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Staff Management

How Bar Managers Can Succeed

February 28, 2012 By: Robert Plotkin


No one can make or break a place like a manager. It takes a lot of savvy to manage a bar or restaurant well, and frankly, not just anyone can pull it off. Between the owners, staff and clientele, there are numerous agendas for a manager to deal with every day.

It takes more than being dynamic and outgoing to be an effective manager. The proof is in those who fall short of the ideal. Some choose to manage Bar Managerthrough intimidation and create a divisive, negatively motivated staff. Others concede their positions of authority and leadership, choosing instead to be friends with their employees, creating an underachieving, club-like atmosphere where little work gets done. Both extremes are ineffective.

So what combination of knowledge and personal attributes does it take to produce an effective manager? Here’s our list of qualities:

1) Desire to lead. Every business needs a person who is willing to accept the mantle of leadership and who can earn the respect and loyalty of the staff. Leadership is essentially intuitive. The leader grasps what needs to be done, sees how it can be done, believes it can be done and gets it done. Effective managers are leaders at heart.

2) Business training. To excel, a manager must have a working knowledge of the business he or she operates and an understanding of how all of the various aspects inter-relate. Managers routinely deal with cash-register operations; bookkeeping; ordering, receiving and issuing inventory; marketing and promotions; and a score of other business functions. While it’s not necessary to have a business degree to be an effective manager, a firm grasp of the inner workings of the business is fundamental.

3) Market knowledge. Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. A good manager knows his or her market, understands the competitors and responds accordingly. Market position affects decisions on pricing, marketing and promotions.

4) Maturity. Managing a bar or restaurant is an emotional challenge. The stress of working with a young, socially active staff, the drinking public and a fiercely competitive marketplace can prove too demanding for some. Individuals who have outside interests, such as school or a home-based business, or a family to support tend to be more stable and self-motivating and less negatively affected by the distractions and pressures of the position.

5) Dollar wise. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. An effective manager spends the business’ money as if it were his or her own — prudently and only with just cause.

6) Street smarts. Managing the bar-end of the business requires an individual who’s savvy and street smart. Exert too much control over a bar, and it’ll grind to a halt; let loose of the reins, and it’ll take you for a harrowing ride. Street smarts also means recognizing when you’ve made an error, figuring out how to correct it and making sure that you don’t make the same mistake twice.

7) Legal eagle. If you play the game, you better know the rules. Between health codes, liquor laws and fire codes, there’s a lot to know, and what you don’t notice can prove costly. Cited violations can result in the suspension of the operation’s health permit, liquor license or occupancy certificate, and the business can be forced to close its doors. Additionally, a well-informed manager can save a business untold legal grief by limiting the operation’s exposure to liability and successfully avoiding the many legal pitfalls involved with the hiring and firing of employees.

8) Sense of humor. With putting out fires, handling customer complaints and tackling employee-related problems, managing a food-and-beverage operation can be extremely stressful. All the while, a manager must ensure that the business is operating efficiently and profitably. A good sense of humor can help take the edge off of most situations.

9) Communication. A successful manager has the ability to speak clearly and write concisely. Effective communication also involves the frequently overlooked ability of being a skilled listener. As the adage goes, “If you have the courage to speak, have the wisdom to listen.”

10) Creativity. The creative mind is challenged by what can be, not what is. A good manager needs to be able to see things as they are and look to improve them. Creativity is an intrinsic element to conceptual growth. It staves off operational boredom and keeps things hopping. Whether it’s creating new house signature drinks, happy hour appetizers or some off-the-wall promotion, every business needs an innovator, someone unafraid to chance trying something novel.


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