How To Find EXCEPTIONAL Bartenders [5 Strategies]

how to find bartenders
Joe | Last Updated: November 27, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Bartenders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good, some are great, and some are darn right terrible, so finding the right bartenders for your establishment can be make or break.

what sets an exceptional bartender apart from the rest? In this post, we’ll look at the art and science of identifying those rare gems in the bartending world.

From understanding the essential skills and qualities that make a bartender outstanding to exploring where and how to scout for the best talent, this post has it all.

Let’s get to it…

Why Should Bar Managers Find Bartenders

So why should you, as a bar manager, put in the extra effort to scout for exceptional bartenders? It’s a fair question, and the answer lies in the unique role a bartender plays in your establishment.

Think about the last time you walked into a bar and felt immediately welcomed. The atmosphere was just right, the service was friendly, and the drinks? Spot on.

That’s the magic a great bartender brings, and it catches on like wildfire and can be the difference between your business booming or declining.

In the bar industry, competition is fierce and customer expectations are high, so having a bartender who can not only make a mean cocktail but also connect with guests on a personal level is invaluable.

If your establishment is in a popular district and is surrounded by other popular bars, how on earth are you meant to stand out from the crown?

EXCEPTIONAL bartenders.

In a world where customers have endless options, the human touch and the artistry of a great bartender can set your establishment apart.

It’s about creating a place where people don’t just come to drink, but come to experience, engage, and return.

Strategies To Find Only The BEST Bartenders

Now that we understand the ‘why’, let’s dive into the ‘how’.

Finding top-notch bartenders is a bit like treasure hunting – it requires strategy, patience, and sometimes, thinking outside the box.

Here are some tried-and-tested methods that I’ve personally used to help you find the best of the best bartenders.

1. Headhunting

Yes, headhunting isn’t just for corporate roles. In bartending, it’s about keeping your eyes and ears open for talent.

This could mean visiting other bars and observing the bartenders in action. What you’re looking for is not just skill in mixing drinks, but also how they interact with customers, handle busy nights, and manage the bar space.

how to hire bartenders
Photo by Alejandro Silvio Alonso form PxHere

When you spot someone who stands out, don’t hesitate to approach them for a friendly chat.

Obviously don’t go jumping in with an offer immediately, but mention you run a successful establishment and try to take their contact details.

It’s a direct and personal way to find talent, and it shows that you’re serious about having the best in your team.

2. Call Bartending Schools

Bartending schools are ripe with fresh talent, brimming with enthusiasm and the latest and greatest techniques.

Building a relationship with these schools can be a fantastic way to secure incredible bartenders.

You can arrange to meet top graduates, offer internships, or even participate in their training sessions to scout potential candidates.

These keen bartenders might bring in new perspectives and innovative ideas that can add a fresh twist to your bar’s offerings.

3. Social Media

Never underestimate the power of social media in your search for the perfect bartender.

Platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn have become hotspots for professionals to showcase their skills.

Bartenders often post pictures and videos of their latest creations, which can give you a glimpse into their style and creativity.

Striking up a conversation with them on these platforms, or even posting job ads targeting these communities, can help you tap into a wider pool of talent.

Plus, it’s a great way to see their personality shine through, which is just as important as their mixing skills.

4. Networking Within The Industry

Networking is a powerful tool in the hospitality industry. Attend industry events, bar expos, cocktail competitions, and workshops.

These gatherings are not just for learning and staying updated with the latest trends; they’re also perfect for meeting seasoned and up-and-coming bartenders.

Engaging with your peers in the industry can also lead to recommendations. Often, the best bartenders can be found through word-of-mouth referrals.

Don’t underestimate the value of building strong relationships with other bar managers and industry professionals – they might just lead you to your next star bartender.

5. Attending Competitions And Events

As touched on above, another great way to scout for top bartending talent is by attending bartending competitions, events, and industry gatherings.

These events are like live showcases of the best in the business. Bartenders at these competitions are not just there to win; they’re there to impress, which means they bring their A-game.

This gives you a unique opportunity to see a wide range of talent in action, from creative flair to impeccable technique.

By being present at these events, you can see firsthand how bartenders handle pressure, engage with an audience, and whether their style aligns with what you’re looking for in your establishment.

Hiring and Retaining Top Talent

OK so you’ve found your next bartending superstar, but now comes the hard part; keeping them.

Retaining top talent is a task that requires as much attention and strategy as hiring them. Are they walking into an old, dusty environment that wreaks of depression and sadness? If so, they won’t stick around for long.

The cornerstone of retention is understanding that exceptional talent seeks more than just a job; they seek a role where they feel valued and fairly compensated for their work.

It’s important to ensure that your bartenders are not only paid well but also feel recognized for their skills and contributions.

how to hire bartenders
Photo by gimballica form PxHere

This goes beyond the basic salary; think about the overall package and how it reflects the value they bring to your establishment.

Are there opportunities for them to earn more through tips or performance incentives? Is their hard work acknowledged in ways that matter to them?

But financial compensation is just one piece of the puzzle. Engagement is another key factor.

Top bartenders often have a passion for what they do, and they thrive in environments that challenge them and allow them to grow.

This could mean providing opportunities for them to experiment with new recipes, attend industry events, or even take on more responsibilities within your establishment.

It’s about creating a work environment where they feel they can develop their skills and have a meaningful impact.

Wrapping Up

Finding and retaining exceptional bartenders is a vital aspect of managing a successful bar.

It’s a process that requires a proactive approach, from scouting talent through various creative strategies to ensuring that once these skilled individuals are part of your team, they remain motivated and engaged.

The key to success in this process lies in recognizing the skills and personality that exceptional bartenders bring to the table and creating an environment where these talents are nurtured and valued.

By doing so, you not only enhance the quality of service and experience offered at your establishment but also foster a team that’s committed and passionate about their craft.