What does a bar manager do?
Simon has been pulling taps, lugging kegs and managing inner-city bars for the past six years. He's recently gone into partnership with brother Jarrod to open his own low-key, neighbourhood bar on Sydney Rd, Brunswick (in inner Melbourne).
It's late afternoon and Simon is stocking the fridges with imported beers, fastidiously making sure all the labels face outwards. "It's the little things, the attention to detail," he sighs. "That's basically what my job is - doing little things again and again."
What does a typical working day involve?
Before the onslaught of a busy night, Simon sets up the bar so he'll be able to work efficiently when customers start clamouring for drinks and food at the same time. "Everything needs to go in its place. I stock the fridges, go to Safeway to pick up more stock like chips and soft drinks. Then I'll count the previous day's takings and wander around the bar to make sure everything is set up and ready for service. In winter, I'll chop wood and make the fire." Typical cleaning tasks include wiping the tables, polishing and rolling cutlery, cleaning ashtrays and the coffee machine, and mopping floors. As bar manager, he also opens and locks up at the end of each shift, and orders the alcohol.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
Simon works anywhere from 38 hours to 70 hours in a week. He has mixed emotions about his job: "Some days it's the greatest working atmosphere. You get to listen to music and have fun, especially when there's a good crowd in. And there's heaps of chicks," he laughs sheepishly. "The whole mystique that surrounds the barman can be really flattering and enjoyable." Other pluses include the flexible hours ("I'm a bit of a night owl, so I like to sleep in," he grins), the fast-paced atmosphere, and having a laugh with customers.
He also mentions socialising after-hours with fellow workers - these might be chefs, "dish pigs" or students supporting themselves while studying at uni. "There's nothing better than finishing a really busy shift and sitting down with workmates to share a beer. You feel like you've worked really hard and done a good job. That's the most satisfying part."
On the downside, he mentions having to deal with drunk and obnoxious punters. "I've been accused of not giving the correct change. And if people are misbehaving, it's my job to stop them." Other negatives include working on weekends, the low pay and the monotony of routine tasks. There's also the gross factor: "Because I'm responsible, it's my job to clean up spew if someone has had too much to drink." But Simon is hasty to add that he's only had to do this three times in six years!
Even with the negatives, Simon is happy as a barman, and comments that it has immensely improved his communication skills. "I can relax and talk to people I don't know now. I'm more outgoing and have more self-confidence."
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
So what does it take to be a bar manager? "You have to be quick-thinking and able to handle confrontation with diplomacy. And you have to be able to work autonomously," says Simon. Other essential skills are to have a cheerful persona, be adaptable, easygoing and polite, and to love interacting with people. "It's almost a bit of a performance once you're behind the bar. The balance is being friendly and making people feel welcome, but still working fast."
How do you become a bar manager?
Simon says getting into the hospitality industry is a cinch: "The easiest time to get a job in hospitality is in summer, especially the months before Christmas." He also recommends using your networks: "That's the way most people get hired," he says.
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).