Are You Hiring the Wrong People Behind the Bar?

February 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

It seems that one of the top questions I get asked from bar managers and bar owners around the country is: how do you find great staff?

Hiring people is just one of those things that too many of us routinely seem to do without really thinking about it too hard.  I can say this, because this was a mistake I myself have made too often in the past.

On the surface the process seemed to be pretty simple: I would look for someone that had the skill set I was seeking and if they had the availability I needed, and hopefully, a good attitude, then they were hired.

I only interviewed the absolute minimum of applicants that I thought necessary.  I also didn’t concern myself with whether or not they had the right traits for the bar, or more importantly, if I was bringing them into a position where they could thrive.

In essence, I was guilty of treating each position as though it were one size fits all, and in the end I believe that I kept many staff members from reaching their true potential.   Although, I cannot say that I have discovered the keys to hiring the correct applicant every single time, I can say that my success rate has significantly improved over the years.

The most important thing that I did to improve my accuracy with new hires, was to narrow down exactly what I was looking for in my employees.  To expand on that that more precisely, I mean what were the qualities and attributes that I was looking for at the bar?  And what experience was I trying to deliver to my clientele?

A good way to help push this process along is to imagine in your mind the ideal bartender for your bar.  Imagine that they are working their way through the course of a shift, ringing in and making drinks.

Now while that thought is still fresh in your mind, quickly write down five qualities that this ideal bartender embodied.  Was it warmth?  Humor?  Speed?  Or perhaps possibly, none of these.

Not all of these qualities are essential for every venue, so remember to keep in mind that it is all relative to what your bar is trying to deliver to its guests.

For instance speed is a must for any prospective hire in a high-volume nightclub, but not as strong a factor in a fine-dining restaurant.  While attention to detail is paramount in a craft cocktail lounge, it can be an afterthought in a local college bar.

When you better frame it from that perspective, you will find that it is much easier to truly pinpoint who the ideal candidate for your bar is.

For instance at Polite Provisions, we base our staff hiring criteria on the following:

Work Ethic: Does this applicant like to work?  Do they take pride in their craft?  Are they the type of person that is self-motivated and enjoys performing a job well?

Awareness: Do they seem alert and engaged in conversation?  Do they chime in appropriately when chatting and seem to have a solid understanding of their surroundings?

Hospitality: Does the potential hire convey warmth when speaking?  Do they seem to radiate a genuine sense of concern or compassion for those around them?

Attention to Detail: Did they show up on time for the interview?  Did they come prepared with a resume and pen?  Did they interact with a level of certitude that left you confident in their abilities?

Curiosity: Do they seem eager to learn new things?  Do they seem excited at the prospect of learning new drinks and techniques behind the bar?  Does the thought of an immersive culture excite and engage them?

Even though, this may seem like a very particular trait set for one person to possess, these characteristics are the bare minimum that an individual would have to possess in order to excel ­at the bar.  Without these traits we would be putting them in the position to fail.

Keep in mind that although these traits are the right ones for us, these are by no means universal.  You have to find the right attributes for your bar, and once you do, you have to stick to them.

Your ideal traits will provide the foundation and heart of what your bar becomes, so the sooner that you recognize them and track them down, the sooner your staff and your bar will achieve their true potential.

This is the first of a series of posts that are designed to help you find and hire the right people for your restaurants and bars.

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§ 2 Responses to Are You Hiring the Wrong People Behind the Bar?

  • cervantes says:

    As a bartender who loves to learn better and more efficient ways of delivering service along with quality to guests, I have often wondered what I can do to make myself more hirable. This is especially true for the quality places I wanted to work for. I think of it kind of the same as dating a girl only because she’s the only one that would go on a date with you, you need to be able to go after what you as a job seeker want from a job.

    After months of being unemployed, and with little “quality craft” bars in the area to have employment prospects at. I find this article a god sent.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Good post here, it shows how much can be considered in a bartenders role. Good social personality? Skill? Speed? We all have our own unique traits when serving our customer’s and I think it is essential to mix it up with the standard bartending practice.

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