Bar backs assist bartenders throughout their shift. This is an entry-level and often minimum wage job, although some bartenders give a portion of their tips to their bar back. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bartender helpers reported a median wage of $8.75 an hour as of 2010. Bar backs fulfill several responsibilities critical to the success of a smoothly run bar.
One of the primary duties of the bar back is to ensure that a bar is well-stocked. This means bringing clean glasses and tumblers from the kitchen to the bar and stacking them, and ensuring that the bar does not run out of supplies such as straws, napkins and ice. The bar must also be kept well-stocked with a variety of alcohol and mixers, such as juices and sodas. In some establishments, bar backs may be required to switch out kegs of beer and syrups for the soda fountain.
Some food items needed by a bar must be prepared before they can be stocked, and must be prepared frequently so that they stay fresh. This responsibility often falls to the bar back. They prepare drink garnishes, such as wedges and twists of lime, lemon and orange. The bar back must also arrange the garnishes and cocktail supply area so that the oldest items get used first in order to minimize waste.
While serving customers is not the primary duty of the bar back, many establishments expect them to help out when the bartender is busy. Bar backs don't usually mix drinks, but they can take drink and food orders for the bartender. They may also be asked to deliver drinks to customers, or retrieve customer food from the kitchen. When assisting customers, the bar back is expected to be courteous and professional.
Bar backs spend a lot of their time making sure that the bar area remains clean. During the night, they are expected to regularly tidy up by mopping any spills, collecting dirty glassware and dishes and bringing them to the kitchen, and removing trash from the bar area. In some establishments, bar backs wash the glassware. Before leaving at the end of their shift, bar backs may be responsible for taking out bags of trash and recyclables, and wiping down the bar and bar stools.