Bartender making drinks

Blogs & Inspiration

Bartender Career Guide - Getting Ahead In The Bar Industry

Learn the skills and things you should focus on to help you take the next step in your bar career.

Author: Luke Whearty, Bar Owner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The Next Steps

The bar industry is thriving and filled with opportunities for you to take the next step and take on more senior roles and responsibilities. Despite this, sometimes it can feel like you're stagnating and not moving forward.

For a successful, long-term career in the bar industry, you need to put the work in and focus on a few areas of development to prove that you're ready for more. Here's some insight from those who have been through the process and are now at the highest stages in their career to help you get ahead.

What To Do To Get Promoted

The bar industry is fast-paced and has a high staff turnover rate, especially in the early stages. You can take advantage and get more rewarding roles by demonstrating a commitment to the role and improving.

Luke Whearty, celebrated bar owner, shares some advice that everyone should follow, no matter their role or experience:

  • Master drink knowledge and development – Stand out from your co-workers by learning skills and information. Showcasing advanced skills like creating syrups and infused ingredients can help you get better roles.
  • Do more training to get more comfortable in your role – Go beyond the mandatory learning materials to show commitment and drive. You can also share what you've learned with your staff to improve the team and showcase leadership skills. Ask to be shown how to perform a specialist task to help you become the go-to candidate for promotion.
  • Look after yourself – You need to be able to perform at the highest level, so make sure you strive to strike a good work-life balance so that you're well-rested and able to give it your all during your shifts. Eat well, exercise when you can and focus on getting enough rest to increase your chances of climbing the ladder.

For Those New To Bartending

As well as these universal tips, there are specific things people should focus on at different stages of their career to help them climb the career ladder quickly. For those who have just started out and only have up to a couple of years of experience, be sure to:

  • Learn the fundamentals – You won't get promotions if you've yet to master the basics. Take the extra steps to learn the critical responsibilities of your role.
  • Keep an open mind – Don't narrow your focus on your current role. Be ready to absorb more information about adjacent tasks to become more well-rounded and comfortable.
  • Think about the future – Although it's early days, consider where you want to be in your bar career. To get that promotion, you need to constantly expand your capabilities, showing that you're not just great for your current role but capable of more.

For Experienced Bartenders

For more experienced bartenders, it can be easy for your progress to slow. After a few years of honing your skills, you may have reached a stage where you're 'good enough' and lose the motivation to challenge yourself. If you're to progress, you need the drive to push through. Focus on the following to help you reach that next level.   

  • Be passionate - You need that burning fire in you to motivate you. Find something in your work that excites you and work on it to improve.  
  • Compete and network - You must work alongside the best to be the best. Competing in mixology contests and other competitive situations can help you learn and bring the most out of yourself. 
  • Build a personal brand - A strong sense of who you are can help you get those next-level roles. Showcase your talents and interests to show how much of an asset you can be.  
  • Expose yourself to new opportunities - At this level of your career, you should seek as much experience as possible. Try to find roles in various settings and locations. This will help you get better and increase your skills. 

Key Takeaways

  • Complete more training and show a desire to learn and obtain more responsibilities to help you get a promotion.
  • Newer bar workers can rise through the ranks by focusing on learning the fundamentals and additional skills valuable to a future role.
  • Experienced bar professionals should network, compete in competitions, and work to get as much experience in different settings as possible to prevent stagnation.

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