Mastering the Barback Role: Your Comprehensive Guide

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: June 2, 2024
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Stepping into the busy night world of bars and restaurants, one role that often goes under the radar is that of the Barback, an essential team player who helps keep the operations running smoothly. Often mistaken for bartenders, Barbacks or “bar backs” are the unseen heroes of the bar industry.

Key Takeaways:

  • A Barback is essential to the bar staff, working behind the scenes to ensure smooth operations.
  • Training and equipping a Barback with the right skills and knowledge is crucial for their success.
  • A Barback role can be a stepping stone to higher positions in the bar industry, such as bartenders or bar managers.
  • A comprehensive and accurate Barback job description is key to hiring the right Barback candidate.

What is a Barback, and Do I Need to Hire One?

A barback, also known as a bartender’s assistant, is essential to the bar industry. This individual works primarily behind the scenes, assisting bartenders by performing tasks such as restocking liquor and beer, preparing garnishes, cleaning the bar area, and handling glassware. The role of a barback contributes significantly to the smooth and efficient operation of the bar, even though they are not typically involved in directly serving customers.

What’s the Difference Between a Barback and a Bartender?

While bartenders might be the face of the bar, engaging with customers and mixing drinks, Barbacks work diligently behind the scenes, supporting bartenders and ensuring smooth operations. The Barback’s job is integral to the bar’s service, but it’s less about serving customers directly and more about assisting the bartenders.

Barback Skills and Qualifications

Being a successful Barback, requires a unique blend of hard and soft skills and specific qualifications to perform effectively. The right Barback job description should reflect these requirements.

Hard Skills for Barbacks

Hard skills, or technical skills, for Barbacks, include a deep understanding of bar operations, proficient use of bar tools, knowledge of liquor laws, and physical stamina. Preparing garnishes, rotating beer kegs, and handling glassware safely are just a few examples of the Barback’s duties that require these skills.

Soft Skills for Barbacks

In addition to technical knowledge, a Barback must have excellent soft skills, including communication, teamwork, attention to detail, and a customer-focused approach. Communication skills are essential for interacting with co-workers and occasionally customers, while attention to detail ensures the bar area remains clean and well-stocked.

Barback Duties and Responsibilities

Barbacks are the engine of the bar, performing many tasks that keep everything behind the bar running smoothly and efficiently. They work hand in hand with the bartenders, providing essential support for maintaining momentum, particularly during busy nights.

Before Service

Before the bar opens for service, Barbacks are often the first on the scene, ensuring that everything is ready for the day ahead. This includes:

  • Stocking the Bar: Barbacks ensure that all alcoholic beverages, mixers, and garnishes are fully stocked and ready for bartenders. This requires heavy lifting at times, such as when beer kegs need to be rotated or replaced.
  • Preparing Garnishes: Barbacks often handle the preparation of garnishes, from slicing lemons and limes to pitting olives and preparing other cocktail ingredients.
  • Checking Bar Equipment: They also check and maintain bar equipment, such as ensuring the glass washer is functioning properly, and the refrigeration is at the correct temperature.

During Service

During service, Barbacks are vital in maintaining an efficient service flow, especially on busy nights. Their responsibilities include:

  • Assisting Bartenders: As a barback, assisting bartenders with anything they need is a priority. This could include replenishing ice, restocking liquor bottles, or fetching additional supplies at a moment’s notice.
  • Clean the Bar: Keeping the bar area clean and tidy is another important task. This involves cleaning spills, replacing empty kegs, removing empty glasses, and ensuring the bartenders have all the clean glasses and tools they need.
  • Handling Broken Glassware: Broken glasses are a common occurrence in bars. Barbacks are often responsible for safely cleaning up and disposing of broken glass to avoid any potential injuries.
  • Serving Drinks: In some establishments, especially during busy periods, barbacks may be called upon to serve drinks to customers or to support staff members in the service area.

After Service

Once the last customer has left, the Barback’s job isn’t over. Closing duties involve:

  • Cleaning Up: This includes everything from washing and storing glassware to cleaning the bar surface and stools. They also have to ensure that all bottles and tools are put back in their place.
  • Restocking: Barbacks restock the bar, preparing it for the next day. This might involve refilling the ice bins, restocking beer and liquor, and preparing garnishes for the next service.
  • Taking Inventory: In some establishments, Barbacks may take inventory, ensuring that all stock levels are correct and highlighting any discrepancies or shortages.

Through these varied duties and responsibilities, Barbacks play a pivotal role in ensuring that the bar operation runs seamlessly, contributing significantly to the overall customer experience.

Barback Education and Training Requirements

While a high school diploma is often the basic education requirement for Barbacks, on-the-job training is where they gain the specific skills required to excel. Knife safety, restocking procedures, and basic knowledge of alcoholic beverages are often part of this learning.

Barback Training Tips

Effective training is key for Barbacks, focusing on understanding the bar layout, learning to restock efficiently, adhering to safety protocols, and anticipating and assisting bartenders’ needs. Such barback training tips aid new Barbacks in adapting quickly to the fast-paced environment.

How Much Are Barbacks Paid?

A Barback’s earnings, or salary, can vary based on factors such as location, the size of the establishment, tips received, and level of experience.

According to the job website ZipRecruiter, the average barback salary in the United States is $13/h before tips or $26,687 per year.

Do Barbacks Get Tips?

Yes, barbacks often receive a portion of the tips that bartenders receive, providing a considerable addition to their base salary. The exact percentage can vary based on the establishment’s policies.

How to Hire a Barback

Hiring a Barback involves crafting a great Barback job description, understanding the essential duties and responsibilities, and knowing the skills to look for in a candidate. An efficient Barback will keep the bar stocked, clean tables, handle empty glasses, and support bartenders, contributing to a positive customer experience.

Job Description Template

A good Barback job description template should highlight the important responsibilities of the role, desired skills and qualifications, the potential for tips, and any age restrictions related to the legal drinking age to serve alcohol.

Barback Experience Requirements

While not always a strict requirement, previous experience in a bar or restaurant setting can give Barbacks a grounding in the fast-paced, customer-focused environment of the industry.

Training Your Barback

Training your new Barback is a critical phase that equips them with the necessary skills and assimilates them into the team and your establishment’s culture.

Employee Handbook Template

An Employee Handbook, including its bar back-specific rules and expectations, is a helpful resource for Barbacks during their training and beyond.

Restaurant Opening and Closing Checklist

Part of the Barback’s training should include learning the opening and closing procedures of the bar, ideally guided by a comprehensive checklist.

Do Barbacks Make Drinks?

While their primary responsibilities lie in support roles, Barbacks may occasionally be called upon to make drinks, especially in busier environments or smaller establishments, as long as they meet the state requirements for handling alcohol.

What makes a good Barback?

A good Barback is a combination of hard-working, proactive, detail-oriented, and personable, acting as a vital cog in the machine that keeps the bar functioning efficiently.

Is Barback a Good Job?

Being a Barback can be an excellent job for those interested in the hospitality industry, providing a hands-on, foundational experience in bar operations and often serving as a stepping stone to the lead bartender’ role.

Career Progression for a Barback

The role of a Barback can be a launchpad into numerous rewarding career paths within the hospitality industry, including becoming a bartender, bar manager, or even a bar owner.

Barback to Bartender

Many Barbacks aspire to become Bartenders, using their time as a Barback to gain crucial experience, knowledge, and skills necessary to move into this more front-facing role.

Barback to Bar Manager or Bar Owner

For some, the role of a Barback can be the start of a journey that leads to managing or even owning a bar, leveraging their deep understanding of bar operations gained from the ground up.

Other Opportunities in Hospitality

Beyond the bar, the skills and experience gained as a Barback can open doors to various other roles in the hospitality industry, from restaurant management to event planning.

Unveiling the Barback’s Essentiality

In conclusion, the role of a Barback, while often underestimated, is crucial in ensuring a successful and smoothly running bar. As the unsung heroes of the bar industry, barbacks responsibilities are to ensure that the bar is stocked, clean, and ready for service and are indispensable in assisting bartenders on busy nights.

Barback Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Experience to Be a Barback?

While experience is beneficial, it’s not always required. Many Barbacks learn on the job, gaining the skills and experience necessary to perform their duties.

What is the Minimum Age to Be a Barback?

The minimum age varies by location but is typically the legal drinking age.

Do Barbacks Make Mixed Drinks?

While this isn’t their primary duty, Barbacks may be called upon to serve alcohol or make simple mixed drinks, especially during busy periods.

Who does a Barback work with?

A barback primarily works with bartenders but also interacts with other staff members, including the bar manager, waitstaff, and occasionally, customers.

Is it hard being a barback?

Being a Barback can be challenging due to the fast-paced environment, physical demands, and the need for excellent communication and multitasking skills. However, many find the role rewarding and a great entry point into the hospitality industry.

Do you need to be strong to be a barback?

Physical strength can be beneficial as a Barback, given the need to lift and move heavy items like beer kegs or crates of liquor bottles. However, efficiency, speed, and the ability to handle a fast-paced environment are also critical.

How long is a barback shift?

The length of a Barback shift can vary based on the establishment’s operating hours and needs. However, it’s common for shifts to last around 8 hours, often during the bar’s busiest times, such as evenings and weekends.