Bar work 101

  • Bar work 101

This Wikipage focuses on working behind a bar, whether that's in a nightclub, pub or social club.

Getting a job in a bar

Most large night clubs and pubs want you to have experience in bar work before they'll even consider you for a job. This is sometimes difficult to get if you've never worked in a bar before - it may feel like you're being turned away for having no experience without the opportunity to gain the experience needed. The best place to look for your first bar job is either one of the bigger chain pubs (J.D. Wetherspoon, Yates, Gastropubs) or contrastingly, a small village style pub that doesn't do a lot of trade. The chains have the best ability to train you up to standard of working in a bar, whilst the village pub that has a few regular customers has the time and resources needed to ease you into it. Once you've got your first bar job, you'll probably find it very easy to get another one if you leave. Bar work stays on your CV for a long time as the essentials don't change! 20 years down the line pulling a pint and pouring a vodka and coke will be pretty much the same as it is today. Bar work is popular amongst students as it's easy to pick up, hours that fit in around university or college easily, and a good way of combining work with pleasure.


What is bar work all about?

Whether you work in a busy nightclub in a student hotspot or a sleepy village pub, the main job behind a bar always remains the same. People will give you drinks orders and you go and make them - simple. Depending on where you work, you may be asked to do some waitressing or other duties as well. You'll also occasionally be asked to collect glasses from the floor and wash them in the glass washer. This changes from pub to pub though.

You're there not only to serve, but also to entertain and be a sounding board for your customers. It sounds clichéd, but you'll be put into a position occasionally where you have to give advice or talk to people about how they are, especially in a smaller establishment. It's friendly banter, but you need to know where the limits lie. Don't get involved with customers romantically; it just gets complicated.


Pay, benefits, all the good stuff

Unfortunately, the wages for bar staff are rarely that much above minimum wage. In a busy nightclub, you can earn anywhere between £5 and £6.50 an hour each night, whereas in a smaller pub this may be slightly less. Don't expect to make masses of money quickly when you start out unless you work every hour God sends you. The benefits can outweigh the poor pay however as most places will let you keep tips (though some may ask you to put all tips back into the till or put them into a communal pot to be shared out at the end of the week) so you can earn your hourly wage or more in just a few minutes if you're good enough. You may also get bought drinks by a friendly customer - in this case you add the drink you want to the end of their bill, get the manager to sign the receipt and then at the end of the shift you take it from the stock. Some places may allow you to drink (non-alcoholic) drinks on duty if you're bought them. Tips and free drinks tends to depend again largely on the clientele and how good you are at your job. Be astute and sensitive and you'll find that you get looked upon more favourably by your customers.



Pros and cons of working in a bar

Personally, I find the pros far out weigh the cons of bar work at this moment in my life. Here's how I feel about it; you may decide that some of my pros are actually something you hate! Pros

  • It's good fun! If you enjoy clubbing, then working in a nightclub is pretty good fun to do. You spend your night in the atmosphere, dancing to music all evening, getting paid for it.
  • 90% of the people who work behind a bar in a nightclub will be students or young adults as well so you meet people your own age.
  • It's very relaxing to chat to your customers on a slow day.
  • You meet some really interesting people who have amazing stories - I have a regular who's passionate about Iranian womens right and is writing a book on the society they live in.
  • Tips, free drink, good fun work!
  • Those who work hard behind a bar... tend to know how to party hard the other side of it.
  • If you get a mouthy customer, most bar staff and managers will back you up if you decide to adopt the reverse of the 'customer is always right' approach. Let's face it, a lot of drunk people are out to try their luck.
  • You get to increase your cocktail and shot knowledge to the extent of being incredibly useful and in demand at parties.


  • Long hours, which tend to be late and anti-social.
  • Wave bye to your weekends!
  • If you give attitude to the wrong person, you may find yourself in a bit of trouble later on in the week if they return.
  • If your place of work closes at 2am, you won't get home until 4am at least with the cleaning and bar setup that needs to be done for the next open. This is tedious and boring and a pain in the proverbial, but it has to be done right.
  • You'll come across some right characters, for want of a better word. Both in your colleagues and your customers!



Dos and do nots

  • DO treat every customer with respect; DO NOT pick fights with people for no reason. Drunk people have no rationality.
  • DO make sure you confirm your orders with the customer if you're unsure. DO NOT just make what you think they said.
  • DO pour Guinness first! DO NOT leave it to the end of your order; it takes a good 2 minutes to pull a pint of Guinness, valuable time when you have a queue.
  • DO serve in turn! DO NOT skip people to serve your mates or someone who insists they've been there longer. 9 times of out 10 they haven't.
  • DO pour the right drinks. DO NOT short pour drinks or give a single and charge for a double. It's illegal!
  • DO make sure you ID anyone who looks under 21 (some places may say 25). DO NOT think 'oh, it's ok, they look old enough... ish...' - You face an £80 on the spot fine, losing your job and going to court if you serve alcohol to an under 18.
  • DO ask if you don't understand something! DO NOT stand at the bar and look bewildered though...
  • DO make sure you know what you can and can't serve. DO NOT just serve it and then wonder 'Errr.'
  • DO refuse service if you think someone has had enough. DO NOT let them carry on drinking if they can't stand or speak!


Other bits and bobs

Very few places sell Snakebite or Diesel (fuel). A snakebite is a mix of tap cider and lager, normally Stella. Diesel is the same but with blackcurrant added. The mix of two alcohol drinks means that you can't be certain how much alcohol the drinker has consumed and mixing drinks tends to get people drunk quicker.

You need to be responsible, calm headed and logical as bar staff. Whilst it's not a hard job, it can be overwhelming if you have a group of 25 people shouting at you over loud music all wanting to get served first. Keep your cool, remember the order that people need serving in and don't take any carp from anyone. At the end of the day, you're behind the bar and you have the control over the situation. If people waved money in her face, a colleague of mine used to snatch the note from them, put it down her bra and then go to the opposite end of the bar and work her way down, returning to the original customer 10 minutes later and returning their cash. Don't be afraid to stand your ground.

The most important thing is to just have fun! --Kissmenow9-150744 18:01, 8 August 2010 (BST)