Thinking About Being a Bartender? (Pros and Cons to Consider)
Updated June 24, 2022
Working as a bartender can be an exciting way to interact with lots of different people, work in an exciting industry and learn new skills. If you're considering applying for a position as a bartender, it's often helpful to learn more about the job first. By reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of working as a bartender, you can decide if the job is a good fit for your personality and career goals. In this article, we explain what bartenders' common responsibilities are and list the pros and cons of being a bartender.
What does a bartender do?
A bartender is someone who serves drinks at a bar, club, hotel, restaurant or special event. Typically, the beverages bartenders serve are alcoholic. Here are some common bartender responsibilities:
Take orders and beverage orders from customers
Check identification cards to ensure customers are over 21
Make drinks to customer specifications
Prepare alcoholic beverages, drinks and sometimes food for customers or waitstaff
Keep the bar or workspace clean and organized
Work with team members to fulfill customer requests in a timely manner
Comply with local food and beverage handling requirements
What are the pros of being a bartender?
Working as a bartender can have many benefits. Here are some advantages of the position:
You can make good tips
Besides the hourly wage they typically make from their employer, bartenders often enjoy tips for their service to customers. Depending on where they work, their tips can sometimes exceed their wages. For example, bartenders who serve in upscale or popular drinking establishments can often expect higher tips from customers.
The job outlook is strong
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for bartenders is projected to rise 32% over the ten-year period from 2020 to 2030. This is much higher than average for other industries. A strong job outlook can mean it's easier to find suitable employment because there are more available positions. Of course, the availability of work in your area might differ from other places within the nation.
The job can be very social
Another potential pro of working as a bartender is the social aspect of the job. Throughout your shift, you can meet lots of different people. For those who are extroverted or who appreciate the opportunity to speak with others, this can be a fun aspect of the job.
You're typically free during the day
Most bartenders take evening and weekend shifts, meaning their days are free to pursue other ventures. Bartending can be a good choice for those in school, for example, because your daytime hours are open to attend classes, do work or study. It can also be helpful to have your days free because you're off work when most other businesses, like banks, motor vehicle centers, doctor's offices and specialty stores, are open. Having free time on weekdays means you may have more opportunities to complete errands, see friends, spend time with family or do other work.
Related: What Is a Bartender Certification?
You learn new skills
There are many skills that can help you become a successful bartender. Taking orders and requests and fulfilling them correctly can take communication skills, a powerful memory and the ability to multitask. Working at a restaurant, bar or event can help you grow these skills, which can benefit you in other aspects of your life. Another skill you can learn as a bartender is how to make different drinks. If you're someone who enjoys entertaining or drinking, knowing how to make your own cocktails can be a fun skill to share with friends and family.
It's an active job
Depending on where you work and the business of your establishment, most bartenders can expect to be moving for most of their shifts. During busy times, you might have to be standing behind the bar, going to tables to take orders or making drinks. Many bartenders learn to make drinks, take orders and accept payment simultaneously, in order to better serve their customers. Having an active job can often make shifts feel shorter because you're less bored. Working as a bartender can be a great way to ensure you're moving and staying active at work.
What are the cons of being a bartender?
While there are many significant benefits to working as a bartender, there can be some downsides to the position, too. Here's a closer look at some potential cons of being a bartender:
There isn't a lot of upward mobility
One potential con of working as a bartender is the limited growth many people experience in the job. While experience and hard work can qualify you for raises, or even management opportunities, bartending rarely offers the same benefits of a traditional career in terms of access to insurance or professional development opportunities. For those who appreciate the job, this isn't necessarily a downside to the position. For those who hope to make a higher wage or gain benefits with their employment, bartending might not be a sustainable employment solution.
You often have to work nights and weekends
While having your weekdays free to complete errands or spend time with others can be nice, for some, working evenings and weekends can be a con of the job. Because many others have an opposite schedule, working in bartending can mean you don't have the same free time as others in your family or friend group. Some bartenders also have to work on holidays, which might not work for your needs.
Working late nights can cause some to sleep in later in the morning, disrupting sleep schedules and leading to unhealthy habits. While not always the case, some professionals don't do well with bartenders' hours and expectations.
Related: What Is Shift Work?
It's important to be aware of local regulations
Many states apply strict rules and regulations to serving alcohol. It's important to be aware of your state's requirements. Failure to check an I.D. or serving alcohol when you're under 18 years old can have consequences for the restaurant and the server. Learning all the rules and requirements can help you ensure you stay in compliance with the law.
It can be tiring
Because bartending can be such an active and demanding job, it can be tiring to maintain the energy needed to socialize and respond to overlapping requests. Some thrive in these environments, so it's important to know yourself well in order to decide if bartending is a good fit for you. Working late nights can be tiring, especially if you have other commitments during the day.
The environment can be unhealthy
For those who struggle with alcohol or substance abuse, working as a bartender might not be the best choice for their health. Even if you don't have unhealthy habits, constantly being around those who drink and party can have a powerful influence on your own behaviors and actions. Additionally, you might witness others struggling with dependency, or need to intervene if an alcohol-related incident occurs at your workplace.
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