Do Bartenders Need A Food Handler Card?

do bartenders need a food handler card
Joe | Last Updated: May 1, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

As a bartender, your main focus is likely on providing exceptional customer service to guests and crafting delicious cocktails.

But have you ever wondered; do bartenders need a food handler card?

Whilst food and bartending may seem somewhat unrelated, understanding food safety and sanitization practices is crucial for any hospitality worker, especially those that serve food.

Nobody wants to be served by a grubby bartender that doesn’t know the difference between a clean glass and a dirty one.

There are several reasons why bartenders may need to obtain a food handler card, but the laws and regulations around this differ from state to state.

In this post, we’ll find out if a food handler card is really necessary for your bartending journey and how to go about obtaining one.

Let’s get into it…

What Is A Food Handler Card?

A food handler license, commonly known as a food handler card is a permit or certificate that certifies that an individual has completed a food safety course approved by the state or county.

Its purpose is to ensure that food service workers, or anyone that works with unpackaged food, food equipment, or a food-contact surface has a basic understanding of food safety and sanitization principles.

do bartenders need a food handler card
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor

The course itself isn’t extensive and usually takes around 2 hours to complete, but it covers topics such as proper hand washing, temperature control, and prevention of cross-contamination.

In many countries and states, a food handler card is required by law for all employees who handle food in commercial settings such as cafes, restaurants, and food trucks.

It’s essentially certification to say that the employees working in the establishment are trained in how to properly handle food.

Do Bartenders Need A Food Handler Card?

For the most part, bartenders DO NOT need a food handler card, but this depends on the laws and regulations of the state/country they are in as well as the establishment itself.

Bartenders who work in an establishment where they are responsible for handling or serving food are required to have a food handler card to demonstrate that they’ve completed a food safety program and understand basic food handling procedures.

Whereas bartenders that do not handle or serve food are generally not required to obtain a food handler card.

There are some exceptions to this, such as the state of California, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Washington, and Illinois which requires all bartenders and barbacks to receive food handler training.

Across the pond in the UK, it’s a legal responsibility for everyone who comes into contact with food at work to understand proper food hygiene practices.

UK food handler certificates are available at levels 1, 2, and 3, with the majority of training for staff members in pubs acquiring a minimum of a level 1 food hygiene certificate.

But in pubs where there is a kitchen and the establishment serves food, certain staff members will be required to obtain a level 2 food hygiene certificate.

In addition to this, any staff member in the UK that supervises food handlers will require a level 3 food hygiene certificate.

As you can see, across the US and UK, it’s important for those that handle or serve food in any way to receive the necessary training to show they understand proper food handling procedures, even bartenders.

Why Do Some Bartenders Need A Food Handler Card?

Some bartenders may need to obtain a food handler card because they may be responsible for handling or serving food as part of their role.

Whilst the primary role of a bartender is to provide excellent customer service and serve drinks, it’s not uncommon for bartenders that work in pubs, restaurants, bars, or nightclubs to serve food as part of their role.

do bartenders need a food handler card
Photo by Bimo Luki

Having a food handler card proves to employers and health inspectors that bartenders have received the proper training in the safe handling of food.

Some states in the US require every single employee at the food establishment to receive a food handler card, right down to the cleaners.

It’s a way to prevent poor hygiene and ensure that customers are served safely and with the proper techniques.

Personally, I feel better knowing that in some restaurants all employees have undergone food safety training and received a food handler card.

In fact, I would be more likely to eat in that restaurant or pub than one that didn’t require all staff to undergo this training.

How To Get A Food Handler Card

If you’re a bartender that does need a food handler card, don’t stress, as it’s very easy to do and can be completed online in as little as two hours for a small fee.

In California for example, requires individuals to complete a 75-minute course before taking the food handlers course online.

If you don’t pass the first time, you can retake the test for free until you do. It’s not rocket science and after completing the course you should be well equipped to pass.

do bartenders need a food handler card
Photo by Miha Rekar

Once completed, simply print, download, or mail order your card immediately after completing the program and you’re good to go.

The food handler card is valid for 3 years and the whole course is done 100% online and costs $7.95.

There are some food handling training facilities that offer local in-person training if this is preferred, but if you’re looking to get the card as quickly as possible it’s best to be done online.

Be sure to check the specific requirements and process for obtaining a food handler card with your manager beforehand as there may be additional requirements depending on where you work.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, NO, most bartenders will not need a food safety card unless as part of their role, they are responsible for handling or serving food.

Bartenders that work in restaurants or establishments which serve food may well need to obtain a food handler card to demonstrate they’ve had the necessary training to handle food safely.

The card is easy to get and requires individuals to take a short course on food safety before completing an examination.

In my opinion, it’s a good idea for all bartenders to obtain a food safety card even if their state doesn’t require it as it’s good to have on your resume and you never know when it may come in handy.