Recruiting bar staff? Here are the 6 character traits to look for

BarmaidThe importance of your pub’s front of house team can hardly be overstated.

You can have a beautifully decorated pub with perfectly conditioned cask ales and a sumptuous food menu; but…

…Having friendly and attentive bar staff still remains a vital aspect of running a successful pub.

So, what are the character traits that make a great bartender? What are the qualities that you need to look for?

These are the six key character traits… and how to uncover them.

1. Reliability

Bar staff punctualitySo, you have the most talented bartender in the world with spectacular mixology skills and an engaging personality that the customers love. And that’s great.

But, what if he or she doesn’t turn up for work? Well, then it all counts for nothing.

The consistent ability to arrive at work on time is an essential part of being a good bartender. It is the foundation from which all the other aptitudes spring.

And unless someone is genuinely suffering from ill-health, it’s the easiest bit to get right.

How to discover reliable bar staff:

  • Check out your applicant’s references. Have they been punctual and reliable in previous roles?
  • Ask them about how they view their punctuality and attendance history? Stress this as a vital quality.
  • Did they turn up for your interview on time?

How to develop reliability within your current bar staff:

  • Create a friendly and positive working environment where staff feel valued. Show your appreciation when they are working well. This will make them feel happy about coming to work and feel bad if they don’t.
  • If a member of staff fails to show up for a shift without notice, that needs to be firmly addressed. It’s a breach of contract and disciplinary action may need to be taken. Make sure that they are fully aware of the seriousness of not turning up for a shift and the knock on the effect for the rest of the team.

2. Likeability

Bar staff likeablePubs are social places and some customers like to chat with the staff. For that reason you need bartenders who are friendly and approachable.

The ability to hold conversations with customers from a wide range of backgrounds is a difficult skill to teach. It requires an open mind and a genuine interest in people.

If customers like the staff, they are far more likely to return.

The ability to get along with other members of staff is also important and so the mix of personalities that you employ also needs consideration.

How to discover likeable bar staff:

  • How friendly or likeable somebody is can be gauged pretty quickly in a conversation. However, if you feel their natural personality isn’t coming out, then talk to them about their hobbies and interests. That usually places them in more comfortable territory and helps them relax.
  • Look out for markers: eye contact, easy smile, open body language.

How to develop likeability in your current bar team:

  • Create a happy working atmosphere so that your staff feel able to express themselves. Stress the importance of a smile and a positive outlook.
  • If a member of your team is being rude to a customer, take them to one side after the event and discuss their conduct and how they should handle such situations in the future. Also, approach the customer separately to apologise, if appropriate.

3. Passion for service

Bar staff passionAny good bartender must have a passion for providing great service to customers. They should have that innate determination to ensure that customers are perfectly catered for when they enter your pub.

It’s a quality that will manifest itself in everything they do. From being friendly and helpful to patrons, to pouring the perfect pint, and being knowledgeable about the drinks range and the food menu.

Ultimately, it’s about taking pride in getting the details right.

How to discover bar staff with a passion for service:

  • Look for references from a customer service role. Were they helpful employees? What kind of jobs did they do?
  • Ask the applicant – what do they think makes great customer service? Do they have examples of when they received great customer service? Conversely… Can they thinking of examples where they have given great customer service?
  • Do they look genuinely enthusiastic about working for you? Have they come to the interview well-prepared? Is their application and CV well presented and does it demonstrate a passion for service or a keen interest in the catering industry?

How to develop passion in your current bar team:

  • Make passion one of the key qualities you demand from you bar staff.
  • Observe them in the workplace and give them advice where appropriate. It might be something small like serving drinks with the brand facing the customer.
  • Encourage great customer service and give praise where you notice it. You may even consider a reward.

4. Willingness to learn

Bar staff learningWhether a staff member has previous experience or is new to bar work, a willingness to learn is an important character trait.

Of course, there is much to learn. There are price lists, wine lists, beer ranges and food menus that your staff need to be familiar with.

Newcomers to bartending will have more to learn. They will have to get up to speed with the most basic aspects of the job, like pulling a pint and routinely performing mundane tasks, such as clearing tables and polishing glasses.

When you’re considering employing somebody with little or no experience in bar work, you need to see their enthusiasm to learn and muck in. That can be demonstrated by the questions that they ask during the interview or the knowledge they’ve gathered prior to it.

How to discover ‘willing to learn’ bar staff:

  • Observe their enthusiasm for the role prior to employing them. Do they look energised at the chance of working at your pub?
  • Have they done any research? Again, use the references they provide to discover if they’ve demonstrated this quality in the past.

How to develop a willingness to learn in your current team:

  • Provide notes on your drinks range and encourage your staff to get the opinions of customers about the wines they are drinking, for example. They can pass positive feedback onto future customers or if the feedback is consistently poor on a particular bottle, they can pass that onto you.
  • Consider setting a fun monthly challenge which tests your staff’s knowledge.
  • Give your team or individual staff praise where it’s due.

5. Responsible attitude

Responsible bar staffWith all that alcohol around, you need bar staff who have a responsible nature. You need people who will remain stoic in the face of badly inebriated customers begging for another pint.

A responsible mindset is also displayed in situations where glass is broken, or someone has an accident.

There are a wide range of things that can occur in a pub, and you will need mature, level-headed staff around who can handle these eventualities.

How to discover a responsible bartender:

  • We’ve already talked about punctuality, but that’s also characteristic of a responsible person. Did they turn up to your interview on time?
  • This is a little devious, but you might arrange a scenario where someone drops a bunch of files next to the applicants feet during the interview. Do they respond by helping pick the files up? Or leave the person to gather them up by themselves.
  • Again phone up references and look at their employment history. Also ask the question outright to the applicant: can you recall a scenario where you’ve demonstrated responsible qualities?

How to develop a responsible attitude in your current bar staff:

  • You really have to make your staff feel valued. Give them a real sense of ownership and responsibility about certain aspects of the job. Tell them why it’s important. Some people are laid-back by nature and it’s only when they are personally entrusted with tasks that they step up and take responsibility.
  • Promote the importance of responsibility as part of your training.

6. Trustworthy

Bar staff responsibleWith all that money and booze around, you must be able to trust the people you employ.

Even when you have trusted bar supervisors or managers, they can’t keep an eye on the staff 100 per cent of the time. So everybody that gets behind that bar needs to be trustworthy.

This is not an easy quality to identify. But those who work hard, are willing to help with some of the least glorious tasks, and reliably turn up for shifts on time; these are the kind of people you can usually trust.

How to discover a trustworthy bartender:

This has to be a personal judgement call and is largely influenced by your own experiences. Nonetheless, here are a few indicators which raise concern:

  • Someone who is difficult to talk to and reluctant to express themselves beyond the needs of their application. They might throw a bunch of buzzwords at you, but when you try to engage them over their hobbies or anything of a vaguely personal quality, they just clam up.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum if someone strikes you as blasé or exaggerates their achievements and abilities… that’s not a great sign.
  • Lack of eye-contact.
  • Insincerity. They make a strained attempt to get on the same wavelength as you but it never rings true.
  • Someone who turns up late and unprepared.

How to develop trustworthy qualities in your staff:

That’s very hard to do. After all, it’s a quality that people either have or don’t have.

  • If you have a member of staff who you don’t trust and they’re on a zero-hour contract you can put them at the bottom of your list when it comes to handing out hours. Otherwise, all you can do is observe them on the job.
  • Lead by example and don’t exploit your position. If you’re seen to help yourself to a beer when your staff aren’t allowed to do the same, it may seem unfair and encourage copycat behaviour.

For more staff management tips, check out our guide: 15 easy-to-action tips which will improve your people management skills today.

Need to find a chef? Here’s how (without splashing out on recruitment fees).

Barmaid image by Henry Singleton – CC


One Comment

  1. […] are much more important qualities managers look for. They want someone who works hard, someone who wants to learn, someone who is easy to get along […]

Comments are closed.