Wages 101: How Do Bartenders Get Paid?

how do bartenders get paid
Joe | Last Updated: November 7, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

While we would all like to believe that we go to work purely out of passion and love for our craft, in reality, it’s more so to earn money for rent, food, and general living expenses.

With the cost of living higher than ever, it’s important that we bring home enough money to put food on the table and support ourselves and our families.

So whether you’re someone who’s simply curious about bartending or perhaps you’re about to join the industry, you’ll likely have a few questions about the bartender pay, specifically: How do bartenders get paid?

That’s why in this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the various methods in which bartenders get paid, as well as how frequently they get paid, and more.

So if you are curious about the different payment models used in bartending, stick around as you’re in the right place.

How Do Bartenders Get Paid?

When it comes to how bartenders actually receive their pay, there are two main methods by which employers pay their staff.

1. Paycheck

Bartenders typically receive payment through a combination of a base salary or hourly wage and customer tips. They often receive a regular paycheck from their employer, which includes their base salary or hourly rate.

Once the pay period ends, the employer calculates the bartender’s earnings, including their base salary or hourly wage, and any additional tips earned.

how do bartenders get paid
Image by Andy Nguyen

The total amount is then transferred electronically to the bartender’s designated bank account as this method ensures a secure and convenient transfer of funds, allowing bartenders to access their earnings promptly.

Some establishments may also offer alternative payment methods, such as physical checks, but direct deposit is the most common and efficient way for bartenders to receive their pay.

Does anybody really use checks anymore? I haven’t seen one for YEARS and good riddance.

2. Tips

Tips are a significant part of a bartender’s income, especially here in the US. Customers typically tip bartenders based on the quality of service they receive, and generally the better the bartender, the more tips they’ll receive.

The amount of the tip can vary greatly, but it’s generally expected that customers will leave a tip that’s at least 10-20% of the total cost of their order.

Bartender Tip Calculator

Recommended Tip

Total Bill

These can add up quickly, so you can see why it’s so important for bartenders to do an outstanding job.

Some establishments have a policy of pooling tips, which means that all tips earned by the staff are combined and then divided among the employees at the end of the night, whereas other establishments allow bartenders to keep all of their tips.

Keep in mind that tips are considered taxable income, and bartenders are required to report all tips earned to their employers, so it’s important to keep a record of any tips earned.

Tips are usually paid in cash directly to the bartender, which they will then either keep or put into a pooling jar (or tin) to divide out between everybody at the end of the week or shift depending on the bar’s tipping policy.

But customers may also choose to tip on a card, and some establishments have a gratuity fee on the patron’s receipt which will go towards the tips the bartender receives.

>> Read more: Do bartenders pay taxes?

How Frequently Do Bartenders Get Paid?

When it comes to how frequently bartenders are paid, this can vary depending on the establishment the bartender works in.

Most bartenders will get paid on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, with some even paid monthly if they are being paid a salary and are full-time employees. The pay period typically runs from Sunday to Saturday, or Monday to Sunday.

In some larger establishments, bartenders may be able to choose their pay schedule, having the option of weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly payment schedules.

In addition to the regular pay schedule, bartenders may also receive tips on a daily or weekly basis.

Tips are usually collected at the end of each shift and are distributed among the bartenders and other service staff based on a predetermined formula.

how do bartenders get paid
Photo by Darlene Alderson

The frequency of pay may also vary depending on the state and local laws, with some states requiring employers to pay their employees on a weekly basis, while others allow for bi-weekly or monthly pay schedules.

As a bartender, it’s important to keep track of your pay schedule and ensure that you are being paid accurately and on time.

You should also ensure you’re reporting all of your tips correctly so that you avoid any nasty tax bills at the end of the year.

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

Bartender Payslips

Bartenders will also receive payslips that provide a breakdown of their pay, allowing them to understand the different components that contribute to their earnings.

These slips can either be emailed electronically to the bartender’s email address or provided physically on a piece of paper, both are common in the industry today.

The payslip will indicate the bartender’s base salary or hourly rate, which represents the guaranteed income they receive from their employer.

Payslips also detail how many hours they have worked, how much they’ve earned in tips, as well as any holiday entitlement they may have.

This helps bartenders track their gratuities and ensures accuracy in reporting their tip income for tax purposes.

how do bartenders get paid
Image by One Click Group UK

It’s also a way for bartenders to verify that they have been appropriately compensated for their time and efforts and everything is correct with regard to their taxable income, etc.

Bartenders will typically receive a payslip before every paycheck, which will either be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly as discussed earlier.

>> Read more: Can a felon become a bartender?

Final Thoughts

As you can see, bartenders rely on a combination of their base salary or hourly rate and customer tips to make a living.

The base salary provides a guaranteed income, while tips serve as a significant source of earnings, often reflecting their skill, hospitality, and customer satisfaction.

Payslips play a crucial role in providing bartenders with a breakdown of their pay and allow them to understand the various components contributing to their earnings.

The only real difference between how bartenders are paid and other professionals is the tipping aspect, which can vary depending on the establishment and its policies.

Some bars will allow bartenders to keep tips to themselves, whilst others may have a tipping policy that enforces sharing of tips between all staff members.

Hopefully, you’ve found this post helpful and now have a better understanding of how bartenders are paid for their cocktail-crafting skills.

See you in the next one.