ONE MILLION* WAYS TO BUILD A CAREER IN THE BAR BUSINESS
When I grow up I want to be a… bartender? Whilst many of us may not have originally intended to join the hospitality industry, the wide range of backgrounds that get involved have never truly been matched with equally diverse career options; until now.
Finally, the traditional ‘career paths’ available to us are changing drastically as the industry grows. Here, we talk to 3 bar favourites from across the globe who have each treaded different paths to success in the modern hospitality industry.
ANDREW LOUDON – WHAT MAKES A GREAT BARTENDER TODAY
Andrew originally began bartending during his university days in Manchester before moving to London. At 69 Colebrooke Row, he developed a more scientific approach to drinks construction, before moving East.
A previous winner of Drinks International’s Cocktail of the Year award, Andrew is currently responsible for the Front of House team and beverage programme at the celebrated Tippling Club, Singapore.
A great bartender or server is a great host and one of the greatest attributes one can carry is a big, warm smile.
Making people feel at ease is a huge part of the role and I think those that grasp that quickly, climb quickly. Time management is also a huge factor – ensuring each customer is getting equal attention and levels of service, whilst retaining composure and control in stressful situations are all qualities you want in a bartender.
The great thing about this industry is we’re forced to constantly adapt and evolve, as there is never a topic or subject, spirit or cocktail, technique or ingredient that we can’t learn more about. It’s important we take inspiration from both sides of the coin – researching and revising older recipes but implementing new technologies or techniques.
Great bartenders and servers are great storytellers, they see the food, drinks, the venue and atmosphere as additional tools in their arsenal to craft great experiences. I don’t see it very different to other forms of entertainment, except that you maybe don more hats; for one guest or group, you may be a tour guide, chef and comedian before making a drink.
When I’m hiring or building a team I look for people with a good education in all aspects of the industry and with an ability to apply this knowledge locally. A general inquisitiveness and curiosity reward you in this game, I like staff who question the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ we do.
I will always rate consistency very highly as a bar is only as good as its weakest link. I expect the standards to be upheld and the same quality of drinks to come from every member on the team. Education, application, replication, innovation. This mantra breeds success.
There are plenty of new career options out there for anyone coming from the industry. Brands and distributors are traditional routes, but are encompassing even more roles now between sales, marketing, advocacy and education. Bartending is both artistic and entertainment, so I think there are many similar sectors you can pivot to. I’ve friends who have gone into education, media, fitness and even baking. Not in that order, though.
Two books I would highly recommend are ‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’ (David Emburys) and ‘Spirits Distilled’ (Mark Ridgewell).
My advice for growing your career is to keep your ears open, listen and learn. Don’t settle; there’s so much to learn that we should always be hungry and that’s what I look for when hiring.
LUKE TYNAN – SHAKING ALL OVER THE WORLD
After dabbling in a graphic design career, Luke took up bartending in 2008 as ‘a means to an end’ – extra income to pay the bills. His creative flair and knack for design translated to the role and, with an Irish brogue and buckets of questionable charm, he soon found himself travelling and behind the bar in different parts of the world.
10 years later, the talented Mr. Tynan has returned to his native Dublin to open a bar after stints in New York and Vancouver; here, he discusses the merits of bartending around the globe.
The thing I love most about my job is the variety involved. Every bar is different, every guest, every shift, every day. You’re constantly thrown into new situations, new challenges and opportunities to learn and improve. At times, it can be stressful – but never boring.
Bartending is suited to travelling as it’s a universal language – good (and bad) service is recognisable anywhere. Sure, there’s nuances to each place but it’s an adaptable skillset and an amazing career to see the world with.
Travelling bartenders are great for our industry as it keeps things fresh. The industry thrives as wandering bar rogues pollinate new cocktail communities and cities with new ideas, ingredients or techniques.
I would never advise anyone to pass up an opportunity because of loyalty. There’s a balance of knowing when to chase a good thing and when to stay put. Places can become stagnant without turnover, so it can be healthy. Go with your instinct and be professional with whatever decision you make; if you’re leaving, give plenty of notice and aim to leave the bar in a better position than when you started.
Education is getting easier with increasing options available to increase your knowledge and understanding. At the moment, I’m using ‘Liquid Intelligence’ (D. Arnold) and ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ (N. Segnit) quite a lot in the bar and I’m enjoying the ‘Life Behind Bars’ podcast with Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich.
I’ve heard lots of good and bad advice in the industry, but one that resonated with me is, “the drink won’t taste good if the bartender isn’t welcoming”. Very simple, but one I like to remind myself of.
If I had to give advice to someone starting out it would be: lift with your legs. Stretch after work. Enjoy it – don’t take yourself too seriously. And embrace the worthwhile distractions.
COREY GOOD - OPENING YOUR OWN SPOT
Like many, Corey found himself in the industry unintentionally. Whilst playing music and touring, Corey first picked up shifts in Austin for extra cash but soon found himself climbing the ladder and trying every bar role along the way.
In 2015, Corey opened High & Tight with business partner Braxton Martin, a speakeasy with a 1920’s-themed barbershop in the Deep Ellum neighbourhood of Dallas, Texas.
Opening your own bar is a pretty crazy experience and I think I was lucky to be doing it with a great business partner in Braxton. We knew we wanted to open something and got brainstorming on concepts before landing on H&T. After that, we got our other business partner Justus involved and got to work.
Finding a mentor can make things easier, especially one that has opened a bar and been through the process. So many little things pop up you don’t account for – like the height of mirrors in a bathroom or paper towel dispensers being too close to toilets – and it’s invaluable to have a sounding board who’s done it all before.
A great bar is all about consistency – having systems and checks in place takes the pressure off as you know there’s a routine and checklist to get through, instead of trying to keep on top of everything yourself. Great staff make a difference and having quality systems in place ensures staff can get familiar with the bar quickly.
A good bar owner should be involved and hands on, showing leadership in their team but ready to change and grow. Being helpful, open and receptive to staff input means we’re all in this together. Pitching in and paying people on time are two rules this dude abides by.
I read a lot of books on entrepreneurship and cocktails to get started. PDT’s cocktail book is a great starting point and one I often go back to. Believe it or not, in the craziness of opening the bar, I often watched episodes of Bar Rescue in my down time. They didn’t necessarily enlighten me, but watching other bars further immersed me in the world and made me consider how we were doing things.
The advice I’d give to someone starting out is always account for going over budget,don’t hire friends and start out with the basics – master them before going for bigger things.But, overall, be original and don’t give up. Do something different to what’s happening in the area and be prepared to see your vision there, even when no one else can.
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