What is a barback?
A barback is someone who provides support to bartenders or a team of bartenders. Barbacks normally work behind the scenes to keep the bar running smoothly. A barback’s role is comparable to a restaurant busser. The main difference is that the busser helps waiters and waitresses in a restaurant and the barback’s duties are mainly performed behind the bar. Although the bulk of a barback’s job is done behind the bar, you’ll also find them cleaning up food and spilled drinks on the floor (where necessary).
Even though, for the most part, barbacks do their job in the background, this role is vital in a bar. If the barbacks aren’t up to par, it will be difficult to keep a fully-stocked bar of items, like drinks and glassware. Barbacks take care of restocking bar items so that bartenders can get on with serving customers instead of leaving the bar to replenish stock.
In this article, you will learn:
- What are the barback’s responsibilities?
- What characteristics should the barback possess?
- How to hire a barback
- How to train a barback
- How to schedule a barback
Barbacks have a wide range of responsibilities. They are tasked with getting the bar ready before opening time. This can include dealing with deliveries, prepping juices and cutting garnishes. A barback’s role during the shift consists of changing kegs and cleaning the bar top. Bar managers also depend on barbacks when it’s closing time. Cleaning glassware and taking out the trash are some of the tasks that barbacks carry out when it’s time for the bar to close. The above is only a small fraction of the jobs that barbacks are employed to do. The following are some additional tasks that barbacks are responsible for:
- Restoring liquor bottles.
- Tracking liquor inventory.
- Cleaning glasses and plates.
- Collecting empty glasses.
- Cleaning spills.
- Sweeping up broken glassware.
- Communicating security information – for example, someone drinking from an outside bottle.
- Maintaining clean rags in each bar station.
The job of a barback is hectic and physically demanding. It can also feel unrewarding because coworkers will be making constant requests for them to fetch items. Because of this, not everyone is cut out to be a barback. Most people are motivated to take a job as a barback because it provides valuable training to become a bartender. Many bartenders have learned the basics of the job and the ins and outs of how a bar operates by being a barback.
The barback helps to keep your bar running smoothly. It’s important to know how to recruit the best people for the job, provide training so they continue to work in your bar, and schedule their shifts fairly.
It takes dedication and drive to be a good barback. Here are some characteristics that a barback should possess to be successful at their job:
Speed – A barback must be able to react quickly. When a bartender makes a request, the barback needs to jump into action without delay.
Initiative – Simply waiting around for instructions will frustrate bartenders. A barback should be proactive and take on tasks, like replenishing supplies, without being asked.
Multitasker – A bar operating at peak time is a very busy environment. An efficient barback will undertake as many tasks as possible simultaneously to save time.
Can-do attitude – It’s likely that barbacks will be given additional duties from time to time. This could include cleaning the washrooms. They must be ready to pitch in to lend a helping hand where necessary.
Friendly – Even if a barback’s main duties take place behind the scenes, they will occasionally work in front of the bar counter. They will need to have a friendly demeanour to interact with customers. They will also need to keep their eyes open for any issues in order to inform security.
As most bars operate in the evening until the early morning last call, barback jobs are likely to include working irregular hours. Consequently, this job will suit people who either have other commitments during the day or want to pursue a bartending career. Either way, hiring a barback needs to be a priority to take the pressure off your bartenders.
Below are some sections to include in your job description to help you identify and hire the most suitable barback for your bar:
Position Summary – This is a short statement of what you expect from the candidate. Since barbacks have such a varied role, this summary will give applicants an idea of what you’re looking for.
Skills and qualifications – Use this section to specify the minimum qualifications the applicants need to work at your bar. Most budding barbacks need at least a GED to be considered. In terms of experience, a work history in the hospitality industry would give the candidate an advantage. However, if you have a training program in place, past experience may not be a big issue. Here are some common skills that are required to be a barback:
- Coordination abilities between storerooms and the bar.
- Bar set-up skills (by placing items in the appropriate place).
- Ability to move taps and maintain beer kegs.
- Proficiency in communicating with kitchen and bar staff to assist in taking food and drink to tables.
Roles and responsibilities – Detail the most common tasks your barback will be required to undertake. The following are typical barback responsibilities:
- Change kegs and ensure necessities, like garnishes, are always available.
- Assist the bartenders in keeping stock replenished.
- Ensure that clean glassware is always accessible.
- Keep coolers stocked with beers.
- Welcome customers and help them to choose drinks if necessary.
After you’ve completed your job description to hire your barback, you’ll need to post it to appropriate job boards. You can choose to list your vacancy on generic job boards, like Monster and Indeed. Alternatively, you may want to use a niche job board that caters to the hospitality industry for maximum exposure to the right candidates. The following are just three of the many specialist hospitality job boards where you could place your barback job advertisement:
Hopefully, your job description was successful and you now have some suitable candidates for interview. Here are some sample interview questions to help you decide whether the applicant will be a good fit for your bar:
- What has motivated you to apply for this job?
- What do you think are the most important skills you need to do this job?
- How do you deal with angry customers?
- What are your professional goals for the next year?
After you’ve made a successful barback hire, it’s now time to provide them with training. Firstly, you should provide your barback with an employee manual that describes your bar’s:
- Dress code
- Level of service
- Acceptable behavior
Barbacks should sign a document to acknowledge and agree to abide by the information contained in the employee manual. The following items are some standard provisions in an employee manual:
- Welcome letter
- Performance and job standards
- Code of ethics
- Drug and alcohol policies
- Food safety procedures
- Safety issues
- Performance evaluations
Teaching your new recruit the ropes is important even if they’re an experienced barback. This is your opportunity to teach the barback about the specifics about how your bar operates as well as introducing them to how the team of bartenders works. There are some barback training basics like:
- Bar preparation
- Bussing glassware
- Making garnishes
- Communicating with customers
However, the format of the training depends on your business. If your intention is to promote your barback to a bartender, providing an apprenticeship program is a good idea.
A comprehensive training package for barbacks takes about six months to implement because of the volume of information that needs to be disseminated. Keep the following in mind when creating your barback’s training program:
Provide a list of the items that need to be stocked at all times. Your barback needs to be aware of how important their role is and that low stock on one item could keep customers waiting for an unnecessary period. So, your barback will need to keep an eye on things like ice, coasters, condiments, fruit etc. to make sure that nothing runs low.
As well as training your new barback on how to keep items fully stocked, you should also train them about what needs to be cleared on a consistent basis. They will need to keep the bar area clutter-free by disposing of garbage, empty bottles, and dirty napkins. The bar should be clean and presentable for both customers and bartenders.
A barback needs to be physically capable of lifting heavy items. It’s your job to provide the adequate health and safety training in order for them to carry out these tasks in the safest way. You want to prevent a barback suffering injury while working for you because they have lifted heavy objects without proper guidance.
Familiarize your new barback with the drinks menu. The list of cocktails can seem endless, especially if you run a large bar. Learning the drinks menu is normally reserved for bartenders, but it could be beneficial for your barback to memorize the drinks menu so that they will be of better assistance behind the bar. With knowledge of the drinks menu, your barback can proactively help your bartenders with the ingredients when a customer orders a drink. Bonus points if your bartender keeps up with trendy cocktails and restaurant trends.
Introduce your barback to all your staff. As barbacks will be working very closely with bartenders, you could overlook making proper introductions to the rest of your staff. However, barbacks should develop relationships with waiters, waitresses, chefs and all other staff in your bar. Encouraging your barback to build relationships with all your employees is a good idea because the remit of their role is so extensive that it’s inevitable that they will need support from staff in different sections at some point in time.
Encourage your new barback to ask questions. Working on their own initiative is an important trait, but it’s unreasonable to expect barbacks to figure out everything. Asking for clarification can be intimidating, especially during busy times when bartenders may not have an abundance of patience.
Provide a mentor for your new barback
While your barback is still learning, you could assign them a mentor. They will be able to refer to this experienced bartender when they need guidance. If the role of a mentor will be too much of a strain for one person, share the responsibility among the bartending team. Implement a mentor rotating program where each bartender is responsible for helping the new barback for one week at a time. Not only will this take the pressure off bartenders, but it will also give your barback the opportunity to learn how different bartenders work.
Additional benefits of a mentoring program include:
- Barbacks can get an immediate answer to their questions without needing to wait for a bar manager.
- It helps bartenders to keep up with the latest updates since they have to make sure they’re passing on the right information to the barback.
- Bar managers can concentrate on everything else that is happening in the bar.
Furnishing your barback with an employee manual, providing on-the-job training and allocating a mentor provides a firm training structure. A formal training program for your barback will help them to feel like they’re part of the team. Feeling of value is of importance in relation to the barback role because they are usually behind the scenes doing work that’s not regarded as ‘glamorous,’ so discouragement could easily set in.
The job of a barback can be very stressful. As a bar manager or owner, one way you can lessen the stress is by providing accurate work schedules for your barback. There may be some uncertainty about the number of customers who will attend your bar on any given day, but this precariousness should not extend to your barback’s schedule. Employee scheduling software designed with bars in mind will help you to create and communicate accurate schedules to your whole team.
Include the following when shift planning for your barback to ensure that they’re able to keep your bar running smoothly:
Clear communication – To reduce uncertainty in relation to scheduling your barback employees, create a process detailing how schedules will be managed. This document should include information, like the frequency of schedules, time-off notice periods and shift-swapping. This document should be stored in a central portal where all staff (including your barback) has access. In order to ensure that everyone is aware of your scheduling policy, include a stipulation that this document must be agreed and signed.
Task assignment – Even though barbacks perform a range of tasks, there will be some standard duties that they need to perform on a consistent basis. You can assign barback tasks to particular shifts. For instance, you could include a checklist of the jobs that need to be done before opening. This feature will be especially useful to new barbacks who are still learning the ropes.
Give advance notice – Plan your schedule in advance so that your barback knows when they’re required to work in advance. Unlike paper or manual scheduling, an electronic schedule system can automatically make suggestions and approve shifts.
Swap shifts – There will be times that your barbacks are unable to work. In these instances, your workforce management software should make it easy to enable shift- swapping. Your barback can offer their shift and another barback with the same level of skills and on the pay scale can automatically accept the shift. Alternatively, a bar manager can find someone to work the shift.
Easy access – Your barback shouldn’t have to worry about how they will access their work schedule. Using cloud-based work scheduling software like Deputy means that your bar staff can access their schedule anytime, anywhere and on any device. Your barback will be able to view real-time updates to shifts and send messages via the portal to inform the bar manager of any issues in relation to completing his or her shift.
A barback is a bar’s secret (and mostly invisible) weapon. They do all the hard and necessary work to keep the bar running. The tips above on hiring, training, and scheduling a barback should give you the edge in not only finding the best assistants for your bar, but also retaining them as a valued member of your bar team.
Deputy helps improve the lives of employers and employees, using technology to transform operations and help businesses thrive. To learn more about Deputy and how it can benefit your bar or restaurant, book a free consultation with our friendly team.