Dark Mode

Bartender vs. Barback: Comparing Roles and Duties

bartender and barback

Did you know that most Bartenders start working behind the bar as Barbacks? Although similar positions, there’s a notable difference between what Barbacks and Bartenders do.

While most people are familiar with the duties of Bartenders, many people aren’t in tune with what the job duties of a Barback are.

In this article, we’ll talk about the duties of both Bartenders and Barbacks and how both positions play an important role in the operations of the bar.

But before we do that, let’s briefly talk about each role and highlight their key differences.

What’s a Bartender?

Bartenders prepare drinks and serve customers. They’re the front-of-house staff behind the bar. Sometimes, Bartenders can also be tasked with keeping track of inventory and managing Barbacks.

What’s a Barback?

The Barback is the Bartender’s assistant. Their job is to make the Bartender’s job easier. In most cases, Barbacks are tasked with doing all the unappreciative work, like cleaning spills, polishing glassware, preparing garnishes, unclogging the sink and so on.

Sometimes, Barbacks can step up and serve drinks themselves, as long as they’re of legal serving age and meet the relevant alcohol serving requirements.

Duties and Responsibilities of Bartender vs Barback

There’s no denying that one can’t function without the other. While both positions play a specific role behind the bar, they must work together to ensure the bar station operates at maximum capacity.

Having said that, Bartenders and Barbacks often share their responsibilities and help each other during busy nights.

Regardless, here are the general Bartender and Barback responsibilities in the workplace.

Key Duties and Responsibilities of the Bartender Position

As we already mentioned, the Bartender is the front-of-house person responsible for preparing drinks, dealing with customers and handling the money.

Unless we’re talking about a service Bartender who works in a service bar. In that case, they will fill orders from servers instead.

Besides these three duties, most Bartenders are also tasked with checking IDs. Knowing how to check IDs is taught by different training programs like ServSafe and RBS.

Lastly, keeping the bar stocked, clean and organized are also parts of the bartending job.

Key Duties and Responsibilities of the Barback Position

A Barback’s job duties are a combination of cleaning and stocking liquor and other bar inventory.

The Barback needs to make sure there are enough liquor bottles, beer kegs, fruits, ice and glassware to serve the full capacity of the bar.

Oftentimes, the Barback will also have to collect empty and dirty glasses and place them in the dishwasher or wash them by hand.

Keeping the bar area tidy and clean is a big part of the Barback job. Taking out the trash, restocking inventory and assisting the Bartender in any way necessary are all barback duties.

bartender making drink

Key Skills for Bartender vs Barback

As you can see, both Bartenders and Barbacks share a lot of the duties and responsibilities. They also share a lot of skills required to work at a drinking establishment.

For example, both Bartenders and Barbacks should have exceptional communication and organizational skills. Let’s get into more detail about the specific skills required for both positions.

Skills Required for Bartending

Since preparing and mixing drinks is the main duty of a Bartender, it goes without saying that Mixology is an essential skill.

Having knowledge of alcohol and knowing which spirits and liquor mix well is very important. Knowing how to make the most popular classic and modern cocktails is also important.

Adding flair when mixing drinks is also a valuable skill. Flair bartending is the process of doing tricks with bar utensils to make the mixing process flashy and entertaining. This could lead to Bartenders earning extra tips.

Knowing how to garnish cocktails and make these more presentable can also be a highly valuable skill to have.

Last but not least, every Bartender needs to know how to upsell. After all, they’re the ones directly selling to customers. Having said that, they also need to be good at handling cash and other payment transactions.

Skills Required for Barbacking

A good Barback doesn’t mind doing the hard work. They’ll need to lift heavy crates, kegs and bags of trash. While this isn’t technically a skill, it’s a physical requirement that comes with the job.

Barbacks should also have interpersonal skills. Constant communication with the Bartender and Bar Manager is essential to ensuring everything operates smoothly.

Barbacks are also tasked with cleaning the bar area. This can include mopping floors, cleaning spills and disinfecting the work surface.

Bartender vs. Barback: Conclusion

Bartenders and Barbacks work together to ensure the smooth operation of the bar. Most Bartenders started as Barbacks before they became proficient Bartenders.

A great Barback will make the job of the Bartender easier, and in turn, both will reap the rewards from the extra tips.

Bartender vs. Barback FAQs

Yes! On top of the base salary, Barbacks may also get a share of tips from Bartenders. The average salary for Barbacks in the U.S. is $15.23 per hour, plus tips. Get a more detailed look by visiting our comprehensive Barback Salary page.

No, but most Bartenders would recommend that you work as a Barback first. Barbacking requires no experience, just the willingness to work hard and learn the ropes.

It depends. In some establishments, Barbacks are responsible for doing the dishes after service hours. They can also be responsible for polishing glassware.

You May Also Like