Bar Management: Everything You Should Know

Danielle Collard
6 Dec 2022

When you take on a bar management role, you could begin a life of late-night money management, stressed staff, and difficult customers. At least, that can be the bar manager's life if things don't go well.

A successful bar manager can have a wonderful time, but it means being prepared for the busy periods when bars make most of their sales. Therefore, knowing your duties, how to make them easier on yourself, and what makes a profitable bar will be vital.

So what do you need to learn about bar management before taking on the role?

What are bar manager duties?

Taking a bar management position means taking on a wide variety of responsibilities from managing a business and running a bar. In brief, some of the typical manager responsibilities include:

  • Employee management. This means hiring reliable, personable, and dedicated employees. It means training and motivating them to ensure they achieve all they can for themselves and the business. It also means making sure they know what their duties are.
  • Ensuring smooth customer relations. Bar managers are a more prominent public face of the business. Thus, they often need to handle awkward customer complaints and ensure the bar is getting good reviews and has a good reputation for the service provided. Bar managers are often responsible for marketing the business, especially for smaller, independent bars.
  • Money management. A key responsibility of management in any industry is taking care of business finances. This means closing the till in the evening, moving the cash to the safe or bank, reading business reports to judge the success of each day, then making profits by setting prices, running promotions, and helping the bar make more sales.

While the three duties outlined above are typical of any managerial position, some tasks involved in the bar management process are particularly different or important for a bar. For example:

  • Inventory management. While any company may regularly update its inventory, the liquor inventory involved in bar management can be extensive. This is important due to the high value of alcohol stored behind a bar. It's also different from many other businesses, as measuring liquid stock is more complex than itemized products. Measuring and resupplying inventory are key responsibilities in bar management.
  • Maintaining a clean and tidy bar. While some of these duties can be delegated, a big part of bar management is being personally accountable for the day-to-day upkeep of the site. A bar manager might implement daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning policies and determine the placement of tools and products to create an appealing sight for customers.
  • Implementing security. Security is central to any business, but to busy bars and nightclubs, it's essential not just to combat customer and employee theft but to prevent rowdiness. Bar managers must work with bouncers and other security staff to ensure as little disruption to pleasant evenings as possible.

We'll look at most of these points in more detail below, but already, we can see that successful bar management requires a range of skills and attributes that make bar management work worth $50,000 + PA[1].

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  • Know your business better with hundreds of detailed, easy-to-read business reports.

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Bar management tasks can often be automated through your POS

One thing that stays true across industries is the central role of automation and the use of technology in efficient business management. Bars are no exception. 

Training on using the latest bar management software can help you create time in your busy bar manager schedule to spend more time with customers and staff.

No technology can streamline as many bar operations as a point of sale system (POS system). Your bar's POS will manage your payroll so that staff clocking in and out of the POS is all that's needed to calculate their wages. 

It can automatically generate reports to help with your accounting, employee performance, product performance, and more. All this while playing a crucial role in streamlining the transaction process.

Bar and restaurant management development can often be reduced to educating yourself on how the POS can integrate with other business software to make the role easier. 

For instance, Sage or Xero integration can make the end-of-day process quicker. Spreadsheet integrations like Epos Now's Bulk Import can help you update and add product information. Integrating front till software can even make bar sales easier, simplifying the training process needed for new staff.

Hiring trustworthy staff and encouraging good attitudes can make everything easier

When it comes to bar management tips, there can be no better advice than working hard on your hiring process and thinking about the professional development of staff members. Your team will be responsible for a lot of the manual work involved in completing sales, keeping the bar clean, completing stock takes, and dealing with customers.

An effective bar manager will have enough trust in bar staff that they do not feel they have to do everything themselves. But this means keeping staff morale high enough that employee turnover remains low and paying enough attention to see what your team does well and what they struggle with.

New managers in the hospitality industry have to get used to organizing a team of staff and knowing what qualities to look for in new members. Experience is not always the best indicator of whether or not someone will fit into your team, so interviewing a larger number of candidates is often worthwhile.

45% of companies in the US now hire based, at least in part, on personality testing[2]. Each staff member you hire will interact with many customers and need the energy to charm, serve, upsell, and still have the persistence to complete the daily maintenance duties of your bar.

Staffing your bar with sociable, driven personalities can create a cohesive team that stays together, grows together, and refuses to let anyone else pick up the slack. This is so crucial as bar owners and managers often struggle to find and keep good staff, but team building and outlining bonds and values in your staff can improve the retention of those valuable team members.

Keep a clean and tidy bar

One way of instilling good habits into your team is establishing a consistent schedule for cleaning and maintenance tasks and providing a regular to-do list to be followed.

Making sure that each staff member pulls their weight and demonstrating a willingness to help staff when they are busy contributes to a cohesive team. In this way, you can establish that a tidy and clean space for your customers, which is a must for the business.

Concrete policies on cash handling, tipping, and dress code can be useful

A bar manager position places you in a position to decide many policies for the business. Writing down policies and displaying them for staff members can ensure that you run a professional enterprise. These policies can be anything from when to use free drinks to resolve smaller disputes to tipping policy, cash handling procedures, and dress code.

Knowing when a policy needs to be enforced is also crucial, as running too bureaucratic a business can inhibit staff, lower job performance, and cause stress. On the other hand, everyone needs to know how to perform important tasks, especially around cash handling.

The best example of a necessary policy is around cash drawers. Knowing the entire process money follows can make it easier to spot discrepancies, find missing cash, and provides security.

If your bar serves food, then restaurant industry policies should be followed around food hygiene, health and safety, and equipment maintenance that will require rigorous attention that procedures help maintain.

Bar inventory management is vital

No matter the size of your bar, staying on top of your inventory is one of the most important bar manager duties. The first reason is for the security of the business, as unpaid drinks, theft, over-pouring, and wastage all leech away the profits of the business, so these factors need to be monitored closely and reduced.

The second crucial reason for close inventory management is the importance of keeping your entire menu available for customers. While the occasional running out of stock happens in most businesses, to manage a bar well, ensuring good levels of all your favorites will protect your reputation and maximize sales.

Although regularly finding the time to check stock levels can be extremely difficult, using your POS to measure levels can ease the pressure on this. Your POS will adjust levels as you process sales, so when stock levels are checked, there will be an expected amount of each drink you should have. Comparing expected and existing amounts then helps you evaluate wastage levels.

One of Epos Now's more popular features is its stock alerts. Epos Now systems can email a bar manager with a list of drinks that have reached minimal levels (which you can set), prompting a new supply order to redress the issue.

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Put together a plan to attract and market for your target customer

Bar management comes with a great deal of responsibility not just over the professionalism of the business but also the success.

This means making business decisions to compete in the bar and restaurant industry as though you were the bar owner. This means making marketing decisions, which in turn means understanding the bar concept. Is your bar targeting young people or a certain kind of music fan? Knowing your target customer is central to the bar's success.

Your customer base will influence which decisions will pay off. For instance, a fancy wine bar might afford to put a little extra on prices, but a business that relies on students will likely need to stay competitive as colleges bring big numbers of customers that can make a low-profit bar menu items profitable by making more sales.

Your POS reports can monitor the success of products at different prices and can help you make these decisions. It can also help you market to your customer base with detailed customer data storage exportable to popular business integrations such as Mailchimp.

Bar licensing requires a lot of organization

As a bar manager, you will be one of the figures responsible for ensuring that the premises have all necessary licenses and permits for any sales and events. This may require a little research initially, and you'll be the one that needs to know what licenses are needed and for what reason.

For instance, if you change part of the business, you could need a license you didn't before. For instance, if you start serving food items, you'll likely need a permit to do so legally, as well as food hygiene certifications. Many of the licenses need renewing, so you'll need a long-term organizational plan to know when each license needs to be updated.

Though many of these often vary from state to state, here are just some of the licenses, legal documents, and permits you might be required to have[3]:

  • Employer identification number - To complete your tax returns, a regular part of bar management, you will need to have an EIN, which can be acquired from the IRS. You'll also need this to apply for many of the licenses below.
  • State business license - All customer-facing businesses need business licenses to run legally. Registering your business grants you the right to run whichever kind of business you're licensing, in this case, a bar.
  • State Liquor license - Even with a business license, you'll still need to pay for a liquor license, which ensures you're operating in line with regulations that keep your staff and customers safe when serving alcohol.
  • Food service license and food handling permits - If you prepare and serve food, the business will need a food service license that ensures your food is safe for consumption and your premises is safe for preparation. Your cooks will also need handling permits that ensure they are properly trained and educated on how to cook hygienically.
  • Music license and entertainment license - If you play recorded or live music at your bar, then this also requires licensing. This license gives you the right to play the music, and the organization you sign up with distributes your fees to those artists, ensuring they earn for the performance of their music. The same organizations sell licenses for live performances, protecting artists and ensuring they are paid for their work.

Run a better bar with Epos Now's bar point-of-sale

Nothing will help you become a successful bar manager quite like an Epos Now point of sale. With bespoke setups available across the hospitality industry, including a bar and restaurant POS system, Epos Now offer your business the flexibility you need to help streamline your business setup.

Epos Now customers can:

  • Streamline your sales setup to shave time off transactions and satisfy customers.
  • Benefit from detailed reporting to adapt your pricing strategy, manage inventory, staff, and more.
  • Implement the latest business software using in-house or third party apps, and payment processing services.
  • Receive bar management tips whenever you need them from an expert support team available 24/7.

Get in touch with our expert team by submitting your details below, and join over 40,000 businesses with Epos Now’s hospitality POS or retail POS.


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