Earning more money as a Bartender
I’m hoping this blog will actually turn into a whole series of blogs and helpful resources. I’m even contemplating…well actually, more trying to work out the exact format…doing an ongoing podcast about this subject too.
The reality is. There’s so much information out there for People in the Drinks Trade about how to make Cocktails. About Brand knowledge. About methods and well just Drinks in general. But there is very little information out there…or even encouragement… to actually help people in our beloved industry, earn more money.
The UK Bar Industry is synonymous with low pay. Very low pay. Because I think the mentality is, lets hire Students and when they leave, we can just replace them. It seems the more I look into it, the less lifers there are. My Generation of Tenders is dwindling. And probably rightly so. 10 deep crowds is a young persons game. When I hit 40 a few years ago, I realised I didn’t want to do that any longer. But I also realised I couldn’t just leave my industry behind.
Not all of us have left though. We’ve got Consultants, we’ve got Bar Owners. We’ve got Distillers. We’ve got Brand Ambassadors. And we’ve got people like me who do Events and Masterclasses, but also the whole YouTube and Blogging thing. But we are a lucky few. You can’t even begin to enter this arena until you’ve spent many years behind the Bar. But there are plentiful opportunities to continue your career in the Industry once to look to park your shaking tins on the shelf. This is another aspect of the Bartender Journey I will also look to cover. But my immediate concern is actually reaching the next generation and getting them to realise there is a long term and fun career ahead of them. Looking around at the moment, it seems to me that maybe the life cycle is of a Bartender is maybe 5 years or so before they move on.
So what can we do to change that?!
We’re in a world now are drinks and cocktails are really booming. The industry has metamorphosised (now there’s a posh word for me!) into all kinds of things. Pubs are becoming Cool again. The mainstay of the community. But by offering a real diverse range of services. Cocktails maybe are a little less sought after, but then the quality of the Brands, and the whole heap of amazing mixers available to us, makes it so simple to knock out amazing simple drinks very quickly, with high GP, which can and maybe has made Cocktails redundant unless you are that really niche, top end Cocktail Bar on the High Street. Coffee is a big player in this too. It has been, and will continue to be huge for long time to come. In many ways, the Pub of the 2010s so far. And while Coffee itself is a huge market. It’s actually what the venue represents, more than the actual coffee itself.
But in all this, the reality comes down to the individual. Their passion. Their lifestyle choices. There are the opportunities, but maybe a little help and us experienced folk being a bit more vocal about how the next generation can take advantage.
I think maybe a big player in the industry is actually the Lifestyle. I’ll admit it probably played a bit part in my divorce some years ago. The Drinks and Hospitality Industry as a whole is all about weekends. But for a 24 year vet of the Bar scene, I know no different…and if I had to go back to working Monday to Friday now, I’d hate it. I love nothing more than having my 3 day weekend on a Monday through Wednesday. Yes, it makes friendships and family hard work. But, I am happy. And I do know a lot of people who also share that mentality. We laugh as we see the rest of the population rush off to work at 7am on a Monday, only to spend the next hour in first gear in stop start traffic jams, or crammed in like sardines on a Train.
Why people live like that is beyond me. But I know people also feel sorry for me because work weekends! The truth is, we just don’t understand others lifestyles.
And while Lifestyle is a big factor, I’m not convinced it’s the main reason.
I’m more convinced it’s mainly about the money. I think the simple reality is, at face value, the simple reality is you can earn more money doing other things. I want to change that. As I’ve said above, when I hit 40 things changed for me. I have been lucky enough to make money off my own Personal Brand now for the past 7 years. But for me it’s more than that. I’ve been spurred on from recent Facebook group conversations I’ve seen and been involved in.
Just last week, I saw a “Hero Shift” being offered out at £8 an hour. 6 hours on a Saturday night. Less than £50!!! It blew me away. I was paying my guys more than that back in 2004. Then just yesterday someone offered my £100 for a Wednesday Night Corporate Gig in July.
Is this the state of our trade?!
I know I’m worth over treble that…why…because of my experience, knowledge, and the 100+ clients that have already paid that this year. I maybe couldn’t command that 10 years ago. But I certainly can now. Because of the Passion, Education and time I’ve put in to continually learn and develop.
On a personal level, a direction I want to head in for the future, is helping Younger Bartenders just earn more money…and more importantly, get them to believe they are worth more.
Over the next few months, I’m going to deep dive into everything non Drinks Recipe related. I’ll admit there are waaaaay better Bartenders out there than me for teaching Cocktail Creation. Go on YouTube. There’s tonnes. My forte is in the simplicity and the imagination of using whats right in front of us. So putting the whole Drinks aside, I want to help inspire and show Bartenders and Pub Staff a pathway forward. Ways of gradually helping you put more pennies in those weekly pay packets.
My overall passion is Pubs. So if you’re "just" Pub Staff, then this Series is definitely for you. Don’t be put off by the whole Cocktail Bartending thing. Trust me, it’s a great skill to have, but it’s not the be all and end all of the drinks trade. I’m going to start at the bare bottom. The Basics that can very often get neglected, but are crucial for longevity. So if that sounds interesting. Buckle in. Stayed Tuned. And enjoy the ride.
Part 1 coming next week...
If you have any thoughts, or areas you’d like me to cover. Or if you just want a chat. Then please do reach out to me. Either by Email; Steve@thirstfirst.co.uk or Instagram; @stevethebarman. Or even shoot me a WhatsApp; 07801 067853. I’d love to hear from you.