What Does a Bartender Do? With Role Definition and Key Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Bartenders are professionals within the hospitality industry and are important for the effective operation of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Candidates who are interested in a career in bartending benefit from an expansive industry that allows them to work collaboratively with other food and beverage attendants and interact with customers. Understanding what bartenders do can help you decide whether you have the experience that allows you to work as a successful bartender. In this article, we answer the question to 'What does a bartender do?' by explaining their primary duties and discussing the key skills they use while working.

What does a bartender do?

To answer the question ‘What does a bartender do?’, it's important to assess their primary responsibilities. Bartenders are hospitality professionals who work behind bars to make drinks for customers. This career offers candidates the opportunity to work in numerous hospitality environments, such as restaurants, hotels, bars and nightclubs. Bartenders are responsible for ensuring that customers receive their correct drinks orders, which requires these professionals to understand how to make a large list of drinks. They also oversee the customers' well-being by ensuring patrons don't overindulge and risk over-intoxication.

Depending on the venue, employers may also require bartenders to provide limited food service or liaise with kitchen staff to take orders. For example, bartenders who work in smaller public houses may serve food and drinks together. Bartenders typically work in shift patterns, allowing them to work at different times of the day or on weekends. Employers may require these professionals to work late at night, especially when working in clubs where customers require drinks until the early hours of the morning. Bartenders tend to work in larger teams and alongside other food-service staff.

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Bartender duties

Depending on the type of environment that bartenders work in, their primary duties may vary. For example, a bartender working in a large chain of restaurants, bars or clubs may have significantly different responsibilities from that of a bartender working in an independent restaurant or bar. The following is a guide to a bartender's general duties:

Verifying age and duty of care

The law requires bartenders to uphold the standards of the Responsible Service of Alcohol. This certification recognises that bartenders ensure a duty of care towards patrons by verifying their age and making sure they have consumed safe amounts of alcohol. This minimises alcohol-related issues such as disorderly behaviour in social settings. It's also a bartender's responsibility to ensure that patrons are of a safe and legal age to drink.

Verifying age and upholding duty of care may require bartenders to check personal identification and regularly monitor the patrons to ensure they're not over-intoxicated. This requires strong situational awareness and interpersonal skills.


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Preparing drinks

The primary responsibility of bartenders is to prepare a comprehensive range of drinks. These professionals recall their training to make various types of drinks for customers, requiring them to have a good understanding of different alcoholic ingredients, measurements and mixers. Preparing drinks also requires bartenders to uphold stringent food and beverage safety standards that limit cross-contamination and hygiene violations. This helps to keep the customers and food and drinks service staff safe during a shift.

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Making orders

Bartenders constantly oversee the stock of alcohol. Their employers may require them to make orders to suppliers if they run out of goods. This task requires bartenders to have a good relationship with suppliers and good budgeting skills to account for deliveries. Bartenders may constantly communicate with suppliers to ensure they maintain fair pricing and that venues can continue making a profit. These professionals may schedule daily deliveries to meet customer demands, requiring them to have a comprehensive understanding of the customers' behaviours.

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Processing customer payments

Bartenders are responsible for processing customer payments and handling large quantities of cash. This also requires them to operate technological payment systems and understand how to troubleshoot issues with payment systems. Processing payments also requires bartenders to count cash and ensure that the sums they log on tills correspond with the predicted profits.

This helps to mitigate financial discrepancies and maintain a clear view of profits through the business. Cash handling provides bartenders with an indication of overall venue performance, allowing them to understand whether their current drinks options are generating enough profit.

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Training new staff

Depending on the seniority level, bartenders may be responsible for training new staff. This means that bartenders may provide all the relevant customer service training and educate new staff on the recipes for drinks. During training, bartenders may also teach new employees how to process payments and interact with customers.

Training may also involve senior staff constantly observing new staff to ensure they make good progress and learn how to serve customers. Senior bartenders may oversee trial shifts during the interviewing stages for new candidates, assessing whether candidates have the right skills to serve customers responsibly.

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Designing menus

Depending on the type of environment that bartenders work in, these professionals may be responsible for planning the drinks menu for a venue. This may require an in-depth planning process. These professionals may take reviews from customers to assess which drinks are the most popular. Designing menus for a venue may also require bartenders to budget for these items, ensuring that they can meet customer demands for more expensive goods while still making a profit. Designing a drinks menu may require candidates to test different drinks, create different mixtures or invent new cocktails.

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Bartender skills

Bartenders require a comprehensive list of skills to fulfil their primary responsibilities. They typically use a mixture of hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to role-specific skills that allow professionals to prepare many kinds of drinks. Soft skills are transferable across several industries. Here's a list of some of the skills that bartenders typically use during their working day:

  • Customer service: Bartenders spend much of their time interacting with customers and fulfilling their orders. This requires confident customer service skills to maintain a friendly rapport, respond to queries and manage complaints.

  • Alcohol and beverage handling: Bartenders are responsible for ensuring the safe handling of alcoholic drinks and beverages. This means that candidates require good judgement and alcohol-handling skills to ensure customer safety.

  • Time management: During busier shifts, bartenders may serve many customers. This requires good time-management skills to ensure they always meet the customers' expectations.

  • Hygiene: Handling beverages requires good hygiene skills to limit cross-contamination. This refers to ensuring personal hygiene and maintaining clean and safe workspaces for all customers.

  • Mixology: Mixology skills refer to the skills that bartenders use to prepare different drink types. These professionals use these skills to know which ingredients and alcoholic measurements to use for each drink.

  • Teamwork: Bartenders may work as part of a larger team depending on where they work. This requires strong collaboration skills to manage a collective workload and attend to all customers.

  • Organisational skills: To ensure that bartenders meet customer expectations, maintain tidy workspaces and oversee an even stock of goods, these professionals require good organisational skills.

  • Interpersonal skills: As bartending is a customer-facing role, these professionals require confident interpersonal skills. This allows them to maintain friendly conversations with customers and actively listen to their colleagues.

  • Flexibility: Bartenders may work alternating shifts, meaning they work at different hours on different days. This requires good flexibility so they can transition to different working patterns on a weekly basis.

  • Problem-solving:* A significant part of interacting with customers is creating constructive solutions to address customer complaints. Good problem-solving skills also allow bartenders to manage conflict due to disorderly behaviour.

  • Communication skills: To work in a time-sensitive environment with several colleagues, bartenders require confident communication skills. This is important for training new bartending staff and taking orders from customers.

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