While bartenders are the ones who interact directly with customers and make drinks, barbacks are essential for keeping everything running smoothly. From stocking supplies to cleaning glasses to preparing garnishes, it's a barback's job to make sure each service area has what it needs so that bartenders can focus on making amazing mixed drinks and cocktails. As such, a bar back job plays a vital role in ensuring that customers have an enjoyable experience at the bar.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about barback's duties– from what they do, how much they make, and the barback job description associated with this role – whether you're preparing to open a new bar or simply wanting to improve operations at your current bar.
What is a Barback?
An efficient barback is crucial to every bartender in order to help them maintain an organized and functioning great bar environment. Although they may not be as visible as some other positions in a bar setting, bar backs are crucial for a bar's success.
Not only do they make an excellent bartending experience for customers, but they also provide positive customer service. Without them, bartenders would have a significantly harder time serving customers efficiently and keeping the bar fully stocked.
In high-volume bars, it's not uncommon to have multiple barbacks working alongside the bartending team. Bartenders are responsible for making drinks and providing customer service while barbacks help to restock supplies, clean glassware, and perform other duties related to beverage preparation. Since the hospitality industry is a fast-paced environment, a bar manager and all staff members in the bar have to depend on each other heavily to keep things moving efficiently. This includes opening and closing duties.
What does a Barback do on a day-to-day basis?
A barback's responsibilities are to support bartenders before, during, and after service. The following is an overview of common barback duties, tasks, and responsibilities undertaken at various times throughout the day.
A barback job is to prepare the bar area for service. They typically arrive before their shift begins and help the bartender set up.
Barback duties and responsibilities before service:
- Always keep the bar stocked with liquor bottles
- Ensuring that the ice bins are topped off and ready to be used
- Collect empty glasses
- Organizing containers
- Preparing garnishes
- Preparing beverage mixes
- Replace the beer kegs
- Setting out clean glasses for customers
- Stocking supplies such as napkins, straws, and limes in each station
- Setting up beer kegs
- Keep a clean bar cloth at each bartender's station
Although they may not be as visible as the bartenders or servers, barbacks are essential to a well-running restaurant or bar.
Barback duties and responsibilities during service:
- Clean tables and remove finished drinks and plates from guests
- Clean drinking glasses and dirty dishes
- Helps clean up drink spills and broken glass
- Assist bartenders in preparing drinks
- Assist in making drink orders when needed or fulfilling customer food orders
- Serve alcohol responsibly
- Be sure to let security know about any potential dangers, like if there is a line forming outside of the venue or if someone appears to be too intoxicated
- Wipe down all surfaces, especially the bar area
- Assist with inputting orders into the POS system as required
- Keep the area clean by taking out the trash or recycling
- Collect glasses that have been emptied from the bar
Closing duties are very important to ensure that the bar is ready for the next day. After service ends, barbacks usually assist with and/or are responsible for the following tasks:
Barback duties and responsibilities after service
- Clean up any spills or messes that may have been left behind during service
- Run empty glasses and dishes back into the dishwashing area
- Return all supplies back to their designated storage areas
- Replenish ice bins if necessary
- Wipe down all countertops, bar station, and service area
- Before tomorrow night's shift, ensure the bar is prepared by stocking all containers and juicing citrus.
- Store all liquor and beer deliveries that arrived during the day
- Unclog sinks
- Take out the trash or recycling throughout the shift
- Track opening or closing liquor bottles inventory
Common Questions about being a Barback
Can Barbacks Make Drinks?
Unlike a bartender's job, barbacks typically don't mix drinks. However, if they are of legal drinking or serving age and meet the requirements to bartend where they live, then they can usually pour a draft beer or open a bottle. To do so legally though, there are usually some local regulations in place that bar backs must follow.
How many hours does a typical barback work per shift?
The average barback works for 4-8 hours each shift, though this varies depending on the specific establishment. In addition, they often work a few days during the week as well as nights and weekends. For some bars, special shifts or events may require their barbacks to come in early or stay late.
In addition, barbacks should be prepared for their hours to vary, as they may often need to work late at night or early in the morning. Often, barbacks are also required to do multiple long shifts during busier times such as weekends and holidays.
Before committing to the job, it is important for prospective barbacks to take their own physical fitness level into account. This type of work requires both mental and physical stamina in order to be successful. Handling long hours is a key part of being a successful barback.
What is the average pay for a bar back?
The barback paid minimum wage is around $7.50 - $10 per hour, depending on the state and city, with more experienced barbacks earning up to $15 an hour. The average salary for a full-time barback working 40 hours per week can range from $20,000 to $30,000 annually. Barbacks paid by the commission may make more, depending on the number of drinks they serve and the tips they receive. Additionally, barbacks are often eligible for benefits such as health insurance and paid time off.
How much do barbacks typically receive in tips?
In many cases, multiple bars share a tip jar that the barbacks will collect from at the end of their shift. Most of these tips are shared among all the staff, including bartenders and other front-of-house staff. A barback tip can vary greatly depending on the number of customers and how busy the night is. In addition to the regular barback salary, barback makes an extra $50 - $100 in tips at the end of their shift which is common for a barback's job.
In addition, some establishments may offer bar backs other incentives, or bonuses for working long hours or during busy periods. It is important to ask about these when considering taking on the job of a barback. This can also influence how much money they can make each month.
What do you expect as a barback?
One of the chief advantages of working as a barback is that you'll obtain first-hand experience in the hospitality industry. This can be priceless when seeking employment in this field down the road. Additionally, barbacks have the potential to gain specialized knowledge about mixing drinks, drinks menu items, and bar service operations. This experience can help you get hired for a bartender role in the future.
If you can't decide whether or not a bar back job is right for you, here are some things to consider:
It's (Very) physically demanding: You'll need to be physically fit for this job. A typical night shift will include tasks such as lifting beer kegs, carrying crates of alcohol, and lugging buckets of ice to different bars - you won't have a moment to rest from the time you start your shift until the minute you leave. If being active is important to you, then this is the perfect job for gaining those Fitbit steps.
It's Not Always Appreciated: A bar back job requires you to have some extra patience as most of your co-workers will be asking for items from you throughout your shift. And, unfortunately, not all of them will remember their manners when they ask (especially in the beginning). Being a bar back is hardly ever recognized, with bartenders, bar managers, other employees, and guests seldom expressing gratitude.
What to Expect Schedule-wise: The busiest times at the bar are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so you would only work those days. If you're also attending school or working another job during the day, this might be beneficial for schedule purposes.
What experience is required to be a barback?
Although some experience might be helpful, it isn't necessary to have years of experience under your belt to become a good bar back. All you need is the willingness to work hard in a fast-paced environment and fit in with the workplace culture.
How to Become a Barback
Many aspiring bartenders take on the role of barback to learn more about mixology and build up their experience. Most bartenders will start out in this role before eventually being promoted (usually after 6-18 months), depending on how quickly they progress and pick up new skills.
The requirements to apply for a barback position are as follows: having completed a high school diploma and being of the minimum age required by law to serve alcohol. Start your job search by applying at your favorite local bar or restaurant. As part of the interview process, some places may require that you do an unpaid trial shift. Afterward, training lasts 1-2 weeks until you officially become a full-time barback.
Essential skills and qualities for a barback
There are several key skills and qualities that a barback position needs. We've outlined both hard and soft skills needed to be a great barback:
Barback Job Description: Hard Skills
- Must be able to stand for long periods of time and lift heavy objects
- They will be constantly moving and stocking heavy items.
- Familiarity with bartending and bar service
- They'll regularly get stopped behind the bar to help a customer, whether it's taking an order or answering a question.
- The basic knowledge of mixology
- Any good barback will have a firm understanding of the different drinks being made and how they are prepared. This knowledge allows them to better prioritize tasks and take initiative when necessary.
- Being familiar with knife safety and having general knife skills
Barback Job Description: Soft Skills
Good communication skills. Professionalism and excellent customer service skills are key to performing barbacks duties when interacting with both guests and other staff members. They should be able to understand and resolve any issues that may arise.
Ability to work independently or as part of a team: Because barbacks typically work independently and potentially in high-pressure situations, it's important that they're able to take initiative and work quickly.
Able to take charge when needed: There are times when a bar manager and bartender become too wrapped up in their own duties to communicate what they need help with, a good barback should be able to take the lead and be proactive in order to ensure that items are moved or tasks completed.
Organizational skills: A major part of a bar back duties is making sure the stockroom, coolers, and liquor shelves are organized and up-to-date for the evening shift. They should be attentive to expiration dates and stock levels, to ensure the bar never runs out of drinks.
Flexibility: Barbacks should be prepared to work odd hours and on holidays. Availability is key in this role, as they are often the first ones in and last ones out of the bar each night. They need to be flexible with their schedule and able to adjust quickly when needed.
Comfortable taking orders: A bartender cannot do their job properly if they don't have a good barback. If a bartender requests menu items, they should be considered a top priority and fulfilled without hesitation.
Service skills: Barbacks need to be familiar with the drinks being served, so as to assist in any way necessary. They might have to help a bartender when they are overwhelmed or take an order if there is a long line. They also need to stay focused while working in loud and high-traffic environments, so as to provide the best service possible.
Ability to prioritize: A barback is responsible for keeping the bar stocked and organized, but sometimes they will get pulled away to take orders or answer questions. When this happens, it's important that they are able to do so without harming the quality of service your establishment provides.
How to Find the Ideal barback
Before you hire a barback, the most important quality to look for is whether they want to be promoted to a bartender position. This not only will make them work harder but also your best bartenders usually come from within the ranks. Additionally, check your state’s policies as they pertaining hiring this type of position as these laws differ by state.
For example, in some states, the minimum age for serving alcohol is 18 years old, but this individual must be under the direct supervision of someone 21 years or older who is present at the location where alcohol will be consumed. The person you hire should have a high school diploma or GED, and it would be beneficial if they could provide references.
Finally, they should have knowledge of the bar setup, understand liquor laws and regulations, and have a valid driver's license in case alcohol must be transported to offsite locations. They should also possess basic math skills and an understanding of customer service principles.
Barback Job Description Template
Barback responsibilities may range from stocking supplies to cleaning up the bartending area, to running menu items. The ideal candidate for a barback position should be able to highlight the necessary skills and qualifications needed to excel in this role on their resume.
To help you create a posting that attracts great candidates, we've provided a great barback job description template.
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Barback Interview Questions
When hiring bar staff, you probably have a set of questions to gauge their personality and if they're fit for the job. But here are a few industry-specific questions to test your barback's commitment to the profession.
- What are your goals for the next year? The next five years?
- What are some of the things you enjoy about working in bars?
- What are some of the reasons you want to become a barback?
What are some ways you can ensure that the bar runs smoothly during a busy shift?
- Would you be willing to obtain an alcohol server certification?
Barback training tips
Barback responsibilities can be quite complex and managing the bar area is no easy feat. So here are a few tips to help you train your current or new barback and ensure they can handle all that comes with the job.
As a bar manager, you are responsible for ensuring your staff knows your expectations and understands the basics of their role. Pair them up with an experienced bartender: This ensures that your barback has someone to go to if they have questions or need help.
Areas that barbacks need to be trained in are:
- Alcoholic drink recipes, menu items, and measurements
- Bar's service maintenance
- Customer service
- Liquor laws and regulations
- Safety and sanitation
- Using the POS system
It is important to have a structured training plan in place that covers all these topics and more so barbacks can learn quickly and be ready to work. It’s also important to create an environment where they feel comfortable asking questions, giving feedback, and expressing any concerns they may have.