flickr photo by infomatique shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Whether you’re looking to hire a bar manager or become one, it’s important to understand the skills and traits that will set a great manager apart from the crowd and mean a better experience for the guest.

Here are some characteristics to look for – in your job candidates and in yourself!

The Desire to Learn and Grow

No matter how much experience you have, there’s always more to learn. But a manager who is unwilling to learn from new experiences will miss out on opportunities to become better – and risk alienating their team and staff.

If you’re looking to transition into a bar manager role,  this is especially important! There will be a lot to learn in the new role, and an attitude that welcomes new information along with a willingness to train and learn will be appreciated – and help you become a stronger member of the team.

Question for Job candidates:

“Tell me about a time you learned something new on the job, and how it changed your behavior.”

Ability to Coach

Great managers know how to use positive reinforcement and redirection instead of negativity and accusation. They might use the “compliment sandwich” or be skilled at phrasing bad behavior as opportunities for improvement.

This is a very difficult industry to work in, and a manager who can gain and keep the respect of his/her team is key. This is an important step in building the respect of your team.

Question for Job candidates:

“Imagine I am a bartender who has not been finishing my sidework and falling behind on prep. What would you say to me?”

Lead by Example

“Do as I say, not as I do” is not a good management strategy. In fact, it’s a great way to alienate your team. Instead, be willing to do the work – and don’t ask others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself.

Toilet backed up? Dishwasher goes down? Need to send someone to the store for more mint? Your co workers need to know that they can depend on you to have their back on the busiest shifts – even if the task itself isn’t glamorous.

Question for Job candidates:

“Tell me about a time when you stepped out of your role to help the team.”

Willingness to Collaborate

The hardest part of being a manager is dealing with people – but it’s also an opportunity to truly bring together your team and make great things happen for your bar. You’re likely going to be working with many different people with different personality types, goals and aspirations. Take the time to get to know your staff’s individual personal goals, and look for opportunities to help them develop.

Is the busser considering a career as a social media consultant? Maybe she can help with the bar’s Facebook page. Is the bartender looking to open his own bar someday? Consider giving him a glimpse of the financials so he can see how things work on paper.

Investing a bit of your time collaborating with your staff will show them you care about them as people, increase their buy-in, improve the guest experience, and might even let you delegate some of your own work!

<4>Question for Job candidates:

“Can you tell me about one person at your last job who you helped reach some of their personal career goals or aspirations?”

Demonstrate Fairness

At some point, you will need to make a hard decision that benefits one person over another. As a manager, it’s incredibly important that you are seen as unbiased and even-keeled. Distribute the shifts in a way that makes sense and accommodates people’s schedules and preferences. Navigate vacation requests equitably. Distribute the workload in a way that is justifiable. And be able to communicate your decision making process as well.

The quickest way to kill a great culture is to start choosing “sides”. Whether you are setting the schedule, dealing with customer complaints or talking with vendors, if you can help create a “whole team” mindset through demonstrating fairness, it will strengthen your team dynamic and pay off in spades.

Question for Job candidates:

“Tell me about a time you had a challenging scheduling conflict or customer issue. How did you resolve the situation and how did you communicate your decision to the parties involved?”

Managing a bar or restaurant is all about managing people. Great managers set themselves apart by balancing their roles as leaders and servants – creating a solid team that’s moving toward the same goal of great customer service and memorable guest experiences.

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flickr photo by infomatique shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.