Wages 101: Do Bartenders Get Paid Hourly?

do bartenders get paid hourly
Joe | Last Updated: November 24, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Bartending can be an exciting and lucrative profession with opportunities to work with people from all walks of life and in a variety of settings such as nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.

It’s a booming industry with the employment of bartenders in the US projected to grow 18 percent from 2021 to 2031 and good bartenders being in very high demand.

But whether you’re an aspiring bartender or someone who’s simply curious about bartender pay, you’ll want to know how bartenders are compensated for their work.

Do bartenders get paid hourly, are they on a salary, and is their income heavily based on tips are all important questions that we’re going to cover in this article.

We’ll explore the various ways bartenders are paid and provide insights into what you can expect as a bartender when it comes to wages.

So let’s get into it…

Do Bartenders Get Paid Hourly?

Bartenders can be paid hourly or on salary, but in the United States, it’s most common for bartenders to be paid by the hour, but this depends on the employer, the establishment, and the bartender’s experience.

The typical setup for bartenders in the US is to be paid an hourly wage that is supplemented by tips, with both the hourly rate and tips varying greatly depending on numerous factors.

Salaried positions are most common for management and administrative roles within the bartending industry, such as bar manager or beverage director positions.

do bartenders get paid hourly
Image by Ashbridge Studios

These positions often require more experience and specialized skills, and they may also offer other benefits such as a 401(k), health insurance, and paid time off.

That said, some bartending roles may be salaried depending on the establishment, those looking for more permanent employees may offer a salary as opposed to an hourly rate to attract long-term employees.

>>Read more: How much do bartenders in Las Vegas make?

Why Do Bartenders Get Paid Hourly?

There are a number of reasons why most bartenders in the US get paid an hourly rate as opposed to a salary.

Firstly, the turnover of staff in the bartending industry is quite high, with many bartenders coming into the industry for short periods whilst traveling, studying, or in between jobs.

Some bars have a fresh turnover of staff every few months, so it makes sense for employers to pay them an hourly rate instead of setting each employee up on a salary for them to leave in a few months.

The laws and regulations governing tipped employees in the US allow employers to pay a lower hourly rate to tipped employees, with the expectation that tips will supplement their income.

This allows employers to hire multiple members of staff and keep costs low, whilst still providing bartenders the opportunity to earn good money through tips.

Another common reason for bartenders being paid hourly is that bar managers can offer more competitive rates to more experienced bartenders.

do bartenders get paid hourly
Image by Dave MacFarlane

Not all hourly rates are the same and bartenders with more experience can be offered a higher rate if they’re able to take on more responsibility and keep the bar running smoothly.

The hourly rate and tip compensation structure is one that is well established and is an effective way for bartenders to earn based on their skill and time and for establishments to keep labor costs low for employees.

>> Read more: How do bartenders keep track of tabs?

Do All Bartenders Get Paid Hourly?

No, not all bartenders get paid hourly, many experienced bartenders or those with a particular set of skills such as flair bartenders may be on a salary that incentivizes them to stay with the establishment for long periods.

Senior bartenders or those in management positions may also be paid a salary, as well as those who work in high-end establishments.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the way bartenders are compensated will vary from country to country, and those who are in locations where tipping is not as customary as in the US may be more likely to be paid a salary.

In the UK for example, there isn’t as high an expectation for bartenders to earn tips, so it’s more common for bartenders to be paid a salary there than in the US.

Ultimately, not all bartenders are paid hourly, and oftentimes bartenders may start off on an hourly rate but once they’ve passed a probationary period and proven themselves may move onto a salary structure.

How Much Do Bartenders Get Paid?

According to Indeed, the average bartender in the United States gets an hourly pay of $15.58 per hour and $150 in tips per day, but this can vary depending on the state and the bartender’s experience.

This data is based on 69,700 bartender salaries that were reported throughout the country and includes both experienced and new bartenders.

There are a number of factors that influence how much bartenders get paid, with the establishment and bartenders’ experience being the most important.

do bartenders get paid hourly
Image by thao

As you might expect, bartenders working in uptown thriving establishments in the heart of New York will earn more than those working in a rural bar in Kentucky.

When it comes to salaried positions, ZipRecruiter states that the average salary for a bartender in the US is $26,598 per year, but again this varies depending on a number of factors.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, YES, most bartenders DO get paid hourly, especially in the United States. However, some establishments and positions may pay a salary that can include many other benefits including retirement plans and paid time off.

Ultimately, the type of pay structure in the bartending industry depends on a number of factors including the establishment and the bartender’s experience.

Thriving establishments that want to retain staff are more likely to pay a salary, whereas establishments with high staff turnover may prefer to pay employees an hourly rate.

Most bartending positions in the US will be paid hourly with a tip incentive, but it’s important to check the tipping policy before accepting a position.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning more about how bartenders are paid today and now have a better understanding of why most are paid hourly.

Catch you in the next one!

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