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No matter what stage you are on the bar career ladder there is always plenty of scope to develop your skills further. Personal development will help confidence within your role as a bartender whilst also increasing your service levels and potential extra tips and profit for the bar.

The most important person working in any bar is you, the bartenders and waiting staff. You are the public face and personality of the bar and it is you that is shaping your customers experience in the outlet. You are the difference between a good bar and a great bar. This is a great responsibility but also a huge opportunity for you.

As we kick off the New Year, there is no better time to start thinking about your career development and what skills you can improve to reach your goals.

Due to budgets and time, official training days and courses don’t happen very often, but don’t let that stop you from improving your skills. As with many jobs, the best way to develop your talents behind the bar can be learning on the job.

Venues around the world differ with levels of management structure. Some venues having a rigid management structure with clear job titles, whilst other smaller scale venues have an informal management structure. Whatever level you are there is great opportunity to empower yourself as a bartender and develop your own personal skills.

We asked Head of the Diageo Bar Academy Training Team in Great Britain, Matt Guest to give us some tips on taking charge of your skillset and learning on the job.

As Head of the Diageo Bar Academy Training Team, I speak to a lot of bartenders, managers and owners every year. They all agree that training is important, but they often do not think they have the time or money to do it.

However, training can be done with any spare or quiet moment, in quick 10-15 minute sessions but you need a plan.

One plan that I frequently use is called a training matrix. It is a visual record that is should be available to everyone. It’s simple, fast and flexible. The training matrix is very effective for staff of all levels, from bar backs to managers, as it offers a clear, visual structure which will help empower employees. For bartenders this is a great way to highlight strengths and weaknesses and ensure staff are aware of which areas they can develop.

Suggesting a training matrix to your manager and getting everyone else involved would be the perfect scenario, but if that is not the case don’t let this put you off. You could easily make your own personal version and work your way along all the skills you want to develop. The importance of this matrix is that it shows where there are gaps in your skills and it can focus you in developing these areas.

The training matrix

Follow these simple instructions:

1. Get a large whiteboard or chalkboard (preferably, as they are visible and easily adapted).

2. Down the side, write all of the bartenders’ names.

3. Across the top, write all the subjects that you want to train on. (You could have a different training matrix for each area eg. one for bar skills, one for customer service etc.)

4. Let’s take spirits as an example. Your subject headings could be:

* Or list every individual cocktail if you wanted to go into that much detail.

5. When you’ve been shown how to do a particular task, put a single diagonal line in the corresponding box.

6. When you demonstrate that particular skill, turn that line into a cross.

7. When you feel you have become really proficient, you can put two crosses in the box, signaling that you could train others in this skill.

The glass is already half full!

So what are you waiting for? You could definitely fill some of the training matrix in already; you end up with is a piece of gap analysis and you can see where you need to be up-skilled and which subjects need the most attention. If others in your bar are involved you can also see where they have skills, where you don’t and vice versa. This is a great system to have with your colleagues and peers to help one and other and create overall better service for the bar. Often there is a wealth of knowledge behind the bar and the matrix provides the perfect opportunity to ask everyone around you to show you their techniques and share their knowledge.

Want to find out how Diageo Bar Academy can help develop the training in your bar, contact your local market leader for more information.