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Bar IQ

The High Cost of Bartender Turnover

March 1, 2011 By: Robert Plotkin


Turnover is expensive. When an experienced bartender leaves a staff, the departure invariably weakens the business. The operation loses out on the on-the-job training invested in the individual, as well as all of the expertise and experience the person was able to accrue at the position. Management must then begin the selection process anew — applications, interviews, paperwork and training shifts. At the end of the process, the operation must suffer with the new employee’s inefficiency.

These costs do not take into consideration the increase in management supervision necessary to ensure the employee is adequately trained. It is also reasonable to assume that the bartender’s departure will negatively impact staff morale, customers’ perceptions and gross sales.

One key aspect to reducing turnover behind the bar is to create a positive working environment. Negative pressures and stress can be cumulative in effect and rapidly deteriorate the staff’s attitude and professionalism. This inevitably leads to job burnout and turnover. Without a positive attitude, a bartender’s productivity can be expected to drop and liquor cost, spillage and waste to increase.

Creating a positive work environment is essential in reducing turnover and requires managers to use restraint, patience and fairness when dealing with their employees. The following are some proactive suggestions on how to reduce bartender turnover while creating a positive work environment:

• KEEP STAFF CHALLENGED — Professionalism is an ambitious objective, one not easily achieved. Instill within your bartending staff a sense of craftsmanship and a desire to excel at their position.
• SOLICIT FEEDBACK — Bartenders are the resident experts on nearly every subject involving the running of the beverage operation. Soliciting their feedback on relevant matters will help create a sense of involvement among the staff while tapping into their cumulative experience and knowledge.
• MANAGE BY EXAMPLE — Managing by example is an essential form of leadership. A manager who voluntarily gets behind the bar during a frantically busy shift is an illustration of an individual managing by example.
• HELP BARTENDERS EARN MORE MONEY — Ensuring that bartenders are earning a livable income is clearly in the operation's best interest. The more money the staff is capable of earning the less impetus there will be for any one of them to leave.
• PROVIDE BENEFITS — Periodic pay raises are not always feasible, nor the most cost-effective method of providing bartenders with financial incentives. There are numerous employee benefits that are both affordable and well received, such as daycare or transportation reimbursement, pre- or post-shift meals, dental or health insurance and profit sharing. It is an excellent means of generating good will, while at the same time creating personal stability within your staff.
• PROVIDE SUPPORT — It is crucial for the staff to know that management will provide them with immediate support when dealing with the drinking public. In situations where the bartender is forced to refuse further service of alcohol to a patron, it makes it easier to exercise that obligation when your bartenders know they have the manager’s full support and assistance.


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