Before talking about how much bartenders make, it is important to understand exactly what bartenders do. As it is now, waitressing, bartending and indeed, other service industry jobs appear to be one of those jobs that pay so much with little or no skill required.
So what is the job of a bartender like? A bartender prepares cocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages for customers. Simple enough right? In addition to this, a bartender must have good knowledge of common drinks, and also makes suggestions to customers on good drinks to buy. Possibly, the most challenging feature of the work of a bartender is taking inventory of the drinks in the bar, and taking appropriate action in case of shortages of drinks.
The main requirement or qualification needed for this kind of job is usually a high school diploma or its equivalent. Requisite experience in the field will be an added advantage. To be a successful bartender, one must possess good people skills, listening skills (you do that majority of the time), asking question skills, being ready to work in a team, as well as good food knowledge, wine knowledge, lighting knowledge and decoration knowledge.
Now that we know exactly what the work of a bartender is, it is time to see how much they earn.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a bartender in New York City is $27,812, which is way higher than the national yearly salary of a bartender ($22,000). However, some bartenders make more than this industry average, when you take into consideration things such as cash tips, holiday pay, overtime, and insurance. Another factor that determines how much a bartender makes is based on the location of the bar and the experience of the bartender in question.
The vast majority of a bartender’s income comes from the tips they receive. However, the tips also depend on the type of bar you work, the region of the country where the bar is located, and the time of the year. One New York bartender admitted to making around $96,000 per year, with an average tip of $300 per night. According to her, the starting wage at her hotel is around $26 an hour (cash tips, holiday pay, overtime and insurance not included).
It doesn't sound good all the time, though. Sometimes, it is possible to go home with next to nothing! Some bars have policies that allow bartenders to go home with only $20 if a single drink is not over the course of a shift.
Now that we know that the vast majority of a bartender’s income comes from tips, the question is: how do you get more from tips?
If you want to take home more cash tips, and by extension more income, the first thing to do is to remember as much as you can about your regular customers. Yes, it is important you remember their names, details about their family or work, and of course how they like their drinks served. You should be able to make your regular customers feel very comfortable anytime they show up at the bar.
You should also take out time to exchange pleasantries with customers that are not your regular customers, no matter how busy you are. A friendly handshake and exchange of names after you deliver their checks will take things to a personal level.
Another important thing to note is: never let any customer wait long for their drinks. For every second that customers sit down waiting for their drinks, there is every possibility that your tip will reduce. Pour the drinks fast, and do so with a genuine smile. Nobody wants to be served their drinks by a sad bartender.
Never stop telling your customers good stories, and good jokes to crack them up. Your job is mainly to entertain your customers and socialize with them to make sure they come again. Alternatively, a good song can suffice. You must ensure you have a wide selection of songs available to choose from and pay attention to how your customers react to the music. Study the mood of your customers and try to put on the tune that hits their mood perfectly.
The conclusion of all of this is that you shouldn’t expect to start bartending and start making the maximum possible income immediately. It takes time and patience to start making it big. Bear in mind also, that a bartender is always as good as the tips they bring in. If you want to make more income, make sure you use the above tips to rake in more tips.
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