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Bar-i Liquor Inventory Blog

Bar Pre-Opening Checklist: Employee Communication and Incentives

When opening a new bar, it’s important to hire the right people and create an environment that cultivates a strong, tight-knit team. Your staff is the face of your bar – they interact with your customers every day, and it’s important that they make a positive impression on your customers. This is crucial to generating repeat business.

But getting your staffing needs right goes way beyond hiring people who will provide great customer service. They must also work well together to ensure your bar’s operations run smoothly. Even more important, you want your staff to be personally invested in the ongoing success of your bar so that they do the little things necessary to help you maximize your profitability.

Obviously, there’s a certain element of talent evaluation involved in this process. You must be able to identify the types of applicants who will make great employees and who will hopefully become long term members of your team. But more importantly, the management team at your bar (and this starts with you as the owner) must create a system that not only sets your employees up for success, but provides them an incentive to work hard and do their very best every day.

There are two important things you can do that will help you create the type of system that will set your bar up for success:

  1. Establish clear communication protocol for all staff to follow
  2. Set up a reward system that properly recognizes your employees for the excellent work they do and the value they bring to your bar

Communication Best Practices for Your Bar Staff

Bars are complicated entities. There are lots of moving parts and lots of employees. To make matters more challenging, the intense scheduling needs required to keep a bar open for lunch, dinner, and late night business means that many of your employees only have the opportunity to interact face to face a few times a week. It’s important to keep a communication log behind the bar so that everyone is on the same page about procedures and is aware of your bar’s needs.

It’s best to create and use this bar log from the moment you open for business. This will establish a clear pattern for communication that will become engrained in your employee culture right away.

Anytime something is done differently than what has been established as the correct way based on your operating procedures (ie. a drink isn’t rung into your POS system, “open liquor” buttons are used, product substitutions are made, etc.), it should be written down in the log. This holds your staff accountable for their actions, and it lets you stay aware of what’s going on at your bar during every shift.

When you review the communication log at the end of the week, you’ll be able to learn a lot of important information, including:

  1. When new buttons must be added to your POS system
  2. Any problems that are arising at your bar
  3. Any processes that aren’t running smoothly and need to be updated
  4. Any issues with customers that need to be addressed personally
  5. The details of any interactions with local law enforcement

If there are no notes in the bar log when you review it at the end of the week, it’s a sign that you have a problem because there’s always something happening that should be communicated to you. This log is an important way for your staff to provide you with feedback regarding what they need from you.

Trying to get this feedback via verbal communication isn’t effective because these conversations are often had during a busy rush, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be lost in the shuffle. It’s important to establish a system for written communication to ensure you receive this important information.

Rewards for Employees

Bartender Incentive Programs - Bar-i Bar InventoryIt’s important that you acknowledge and accept this simple truth: no one will care as much about your business as you do. If you want your managers and staff to care as much about the profitability of your bar as you do, you need to give them an incentive to do so.

There are times when you’ll have great managers and times when you’ll have weaker managers. It’s important to reward good managers for their excellent performance so that they have an incentive to not only keep up this good work, but raise their level of performance to even higher levels.

At Bar-i, we strongly recommend that you have an element of manager compensation based on performance/accountability. It’s the only way to ensure your managers will always be committed to doing the best possible job.

Similarly, you want to provide incentives for your bar staff to care as much about the bar’s profitability as they care about their own wallets. Otherwise, you run the risk that your bartenders will give away too many free drinks to boost their tips.

Shift drinks and comp tabs are the two most powerful incentives you can use with your bartenders. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to make bartender shift drinks and comp tabs based on accountability. We recommend implementing a three tier reward schedule:

  • Tier 1 – If 95% or more of drinks poured are being rung in, your bartenders receive the maximum allowable comp tabs and shift drinks.
  • Tier 2 – If 90-94% of drinks poured are being rung in, your bartenders’ comp tabs and shift drinks are reduced slightly.
  • Tier 3 – If the number of drinks being rung in falls below 90% of what is poured, comp tabs and shift drinks are reduced even further. Additionally, you should require additional training, staff meetings, and pouring practice to ensure that your bar staff improves their performance.

This probably won’t be a popular policy amongst your bar staff, but it’s the only way to ensure that they’re held accountable and ring in everything being poured. Otherwise, your profit margin will be significantly impacted.

Keep in mind that the only way to accurately determine what percentage of drinks being poured is actually rung in is to use a sophisticated liquor inventory system that tracks the performance of every product sold at your bar. Bar-i’s system can provide you with the actionable data necessary to implement these incentive/accountability systems with your staff.


If you found this article interesting and would like to receive our "Opening a Bar" eBook which contains all 9 articles in the Opening a Bar series just click the button below: 

eBook: Strategic Guide to Opening a Bar (pdf)

To take advantage of a free consultation regarding your employee incentivization or to find out how our bar inventory system can help you streamline your processes and maximize profits, please contact Bar-i today. We serve bars nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.

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