What Is a Barback? Duties, Pay & Training Tips

what is a barback

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If you own a bar – or a restaurant with a bar – then you know how important having a good bartender can be. After all, the profit margins on alcoholic beverages can be as high as 80% – compared to the average restaurant profit margin of 3 to 5%. But of course, you need more than just a great bartender to make your bar a success – you’ll also need barbacks to support their work.

A barback is the equivalent of a busser. They do all of the little things – like cut up garnishes, switching out kegs, and stocking bottles – to make the bartender’s job easier. Barbacks are often hired with little to no experience, but need minimal training to learn the job.

Budget Branders works with bars, breweries, and restaurants throughout the country to help them get the high quality custom disposables that they need at prices that they can afford. We offer a range of branded products – like custom stadium cups and custom plastic cups – that can increase your marketing reach at little added cost. Reach out today for a quote on disposable products that can be branded with your business’ name, logo, and more.

What Is a Barback?

In a restaurant, bussers operate almost invisibly to keep things running smoothly. A barback is the equivalent of a busser for bars and breweries. Customers may not directly interact with them, but barbacks are critical to the overall success of a bar.

A barback is responsible for doing anything and everything to keep the bar running smoothly. This may include keeping the service area clean by mopping up spills, wiping down counters, and picking up broken glasses. They also clean glasses, make sure that the drink garnishes are sufficient and that there is plenty of ice, liquor, beer, and spirits. If the bartender is running low on something, the barback is responsible for going to the walk-in to get whatever is needed.

In this way, the barback makes it possible for a bartender to do their job well and efficiently. They also enhance the guest experience; instead of waiting for a bartender to switch out a keg, for example, the guest has a more seamless experience. This can often lead to greater profits for the bar because the bartenders can serve more customers and sell more drinks. 

For this reason, barbacks are worth their weight in gold. As noted above, alcoholic beverages have a much higher profit margin than food and non-alcoholic beverages.  Bars and restaurants often realize an 80% profit margin on drinks, compared to an average of 3 to 5% on other menu items. If you want to stay profitable, it is in your best interest to sell as many alcoholic beverages as possible – and a barback helps you do that.

Barbacks are usually considered an entry-level position. It is often a stepping stone to becoming a bartender. After 6 to 18 months shadowing a bartender, many barbacks are able to move into that role, which opens up the possibility of higher wages and tips. 

In most bars and restaurants, barbacks are paid tipped minimum wage. Depending on where your business is located, the tipped minimum wage could be as little as $2.13 per hour. Barbacks will then typically be tipped out by the bartenders and wait staff. On average, barbacks make an average salary of $22,000 per year.

What Duties Can a Barback Perform?

Each bar is unique, and you may need barbacks to perform different duties based on your own specific needs. Typical tasks performed by a barback may include:

  • Wiping down tables and turning them over after patrons leave
  • Cleaning counters and furniture
  • Running food and clearing plates (especially for establishments without a dedicated wait staff)
  • Cleaning glasses, silverware and dishes
  • Taking out the trash and recycling
  • Mopping behind the bar and taking care of spills
  • Cleaning up the bar and keeping it neat
  • Unclogging sinks
  • Sweeping up dropped food, broken glass, and other messes
  • Juicing citrus, pouring into squeeze bottles, and labeling the bottles
  • Preparing garnishes (lemon and lime wedges, pickles, olives, and more)
  • Keeping the bar fully stocked at all times
  • Replenishing the bar’s supply of glasses, garnish toothpicks, coasters, bar snacks, napkins, and straws
  • Refilling ice wells
  • Changing out beer kegs and soda dispensers
  • Restocking liquor bottles
  • Restocking bottles and cans of beer, cider, and seltzers
  • Taking opening and closing inventory (often in cooperation with the bartenders)
  • Putting away shipments of liquor, beer, and other beverage
  • Restocking the bar for the next shift
  • Helping the bartender with miscellaneous requests
  • Using the point of sale (PoS) system to put in new orders or altering the bartender to new orders
  • Working with security to address issues that may arise, such as fights, visibly intoxicated patrons, or underage drinkers

Being a barback can be a physically demanding job. They’re often on their feet for the entire shift, lifting and carrying heavy items like cases of beer, kegs, and boxes full of liquor bottles. They should always wear appropriate non-slip shoes and be encouraged to follow safe practices such as lifting with their knees to avoid injury.

How to Train a Barback

Many barbacks are hired with little to no bar or restaurant experience. Instead, employers look for someone who has a willingness to work and who is trainable. Keep in mind that some states set a minimum age of 18 or 21 to work in a bar. 

Common skills that employers look for when hiring a barback include an ability to:

  • Lift heavy objects
  • Perform kitchen tasks (to cut lemons and limes and help out in the kitchen if necessary)
  • Be on their feet for long hours
  • Prioritize issues when they arise (i.e, understand that it is more important to make sure that the bartender has enough glasses to make drinks than it is to restock napkins and coasters)
  • Be adaptable to do whatever task the bartender needs at the moment
  • Work under pressure when the bar gets busy
  • Be proactive to see what needs to be done and do it without waiting to be told
  • Work with customers who may be rude, demanding, or otherwise difficult due to intoxication

Once you have hired a barback, the next step is to start training them. Some bars and restaurants do little in the way of formal training and simply tell barbacks to shadow the bartenders and do what they say. 

However, it is a good idea to do some formal training before any employee gets started. This may include basic onboarding, including workplace policies and procedures, dress code, your customer service expectations, and how to use the PoS system.  They should also be trained on the food and drink menu. While barbacks don’t wait tables or make drinks for customers, they need to know what you offer in case a customer asks them a question. A newly hired barback should also get a tour of your bar or restaurant so they can learn where things are and what they will need to do.

After this initial training, the bartender should take over to provide more specifics. After all, the role of the barback is to support the bartender in their work. In addition, other barbacks can walk them through their tasks, what they should be doing before, during, and after service, and give them tips on how to do the job well.

Over time, you may decide to promote your barback to the position of bartender. This is a common career path, as barbacks learn quite a lot about bartending in their job. This transition to becoming a bartender will require additional training, but it comes with the bonus of not having to hire and onboard an entirely new employee. Your barback-turned-bartender will already be familiar with your bar or restaurant, menu, and operations – which is a huge bonus for any business owner.

Work with Budget Branders to Boost Your Marketing Efforts

While alcoholic beverages have a great profit margin, it takes more than selling drinks at a mark-up to run a successful bar. You still need to attract patrons in order to turn a profit. Advertising and marketing is critical to not just breaking even – but thriving.

At Budget Branders, we know that most bars and restaurants can’t afford to buy millions of disposable products at once – let alone store them! That is why we offer high quality custom printed disposable products in smaller quantities and at prices that fit your budget. We can even hold onto part of a larger order until you need the product.

Branded disposable products are a relatively easy, cost-efficient way to increase your marketing efforts. When your customers are holding a drink with your name and logo on the cup, it increases brand recognition. Patrons may even take more durable items like branded plastic stadium cups home with them – which can result in even more exposure for your business.

If you’re interested in purchasing branded cups, bags, bowls and other products for your bar, brew pub, or restaurant, we can help. To learn more, press the live chat button to talk to someone about a product quote. You can also fill out our online contact form to request a quote for custom branded disposable products.

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