Achieving a Healthy, Long-term Career in the Bar Business

Image: DragonImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The hospitality industry is challenging. It’s not just that consumer behavior continues to change or that competition has grown fiercer.

Succeeding with social media, seeking education that serves a career in hospitality, and addressing work-life balance have made this industry more challenging than ever before. However, shifting mindsets to see challenges as a positive—transforming them into opportunities—can make long-term careers a much healthier prospect.

Last week, three influential industry professionals joined forces to in Las Vegas to share their best strategies for achieving hospitality career longevity. Natalie Migliarini of Beautiful Booze (2019 Nightclub & Bar Influencer of the Year) tackled social media; Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits national director of education Beam Suntory, Bridget Albert, took on continuing industry education; and the west coast whiskey ambassador for Beam Suntory, Megan Breier (2019 Nightclub & Bar Brand Ambassador of the Year), addressed work-life balance during the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show.

Join the Nightclub & Bar Show GUEST LIST

The insider mailing list to America's Largest Bar Expo!

Get early access to registration, show updates and more! The 2020 show celebrates 35 years and will host 400+ exhibitors on our innovative expo floor, leading experts from the industry in our comprehensive conference program, and an unparalleled nightlife lineup. Save the Date! March 30-April 1, 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. #NCBSHOW20

Succeed with Social

Whether owners, managers, bartenders or other hospitality professionals like it or not, social media is necessary in this business. Bars, nightclubs and restaurants aren’t just food and beverage venues, they’re brands.

Brands need eyes on them to survive and thrive. Word-of-mouth advertising is incredibly important to a brand’s success, but social media has proven to be an immensely powerful marketing tool. Several platforms give brands global reach.

Migliarini didn’t run through Social Media for Beginners. She rightfully assumed everyone who attended the panel discussion already had social media profiles. Instead, she used Instagram as an example and shared tips to transform a profile into a presence.

First, Migliarini advised Instagram users to choose business accounts when setting up their profiles. That will allow bars to be designated as bars, restaurants to be designated as restaurants, etc. The profile description should contain awards won and/or something the business is known for, hours of operation, city and state, the hashtag the brand uses to identify themselves, and the address.

Next, Beautiful Booze herself shared her three-pronged community-building strategy:

  • Make sure to use hashtags and geotags to build and expand Instagram communities.
  • Spend time with the prime audience to develop relationships and further expand the online community of followers.
  • Build real-life relationships via the online community.

Those three keys to social success are bolstered by these three tips:

  • Create a brand-specific hashtag (again, include it in the profile description).
  • Re-post other users’ content (be sure to give credit).
  • Partner with professionals in the community, both online and in real life.

Migliarini concluded with two excellent tips. One, don’t repost content to Instagram via repost apps. Instead, the accepted protocol on that platform is to post the content, tag the person from whom it originated, and add a disclaimer to the caption along the lines of “picture [email protected][insert user].”

Read this: How to Cut Your Facebook Ad Costs in Half and Increase Your ROI

Second, and she admitted this likely sounded strange coming from a social media expert and influencer, don’t spend too much time online checking social media. Studies have come out suggesting that too much exposure to social media can be detrimental. This business is challenging enough—there’s no need to make things even unhealthier. People should set limits on the amount of time they spend on social media each day, tracking that time and sticking to it.

Continue Learning

Albert, being a high-level industry educator, wants us all to commit to learning every day. She recommends beefing up resumes with certifications such as those offered by WSET, the Society of Wine Educators, the Court of Master Sommeliers, the United States Bartenders Guild, and the Cicerone Certification Program. Industry pros can find even more certifications with simple online searches.

Reps can also help out when it comes to continuing to gain industry-specific knowledge. Owners, operators, managers, bartenders, cooks, servers and others can ask about what education is available through partners and brands. The programs, courses, seminars and other educational offerings they can provide access to can open up new opportunities and keep hospitality industry careers flourishing.

Not only do certifications look great on resumes and business cards, they provide the certified with the chance to become educators themselves. As Bridget said, “The true test [of education] is how you share what you’ve learned.” The more industry-related information and experience is gained, the greater the possibility someone can become a true mentor. Mentorship is crucial to this industry, helping more people achieve longevity, strengthening the business as a whole.

Of course, not all education needs to have a direct link to the industry to be valuable. Communication and leadership skills can be developed through programs like Toastmasters International. This is, after all, the hospitality business—communication is key. Simply observing what’s happening in the industry is also incredibly helpful. Visiting bars and restaurants across the nation—and globe—can provide insights into what’s trendy, what’s decreasing in popularity, and consumer behavior. In turn, this can help hospitality pros predict what’s next.

Read this: Crowdfund Your Way to a Bar Brand Empire

Albert cautioned against focusing solely on the business, however: “Having a hobby that has nothing to do with the beverage industry keeps us human and keeps us sane.” Be hungry to keep learning about this business, but don’t do it at the expense of mental health.

Bust the Myth

Breier made her feelings about the heavily used term “work-life balance” known immediately: she believes it’s a myth. Explaining why, she said that for her, work-life balance isn’t “real” because everyone’s priorities are fluid. What’s important today may change tomorrow. It may change within the same day.

As Breier pointed out, our work lives and personal lives leak into one another. For her, the life model looks like a rotating triangle. On one point, self. On another, relationships. Work is another point. Because our priorities are shifting constantly, the triangle is always rotating. The key to managing all that spinning is the create realistic expectations to manage priorities.

When it comes to managing work, operators and managers in particular need to make time for their teams. Creating a nurturing brand culture—one that promotes career longevity and keeps the industry moving forward—lets employees and teammates know that they matter. If someone feels that their employer has no interest in their career, they’ll move on to a brand that does. A negative culture also affects guests. When employees don’t feel nurtured or included, they put out a negative vibe that guests can detect. Great food and drink may not be enough to keep them coming back if they pick up on negativity.

In terms of relationships, Breier recommended maintaining relationships with friends, family and acquaintances completely outside of the industry. In this business, we’re constantly surrounded by peers. We work with them, we unwind after work with them, we hang out on days off with them, we use text, calls, social media and emails daily to communicate with them. Breier opined that everyone in the business needs to escape the industry cycle from time to time.

Breaking free of that cycle means taking time for self. Others can’t sustain our person health, physically or mentally—we need to do that for ourselves. The irony, as Breier pointed out, is that we spend so much time in this industry focusing on others—being hospitable—but we don’t give ourselves that same courtesy. We say “yes” to everyone; its ingrained in us to never say “no.” But, as Breier said, we must give ourselves the healthy things we need.

Read this: Profits, Meet Practicality

Whatever method someone in this industry needs to block time off for themselves for the sake of their physical and mental health, they need to do it. If that means starting off each day by taking 5 minutes for themselves, those few minutes need to be respected and taken. Longevity in this career, from owner to bar back, will never be fully realized in a healthy manner if we can’t get a handle on health, priorities and expectations. Something as simple as providing healthy snacks for everyone at work can have a huge impact.

Suggested Articles

This generation really believes that they're dealing with more stress than any other.

Creating a top-flight team of servers can boost revenue, guest engagement, and visit frequency.

Chef Brian Duffy was in Detroit, MI, in the second episode of his brand-new television show on Food Network, Opening Night.