Bar backs, glass collectors, bar support, whatever you call them, they are the unsung heroes of our bars – keeping everything running so the bartenders can focus on the guest and keep everyone’s drinks full. Are your Bar Backs being used as effectively as they could be?
1: Make sure they know all of your codes.
Bartenders often use a variety of different colour codes, shorthand calls and slang for different items around your bar – for example, your store and pour juice bottles – does your bar back know from memory what each colour corresponds to? A yellow stripe for orange juice may be pretty self explanatory, but what is blue and white, what is red and black, have you had to put a syrup into an empty bottle that’s unlabelled? Picking up a bottle with the wrong juice could ruin several rounds of drinks – so day one, tell them what goes in what bottle, and where it lives!
The same goes for spoken codes, if you have a call to let your colleagues know you’re off for a cigarette, to let someone know a bottle’s flying their way or that you’ve cut off or ID’d a guest – your bar back needs to be in the loop too.
2: Have an area for stuff that needs filling.
While your bar back should be checking your station for low bottles and juices while you work, you will inevitably end up with an empty in your hand at some point – so designate an area of the bar (whether it be per station or communal) that the bar back can go straight to when they’re free to see what needs re-stocking first. Of course, prevention is better than cure and its best to have the bottles checked early so they don’t run out!
3: Teach them whenever you have the chance.
Most bar backs are not there because they want to clean up after you for their whole lives, they’ll either be filling in time between other jobs or (hopefully) want to be a bartender too, so help them learn more about the bar, recipes, free pouring – whatever you can to help them be better. They’ll look up to you, so be a decent role model, and if you want them to show up on time to help you out, don’t be late yourself!
4: Have them help you out with beers from the tap.
Pouring a large round of beers can take a bartender out of action for a while, so why not show your bar back how to pull a pint and free yourself up to make the cocktails, hiballs and grab the bottles. You’ll still ring up the drinks at the register and handle all the cash, but they’ll feel helpful and keep the bar more productive.
5: They can be your eyes and ears.
More from a management point of view, your bar backs when they’re on the floor clearing glasses will also be fairly un-noticed, and may well be the ones who spot guests who may be getting too drunk or potential drug use – so make sure they know who they should tell if the situation arrises, be it a member of the management team, the bartenders or security.
6: They can save you a pricy lawsuit.
Make sure your bar backs are on top of any spills in guest areas of the bar, getting them identified and cleaned up as quickly as possible to avoid anyone being injured. Dropped bottles, wet floors and trip hazards are a quick route to a big fine or compensation claim, especially where many bars have low lighting. Keep yourself safe and legal, and you can concentrate on giving your guests a good night out rather than defending yourself or your business in court!
7: Show them some trust, and they’ll be worthy of it.
Trust your bar back enough to let them in the cellar when you need items fetching, trust them when they tell you a given customer is acting up, and they will normally be well worth your trust. If they’re not, its best to know before they’re a bartender and have cash handling added to their responsibilities anyway!
8: Tip them out. Fairly.
A good bar back can be the difference between a nightmare shift and a really smooth night, and as a bartender, that will mean a terrible night in tips and one where you walk out with a bulging jar. If that bar back has worked his (or her) ass off for you all night, you’ve never been chasing them for items, and they make your close faster, its only fair that they get a share of what you earn. I can tell you from experience, bar backs react really well to being tipped well, and if you look after them at the end of the shift, you’ll never have an empty bottle or dirty glass on your station on your next shift!