flickr photo by Ruth and Dave shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Managing People is one of the hardest parts of running a Bar or Restaurant – getting your staff to show up for work is very different from getting them to actually care about where they work. But the guest can always tell the difference between a bartender who’s “just showing up” and someone who really cares.

Here are a couple ways to show your staff that you care about them as people – so they’ll be more engaged and supportive, and share that experience with your guests.

1. Offer a Friendly Competition

In my experience, one of the best ways to get staff interested in “going above and beyond” is to make it a game or competition. Here are a couple “games” we’ve used in my restaurants or that I’ve seen other bars use successfully:

  • Cocktail Bingo
    In this game, Bingo cards are filled out with all of the cocktails on the menu. When someone sells a particular drink, they cross it off. From there, normal Bingo rules apply. Here’s a site where you can print your own Bingo cards.
  • Cocktail Tic-Tac-Toe
    Similar to above, but using a Tic-Tac-Toe board and rules. This is best for bars with two bartenders on shift at the same time.

These games are also a great way for your staff to practice suggestive selling and for you to increase your check averages. For prizes, you can offer perks to the people with the most wins – immunity from working an upcoming holiday or a desirable shift.

2. Provide Industry Education

Across all industries, education is a great way for managers to show their staff that they care about them as people – not just “filled shifts.” There are so many ways that you can make education available to your employees for little to no cost – and education makes your employees better at their jobs as well. It’s a win-win!

  • Brand Education Opportunities
    In the hospitality industry we have the benefit of brands who are constantly looking for opportunities to educate hospitality professionals. This means you can provide your staff with educational opportunities without paying for a seminar or training course. Consider inviting a bar rep to your lineup one day a week for a 15-minute spirit tasting and brief seminar. In my experience they will jump at the opportunity – and your staff will get the chance to improve their palate, learn about the product and hopefully have a little fun before the day starts.
  • Industry Organizations:
    Education Opportunities are absolutely not limited to brands: consider subsidizing your bartenders’ membership to industry organizations like the US Bartenders’ Guild or International Bartender Association. Depending on the size of the local chapter, your reasonable annual fee may give folks access to hundreds of educational events year-round.
  • Training Courses and Seminars:
    Last but definitely not least, there are quite a few paid courses and seminars that are absolutely worth the cost. Seminars at industry events like Tales of the Cocktail and the Bar Institute are typically reasonably priced (if they happen to be nearby.) Otherwise there are a few great online programs as well: Check out BarSmarts for novice to intermediate bartenders or our very own Mixology Certification for bartenders who are interested in growing their mixology and cocktail design skills.

3. Support their Career Goals

Does your barback want to be a bartender? Does your bartender want to be a manager? Find out what your staff’s career goals are and try to find ways to help them move in that direction.

  • Let the bartender help you with inventory and potentially take over the task
  • Give the barback a bartending shift alongside a more experienced bartender on a low traffic day
  • Ask the bartender to cost out a cocktail on your menu

Showing your team that you care about them as people is the most effective way to get them to care about your restaurant or bar as more than a “job.” It’ll also make them want to stay longer as they can see an opportunity for their career in your bar or restaurant.

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.