How to Find the Right Employees for Your Bar

By Ray Foley, Heather Dismore

Staffing your bar with quality people isn’t easy. In this business, you’re not just competing for the public’s drinking dollar; you’re also competing for the best staff. You have to sort through lots of candidates to find the ones who best suit your business.

Never has the hospitality industry had so many ways to find employees at all different levels than it does now. Gone are the days of hanging a “Help Wanted” sign in your window and waiting. You have websites, recruiters, and organizations all dedicated to hiring and training hospitality workers.

How to use the newspaper to find employees

It may seem counterintuitive, but the good ol’ newspaper is still a great way to get local applicants who want to work today. You can advertise for any position in the newspaper, from dishwasher to manager, and get a decent response. Most papers post ads on their websites as well, but confirm whether that’s the case.

An online ad will get a better response than the one in the printed paper. The day you place the ad, be ready with a stack of applications because lots of restaurant and bar people are constantly looking for greener grass at the bar around the corner. Even if you don’t have tons of positions, you’re likely to get swamped with applicants when you first open.

Feel free to hang on to applications and résumés for candidates who are qualified for positions you don’t currently have open. There’s always a chance that someone you hire may not work out, so it’s nice to have a backup plan.

But, remember, the would-be employee is looking for a job now and if he’s a good candidate for you, he’s likely a good candidate for someone else too. Don’t wait too long (more than one or two months or so) if you really want him.

How to use the Internet to find employees

Consider placing an ad or searching for applicants through job placement websites. Although these services are usually free to applicants, they’re not free to employers. Don’t let that discourage you though. Good help is hard to find, and you just may need to pay a little for it.

Here are a few of our favorite websites for finding qualified candidates:

  • Hcareers: This online database has more than 1 million unique hospitality-only visitors per month and more than 200,000 current résumés in its database. Hcareers charges a maximum of $469 for a single, 45-day job posting for management positions. Rates are discounted for multiple postings, nonmanagement positions, and résumé searching.

  • CareerBuilder: Many local papers are hooked into Careerbuilder.com, so if you place an ad in the paper, your ad goes to this online site as well. The price for these ads varies based on your location.

  • Monster: Possibly the best-known job-hunting website, Monster is a good choice for the hospitality industry, too. Many job seekers are looking for a career and start in bars and restaurants until they can find a “real job.”

    They end up bringing career drive to their part-time job and staying because they truly love it. Monster is a good way to reach people who may not realize the bar business may be just what they’re looking for.

  • Craigslist: The free service is ideal for the new bar owner. Many local hospitality job seekers check this website for new opportunities. Place your ad in the food/bev/hosp category for maximum views.

You can place ads and search for applicants through these websites. Separate fees apply, of course, but it may be a good idea to actively search for candidates who meet your requirements rather than wait for them to find you.

If you live in a larger metro area, take a look at the websites for your local TV stations. Some allow you to place free job postings online.

How to use recruiters to find employees

Recruiters are a great way to find high-end hospitality talent. Recruiters, sometimes known as headhunters, scour the country looking for applicants to fill specialized positions. They often charge 10 to 25 percent of the candidate’s starting salary in exchange for their services. If you’re looking to simply staff standard positions in your bar, skip this method and choose another.

How to use bartending schools to find employees

Many wannabe bartenders attend a school to learn the basics. Most programs consist of about 40 hours of classroom and bar experience. Students are tested on cocktail recipes, opening and closing procedures, and other must-have bar skills, and they usually complete any required alcohol safety certifications during their class time.

Most bartending schools offer placement services for their students upon graduation. Contact a school near you for details on its programs and fees, if any.

Here’s a list of nationwide bartending schools that may offer training to students in your area:

Even though these bartenders have been trained, when you hire them make sure you spend a week teaching them your way of operating.

How to use word of mouth to find employees

As with many other businesses, in the bar business, people network with each other. Because bar and restaurant people work similar hours, they socialize with each other. Ask other bartenders or waitstaff for their recommendations for new staff members. If one of your best servers recommends someone to you, you can expect that she knows the person is qualified.

Liquor-company representatives are very good sources of potential employees. They are in other bars and taverns all day and are more than willing to help you. They’re the best; they know which quality bartenders and experienced servers are leaving or unhappy with their current situation.