcoming events that might need a bartender. You never know who you might meet!
Start Your Bartending Chapter Right
As a bartender for hire, you’ll meet many interesting people and travel to many strange places. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but it’s a lot of fun.
To sum it up, becoming a successful bartender for hire requires some steps. You need to have excellent customer service skills, make drinks quickly and efficiently, and have a strong knowledge of the different types of alcohol. You should also be able to keep a cool head under pressure and handle large crowds.
We hope these tips helped increase your chances of success in this career path. Good luck!