Blogs & Inspiration
Is Bartending a Good Career? Pros and Cons You Should Know
Author: Aashi Bhatnagar, Innovation Artist at Cobbler and Crew, Pune, and Francis Ndungu, Head Mixologist at Norwegian Cruise Line.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
As with any job, bartending comes with its pros and cons, but is it worth pursuing? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
From globetrotting to working late nights, celebrated bartenders, Aashi Bhatnagar and Francis Ndungu, tell us all – giving us the low-down on what they think are the best and worst parts of the job.
FIVE BENEFITS OF BARTENDING:
1. It’s very sociable
‘For the majority of the day, you’ll be taking orders from and chatting to customers who often share amazing experiences and crazy stories with you – which is both an honor and a privilege. Bartending as a profession attracts people from all over the world, each bringing their unique outlooks and personalities to the work environment.
‘Not only does this bring lots of great energy to the role and arm you with a wealth of fun and fascinating stories, but speaking to people from all walks of life can also help enhance your customer service skills, social skills, and develop your personality.’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
2. There’s plenty of room for progression
‘In the bar industry, it’s often easy to progress to bar management because running bar operations equips you with skills such as handling pressure, writing reports and doing requisitions.
‘Personally, I’ve experienced lots of growth, achieving key industry milestones such as becoming Head Mixologist in the most successful bar in Africa (Hero bar and restaurant Nairobi), winning Diageo World Class Kenya 2022 and I’m now the Head Mixologist at Norwegian Cruise Line. So, there’s plenty of room for progression as a bartender! With the right amount of discipline and passion, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.’ Francis Ndungu.
Check out these top tips for Getting Ahead In The Bar Industry.
3. You can take your skills anywhere in the world
‘Bartending is a universal language you can speak in any country, and there are always jobs available in exciting holiday destinations. Doing the job while traveling allows you to explore and earn money at the same time to fund your trip.
‘And if you excel, you could get the opportunity to do guest shifts in different cities and countries, or attend competitions like World Class. The competition gives you the opportunity to travel and meet the best bartenders in the industry. If you get a chance to represent your nation on a global stage, I can tell you from experience that it’s the best feeling in the world.’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
4. The working hours are more flexible
‘Shift hours are more flexible than a 9am-5pm office job. You can swap shifts with your colleagues and have more control over your hours once you’ve worked your way up.’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
‘It also gives you the flexibility to do personal side hustles in the morning because most bars are open in the evenings.’ Francis Ndungu.
5. You can express your creativity
‘A bartender is no less than the artist. You can learn how to create your own signature cocktails and weave real stories into them – giving you the opportunity to make your own stamp in the bar world.
‘For example, one of my favorite cocktails is my ‘Neuro Margarita’ that I created for the ‘Don Julio-Classics of The Future’ challenge at World Class. It’s my interpretation of a futuristic Margarita through neuro gastronomy (the study of flavor perception and the ways it affects cognition and memory).’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
Watch our Masterclass on Crafting World Class Cocktails.
FIVE DRAWBACKS OF BARTENDING:
1. Your income can vary
‘As a bartender, your income is unpredictable. This is usually because customer tips or service charge can change week to week. During busy operation, the service charge tends to increase (which is great!), however, when it’s not so busy you can earn considerably less.
‘At some bars, you can also get commission when you sell specific beverages, so on a good week, you’ll sell and earn more, whereas on a bad week, you’ll of course sell and earn less. Overall, this contributes to variances in your weekly pay. You can help manage this by budgeting for the less successful weeks.’ Francis Ndungu.
Check out these top Money Saving Tips For Bartenders.
2. It can be a physically demanding job
‘Shift hours can be long, you have to stand on your feet all day, and it can involve heavy lifting during store pickups, inventories and so on. Ways you can help combat the negative impact of this, is by learning how to lift properly and making sure you get enough rest on your days off.
‘On, the plus side it can help keep your body fit. Shaking, stirring and lifting behind the bar can build muscle and make your body flexible if you’re doing it in the right way.’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
3. You often have to work antisocial hours
‘Most bars operate in the evening, which often means starting your day late and closing late. And instead of filling your weekends with joy, you’ll be busy filling other people’s. This can have its drawbacks if you have lots of friends that work regular 9am-5pm jobs.’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
‘Festive seasons are particularly busy periods for the hospitality industry, so we’re often asked to work and sadly have to miss out on time with family and friends. The best thing you can do is forward plan and book holidays off-peak season – which are often cheaper times to book.’ Francis Ndungu.
4. Bartending can be high-pressure
‘It’s a fast-paced role that demands a lot of energy and attention. Factors such as busy shifts, complaints and staff shortages can all create stress. Firstly, to help avoid this, ensure you find the right bar by researching into their culture and asking the right questions in your interview: e.g. what’s your company culture like?
‘To help me get through a busy shift, I’ve found that trying my best to ‘let go’ and accept the fact that no matter what, there will always be a queue at the bar, helps. Other ways that can help relieve stress include meditation and ensuring you get enough sleep!’ Aashi Bhatnagar.
5. You may have to manage difficult situations
‘At times, it can be difficult to manage customer expectations and complaints. An example could be when you need to call last orders and it’s time for you to close, but the bar is still full. You have to be very careful in how you handle these kinds of situations because one mistake could lead to numerous guest complaints.
‘To avoid this, you should always aim to create a great rapport with your guests from the very beginning of service, so when it’s time to close or push back on requests, your guests are more likely to oblige.’ Francis Ndungu.
Read our advice on how to handle Customer Complaints and Service Recovery.
- Bartending is a sociable job with lots of room for progression, you can get creative, travel with your skills, and the hours are more flexible.
- Ensure you find the right bar for you by researching into their culture and asking the right questions in your interview: e.g. what’s your company culture like?
- If you’re interested in opening your own bar, bartending equips you with lots of the necessary skills needed to run your own venue.
- Your income can vary, it can be physically demanding, high-pressure, and you often have to work weekends and festive periods.
- Ways you can manage potential drawbacks of the role include ensuring you get enough rest, practicing self-care rituals that work for you, budgeting for the less lucrative months and organizing your days.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Career so far: ‘It started with me faking a toe injury whilst I was doing an internship at Pune’s Double Tree Hilton. This was a trick to get behind the bar and wipe glasses so I could see how operations work behind the bar. It’s safe to say I fooled them!
‘I learnt, worked my way up, and I’m now an Innovation Artist at Cobbler and Crew, Pune. I have since gone on to win World Class India 2023 and the People’s Choice Award 2023.’
Favorite cocktail to serve: Perfect 10 Martini.
Career so far: ‘Whilst I was studying journalism at university, I stumbled on a job advert for a banquet’s waiter, quickly applied, and got the job. I had originally wanted to become a media personality, but I quickly became interested in the bar work and grew to love it.
‘I excelled at the job and eventually went on to work as the Head Mixologist in the most successful bar in Kenya and Africa (Hero bar and restaurant Nairobi), and am now the Head Mixologist at Norwegian Cruise Line.
‘Winning Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year, Kenya 2022, has to be the highlight of my career.’
Favorite cocktail to serve: Negroni.