The Bartender: Hotel Bars Versus Restaurant Bars
Remember Sam Malone, the consummate bartender who owned TV's most famous pub, Cheers, "where everybody knows your name"? His patrons were treated like family, and he created an environment where locals made his bar their "local".
A successful bartender is no mere mixer of drinks or inventor of the next big cocktail. Whether in a hotel bar, restaurant (chain or independent), or pub/tavern, the bartender is an important focus of foodservice operations.
Most bartenders have the following key responsibilities:
- Provide customer service
- Prepare beverages using proper bartending technique
- Prepare common drinks, may also prepare drinks suggested by the patron
- Practice responsible alcohol service
- Clean and maintain bar area and wash glassware
- Maintain/control inventory of bar stock and supplies
Whether working in a restaurant or hotel, bartenders dispense drinks directly from their bars, but also supply the serving staff with orders for individual tables. Bartenders receive tips directly from drinkers at the bar and share gratuities (the arrangement differs according to establishment) with servers (and sometimes other staff).
What it takes to be a bartender
You can learn the basics of bartending - mixing drinks, the ins and outs of local legislation, setting up and maintaining a bar, being part of a restaurant or hotel team - through courses offered at bartending schools and hospitality institutions. But, these are the technicalities. More importantly, good bartenders must possess a special personality.
To a degree, they're creative and there's a flair to their job. It's not just knowing how to mix a drink, but a good bartender has to have the moves -- They need to be able to mix the drinks while also carrying on a conversation with customers, and that part is imperative. Quite often customers are sitting at the bar and they're alone. They want some interaction.
Restaurant and hotel bars - the differences
In a hotel bar, often someone sets up your bar for you, while in a restaurant, you are responsible for your bar area. Most private bars open only in the evening; hotel bars open as early as 11 a.m. Many hotel bars require a dress code, as do many restaurant chains, but dress code in many bars, especially in independent restaurants, can be "anything goes." And a very important difference is that a restaurant bartender bears much more responsibility for the sobriety of the patrons than a hotel bartender, many of whose customers are simply returning to their rooms after a few drinks during business trips.
In a restaurant, staff, including the bartender, are expected to upsell both food and drinks. The hotel experience is more relaxed, and staff are less focused on the "upsell."
How to decide which is for you
While bartending tends to be a young person's career, age is not as much a factor in hotel bartending because hotel bartenders tend to be less involved in running the bar. But bartending for both restaurants and hotels can be a rigorous job requiring lifting and reaching the bottles behind the bar.
A key factor to help you decide where you'd like to bartend is whether you enjoy the idea of developing a long-term, first-name relationship with the clientele. While some regulars do patronize hotel bars, the majority of guests are just passing through, so you don't get that "Cheers" experience, where "everybody knows your name."