What Is a Barback?

Though they are not usually at the center of customers' attention, barbacks can be an integral part of what keeps a busy bar running smoothly. While hiring a great bartender is an asset for any bar, a barback might be the perfect addition if staff members are having trouble keeping up with service rushes. Below, we explain what a barback is, list some typical barback duties, and detail how to become a barback.

Barback Job Description

A barback has many responsibilities, but their overall purpose is to make sure that things are running smoothly at the bar. Their duties can include anything from replacing bottles to preparing garnishes, cleaning spills, and keeping bar stations stocked at all times. Below, we have listed typical barback responsibilities in three categories: before the bar opens, during the bar's hours of operation, and after the bar closes.

Barback Duties Before Opening

  • Organizing and shelving beer and liquor deliveries
  • Prepping juices and mixes
  • Stocking glasses, coasters, napkins, and straws
  • Preparing garnishes

Barback Duties During Hours of Operation

hanging bar glasses
  • Monitoring stations and restocking napkins, coasters, and straws
  • Replacing kegs and retrieving bottles from the walk-in cooler
  • Washing and restocking glassware and mixing tools
  • Cleaning spills at the bar and customers’ tables
  • Removing trash and used glasses and wiping down tables for new customers
  • Assisting the bartender with other tasks as needed

Barback Duties After Closing

  • Emptying trash and/or recycling bins
  • Cleaning used glasses
  • Restocking bottles
  • Wiping down bar and tabletops
  • Washing shakers, blenders, and other prep equipment

How to Become a Barback

If you’re interested in a career in bartending, becoming a barback is an excellent place to start. To become a barback, you do not necessarily need experience working in a bar. Hiring bars may look for experience in foodservice, especially previous positions in bars or clubs. If you wanted to get a sense of what it’s like working in a bar or club before seeking a barback position, you could start as a busser, server, or host in any establishment that serves food as well as alcohol.

Does a Barback Have to Be 21?

Barback duties

Because laws regarding on-premises servers and bartenders vary from state to state, it’s important to look up your state’s policies before you look for barback positions. In some states, for example, an 18-year-old may work in a bar and serve so long as a supervisor, who must be 21 years or older, is present.

How Much Do Barbacks Make?

A barback is typically paid minimum tipped wage. Keep in mind that minimum tipped wage may be below the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Depending on the number of hours worked, customers' tips, and the employer's pay policy, the average salary for a barback can fall between $17,000 and $31,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. This being said, most barbacks make approximately $21,000 per year.

Upward Mobility for Barbacks

Sometimes, high-volume venues will require staff members to serve as barbacks before they will hire them as a bartender, so the individual can learn the ropes of the establishment before they begin their position. Some bars or clubs will make a barback position temporary, like an internship, that could last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Once that requirement is complete, you could be hired as a bartender.

What Does It Take to Be a Barback?

While barbacks do not typically make drinks or take orders from customers, they have to practice many of the same skills that a good bartender has: efficiency, organization, the ability to multitask, and keen observation.

It’s also important to remember that heavy lifting is often involved in the barback position. Because barbacks are usually responsible for stocking and restocking the bar and walk-in, being a barback is a physically demanding job.

On top of that, barbacks do not typically receive the same recognition or “glory” that a bartender might. You won’t be interacting with customers all that much, and the bartenders that you’re helping to support may be demanding of you, especially when a shift gets busy. These challenges are necessary for you to weigh before you start looking for barback jobs.

Whether you're looking to start a career in bartending or you're considering hiring some more help for your bar, a barback could be a good fit for you. This position acts as a support to bartenders and does a lot of work from behind the scenes to keep the bar running smoothly.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries|Management & Operation|By Christine Potts
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