Currently, there are over 510,000 bartenders employed in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for bartenders is set to steadily increase each year by 100,000, on average, for the next decade.
You likely know that bartenders prepare and serve beverages. But what else comes with this job role?
We’ll explain the responsibilities included in the bartender job description, the skills and qualifications needed to become a bartender, and what you can expect in terms of salary. (FYI, it can be pretty lucrative).
Plus, we’ll share sample interview questions from two perspectives—a restaurant owner and a job applicant—to help you prepare.
Bartender Job Description
A bartender prepares both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and serves them to customers, either directly or through wait staff.
Bartenders are also responsible for verifying age requirements, accepting payments, keeping their workstations clean and organized, and, in some cases, creating new drink items and adding them to the menu.
In many establishments, bartenders also handle direct food orders and manage bar inventory.
The responsibilities of a bartender include:
- Greeting customers in a friendly manner
- Informing customers about new beverages and specials
- Recommending drinks based on customer preference
- Preparing beverages, mixing cocktails and serving drinks to customers
- Checking identifications for legal drinking age
- Creating and suggesting drink menu items
- Collecting payments and processing orders via point-of-sale (POS) systems
- Washing glassware and bar equipment
- Cleaning bar surfaces
- Taking inventory and ordering bar supplies
- Complying with state and local food and beverage regulations
- Working closely with servers, hosts and bussers to deliver high-quality customer service
In most cases, a bartender reports to a restaurant manager or front-of-house manager.
Bartender Training & Education
In most cases, bartenders do not need a formal education to fulfill their job role. To gain the skills needed, a bartender typically has three options:
- Working as a bartender helper or assistant
- Enlisting in bartending courses
Most states do not regulate bartender licensing or certification requirements—however, there are exceptions. For instance, in Washington, bartenders are required to complete an alcohol server training course and apply for a permit as well.
Skills & Qualifications Needed to Become a Bartender
In general, a bartender needs the following skills and qualifications:
- Legal age to serve alcohol
- Proven working experience
- Training certificate
- Advanced knowledge of alcoholic beverages
- Expertise in mixing, garnishing and serving drinks
- Basic computer literacy
- Good memory
- Excellent social skills
- Good organizational and time management skills
- Schedule flexibility—the ability to work nights, weekdays and holidays
- Ability to work under pressure
- Ability to work in a team
The exact skills and qualifications needed to become a bartender can depend on the type of bartending you want to pursue.
Typically, bartending can be divided into the following five categories:
- Neighborhood bartending: Working in a local bar or tavern and serving regular customers
- Restaurant bartending: Working as a service or well bartender and serving customers directly or through service staff
- High-volume bartending: Serving large amounts of drinks in a fast-paced, crowded environment
- Mixology: Crafting unique cocktails
- Specialist bartending: Working in a bar or a restaurant that specializes in serving a specific beverage like wine, beer or whiskey
As of February 2023, the average national salary for bartenders is approximately $48,000 per year. Salary ranges can vary depending on factors such as restaurant type and location, the bartender’s specific skills, certificates and years of experience.
Here’s a look at the 2023 bartender salary forecast across four major cities—New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Bartender salary in New York City
A bartender in New York City earns $57,000 on average per year, which is around 19% higher than the national average.
Bartender salary in Miami
A bartender in Miami earns around $48,000 per year, which is about the same as the national average.
Bartender salary in Los Angeles
A bartender in Los Angeles earns approximately $53,000 per year, which is around 12% higher than the national average.
Bartender salary in Chicago
A bartender in Chicago earns around $53,000 per year, which is about 10% higher than the national average.
Bartender Job Interview Questions
We’ve put together six of the most common bartender job interview questions. If you’re pursuing a career path in a restaurant, or if you’re a hiring manager prepping for an interview, these are for you!
1. How much do you know about the restaurant/bar you are applying to?
For an interviewer: This question aims to reveal if the candidate took some time to research the establishment.
If the candidate shows extensive knowledge of your business, they are more likely to approach the job with the same commitment.
For an applicant: Make sure you research the restaurant or bar you are applying to. Pay attention to their branding, company culture, type of clientele, atmosphere and, of course, the menu.
One way to do this is to visit the restaurant or bar as a customer yourself!
The more you learn about the vendor, the more precisely you can explain to the interviewer why you’d be the right person for the bartender position and what you can contribute to the company.
Maybe the restaurant specializes in traditional tiki cocktails, for example, and you took a specialty course focused on these drinks. Or, perhaps the establishment is a well-known NFL bar, and you’re a big football fan yourself—giving you the perfect opportunity to connect with both years-long regulars and newbie customers alike.
2. What qualities make a good bartender?
For an interviewer: The answer to this question should give you a clear indication of how an applicant sees their role and what they deem important in their line of work.
Some candidates might give you short, unsure answers. In this case, try to encourage them with follow-up questions to elaborate more on the subject.
For an applicant: When answering this question, speak specifically about the listed qualities in the job description and explain how your experience and skills correspond with each of these expectations.
3. How do you handle multiple orders at once?
For an interviewer: This question should reveal how well an applicant works under pressure and whether they have strong multi-tasking skills.
It is also a good question to establish exactly how the candidate handles a busy work day and whether they have a routine in place for keeping up with multiple customer requests.
For an applicant: Be as specific as possible when explaining how you handle a busy crowd. Make sure you emphasize that you don’t like to keep the customers waiting but always try to prioritize serving people who ordered first.
You could also say that you optimize your serving process by making drinks that contain the same ingredients in a batch.
4. How would you handle angry customer complaints?
For an interviewer: This question should tell you about an applicant’s problem-solving skills in tense situations.
You need a bartender that handles unpleasant interactions with customers in a calm, confident manner. Watch their body language as they answer to determine whether they have the personality traits you’re looking for.
For an applicant: It’s important to convey that you never let angry customers affect your professional behavior. Explain how you would act calmly, helpful and friendly no matter the customer’s attitude, and what you might suggest rectifying the situation, whether removing a poor-tasting drink from a tab or offering a gift card, for example.
If you had an unpleasant experience with customers in a previous position, explain how you handled tense situations and what the outcome was.
5. How would you handle a customer that had too much to drink?
For an interviewer: The applicant’s answer to this question should reveal whether they have an effective, professional plan in place for handling aggressive or drunk customers.
For an applicant: Explain your approach to dealing with drunk customers, including how you would explain to the customer that they were cut off, and what your next steps would be if the customer became agitated or aggressive.
6. What bartender tools do you use the most?
For an interviewer: This question should tell you whether the candidates’ knowledge goes beyond just spirits and mixers and if they can name and explain the use of other tools such as jiggers, muddles, shakers or citrus presses.
For an applicant: Use this question to display your knowledge of mixing and preparing all types of drinks, using different tools. The interviewer wants to know how savvy you are behind the bar, and this is your chance to shine!
How Oyster Link Connects Restaurants With Top Talent
Whether you’re a restaurant owner looking to hire new staff members or a job seeker in pursuit of a new career in hospitality, you can find everything you’re searching for with Oyster Link.
Our soon-to-be-available hospitality platform connects restaurants with top talents in the bartending and serving industry.
Sign up for early Oyster Link membership and become part of a community focused on building relationships and matching quality talent with open positions for long-term success.
Related: How To Write a Job Description