How to Train New Bar Employees

In the world of bars and restaurants, there are as many ways to do things as there are owners and managers. Even when you hire experienced em-ployees, you need to train them to do things the way you want them done. Hiring experienced employees generally cuts down on the time it takes them to learn your specific systems though.

It is recommended you give new employees

  • Written materials to read and refer back to

  • Hands-on experience to practice and hone their skills

  • A mentoring structure to have someone to go to with questions

Training is expensive but necessary. Do it right the first time and hopefully you’ll keep your people around and not have to train another batch right away.

How to create bar standards and keep them up

Written standards are the most foolproof way to maintain consistency. If your employees can look up your vacation policy and see it written in black and white, you’re likely to have fewer discussions with them about the rules and exceptions.

Why use an employee manual in a bar

An employee manual describes your company’s rules and procedures for every employee. This documentation is the same for all employees, whether they work in the FOH or BOH (front or back of the house, respectively) and are a supervisor or staff member.

An employee manual is the best way to communicate your expectations for behavior, dress, level of service, and more to your newest employees. Make sure each new employee gets a copy of the manual on Day 1. Have him sign a form agreeing that he received a copy of the manual to review.

Standard items that make an appearance in many employee manuals include

  • Welcome letter

  • Mission statement

  • Company history

  • Orientation period

  • Communication policies

  • Performance and job standards

  • Code of ethics

  • Confidentiality policies

  • Emergency procedures

  • Drug and alcohol policies

  • Antiharassment policies

  • Customer-service program

  • Problem-solving procedures

  • Safety issues

  • Training meetings

  • Performance evaluations

  • Performance rewards

  • Food-safety procedures

  • Other policies

How to train for job-specific functions

In addition to understanding how things work in your bar, your new em-ployees need to know how to do their jobs in your bar. An operations manual helps you train employees to perform specific duties for each position. Thoroughly explain each position, including the duties, standards, and objectives. Tell them what they’re here to do, how to do it, when to do it, your quality standards, and so on.

Here are some examples of what you should include in your operations manuals for different positions:

  • Bartenders: Bartenders need the details on your recipes for cocktails, inventory procedures, opening and closing procedures, standards of service, cash-handling procedures, comp drink policies, responsible alcohol-service guidelines, and anything else you need them to know.

  • Servers: Detail for your servers information about the products you sell (including all liquor, wine, beer, and spirits). Include copies of all food and drink menus. Give them detailed opening and closing procedures.

  • Kitchen staff: Unless you have a very large kitchen with many different positions, you can probably have a single operations manual for your kitchen. Include opening and closing procedures, details on using different pieces of equipment, and food-safety information.

Providing on-the-job training

In the bar business, you can memorize all the drink recipes, practice carrying trays, and pretend to be doing the job all you want. But until you actually do it, you don’t really know how to do it. There’s just no substitute for doing the job itself. So training staff members while they’re actually working is a fact of life in the hospitality business.

Developing a mentoring program

Many successful bar owners develop their staff by creating a hierarchy. For example, giving one bartender the title of “Head Bartender” and making him the primary contact for new bar staff members helps you in several significant ways:

  • It develops supervisory skills in your experienced bartender, possibly preparing him to take on more responsibility as your business grows and expands.

  • It gives new staff members an immediate resource to get answers to their questions.

  • It keeps training consistent because all trainees are hearing the same information the same way.

  • It frees you up to handle the millions of other things that are constantly going on in your bar.

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