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More commonly referred to today as a barback, a bar porter is essential to the smooth operation of a busy restaurant or bar. Not only do they serve as the right-hand man or woman to the bartender, but bar porters can help every front-of-house member of an establishment. If you’ve ever considered a job in the service industry, a bar porter job is a good place to start.
What Is a Bar Porter?
Bar porters are bartender assistants. In fact, many bartenders start with a bar porter job, where they learn the ropes of an establishment and the restaurant and bar industries. With a bar porter job, you’d have a first-hand look at how a bar is run, and your speed, agility and professionalism at your job could have a positive impact.
Bar Porter Responsibilities
Your most important responsibility as a bar porter would be to keep the bar well-stocked. The bartender may take and order liquor inventory, but it’s your job to give him a heads-up when things start to run low. You’ll need to swap out tap lines on kegs and soda which means you’ll probably be running down to a basement when a favorite brew runs out. Other bar porter responsibilities are to make sure supplies are always fully stocked so things run smoothly. Items like glassware, napkins, coasters, juices, drink garnishes, and ice need to be at-hand regardless of how busy you get, so plan ahead. In some restaurants, bar porter responsibilities may even extend to food running.
Another important job you’ll have as bar porter is clean-up, from wiping down bar tops and cleaning up spills to mopping floors and rinsing out floor mats at the end of your shift. Broken glass? That’s your department. So is sorting recycling and removing trash. You may even be called on to fix the occasional clogged drain.
What Skills Do I Need?
While there’s no formal training to become a bar porter, most establishments will require that you’re at least 18 years old (some states demand that you’re 21). And you do need to possess a certain temperament. You need to be pleasant, quick, and physically fit. You can’t get easily flustered; bars are busy places where anything can happen. You need to have a great work ethic and a helpful attitude and be comfortable taking orders. In addition to the bartender, waiters, waitress and cooks may ask you to pitch in on particularly busy shifts. Bar-backing is generally a learn-as-you-go job. It’s hard work, but is also a foot-in-the-door to the whole service industry.
What Kind of Money Can I Earn?
Like most service jobs, how much you earn depends on the restaurant or bar. According to job sites like Glassdoor and PayScale, the a bar porter salary may not be much above a minimum wage hourly rate. However, those numbers can be pretty misleading when you consider the kinds of tips bar porters can earn in upscale restaurants. Again, it depends on the establishment. Many restaurants and bars insist that bar porters receive a percentage of a bartender’s tips. Some waitstaff will also tip out to barbacks who’ve gone above and beyond. The better you are at your job, the more you can earn.
Linda Emma is a writer and private marketing coach and consultant. She also works at a small New England college as a tutor, assisting students with course-specific materials and preparation for internship and employment.