How to Excel as a Barback: Understanding the Roles and Duties

Bartenders are probably the first person that comes to mind when you think about a bar's service. Their job is to chat with customers, take orders with the point-of-sale system, and make drinks.

Here we'll learn what a barback is, what their tasks are, what skills a barback needs, and how to hire one.

A barback is a bar's version of a busser. Their responsibility is to ensure that the bartender has everything they need during service to keep things moving smoothly: clean glasses, enough garnishes, liquor, beer and spirits, ice cubes, and so on. They, like bussers, are responsible for keeping the service area clean (cleaning up spills and broken glass) and running to the walk-in to restock whatever is running low.   

For many people, working as a barback is the first step towards becoming a bartender.  

In other words, a barback's goal is to make a bartender's life easier, to keep service running smoothly, and to “make the guest experience more pleasurable." They're a catch-all, problem-solver extraordinaire, whether it's noticing a guest who's waiting to get the bartender's attention or fixing issues behind the scenes.   

Most bartenders start as barbacks before climbing up the ladder. It's an excellent position for learning the ins and outs of bartending and customer service before moving on to a customer-facing role.

What Are the Responsibilities and Duties of a Barback?

Here's a rundown of what barbacks may expect before, during, and after their shifts. They will differ among establishments. Tasks are often sorted by urgency each day, as well as by zone of the restaurant, to maximize each trip throughout the restaurant and ensure tasks get done efficiently.  

The responsibilities can look the same each day, but getting everything done is easier some days than others, depending on an array of uncontrollable factors such as who is on each shift, who is out sick, and what requests customers bring into the establishment. 

Before Service Barback Tasks

  1. Arrive on time and clock in, usually using a POS with employee scheduling tools – but some restaurants and bars still use punch cards.  
  2. Put on a barback uniform, which is often all black with an apron and non-slip shoes.  
  3. Gather a clean rag or two for use during service. Place clean bar rags at each bartender's station.  
  4. Check for low levels liquor bottles and mixers and restock the bar.  
  5. Juice the citrus, then pour it into squeeze bottles and label and date them.  
  6. Fill containers with olives, lemons, limes, and cherries.  
  7. Fill the ice bins.  
  8. Replace beer kegs.  
  9. Restock napkins, toothpicks, straws, ashtrays, peanuts, and other counter items.  
  10. Dust liquor bottles and any other dusty surfaces.  
  11. Polish wine glasses
  12. Restocking and managing the bar inventory  

During Barback Service Tasks 

  1. Refill empty bottles of liquor and wine.  
  2. Replace coasters as needed after wiping down counters.  
  3. Bring dirty glasses and dishes to the dishwasher and return clean glasses.   
  4. Polish, freshly washed wine glasses.  
  5. Fill water glasses for new customers.    
  6. Run drinks to the floor tables and clean used glasses.  
  7. Clean up spilled drinks and sweep broken glassware.  
  8. If a glass breaks near the ice, burn it, and thoroughly clean and refill the ice.  
  9. Help bartenders with anything they need.  
  10. Inform security if a queue is growing outside, if someone is drinking from an outside bottle, or if someone appears to be underage or excessively noisy.   
  11. As needed, assist with punching orders into the POS system.  
  12. During peak hours, pour beers and wine for consumers.  
  13. Engage with customers.  
  14. Throughout the shift, take out the trash or recycle (and wash your hands after handling waste).  
  15. Collect empty glasses from the bar regularly.  
  16. Follow the bartender's or bar manager's directions and try to anticipate their needs.  

After-Service Barback Tasks  

  1. Wipe down the counters.  
  2. Throughout the shift, take out the trash or recycle (and wash your hands after handling waste).  
  3. Clean the furnishings.  
  4. Polish glasses and a few dishes.  
  5. Each shift, set up and tear down the bar.  
  6. Restock all bar containers for the next shift, including juicing citrus for the bar the next night.  
  7. Unclog sinks.  
  8. Mop behind the bar.  
  9. Clean the non-slip mats behind the bar.  
  10. Put away all the alcohol and beer deliveries that arrived during the day.  
  11. Monitor the opening and closing of liquor inventory.  
  12. Collect dirty rags and place them with the rest of the laundry.  
  13. Close tasks with other team members. 

Hiring a Barback

Because most bars are open from the evening until the early morning last call, barback positions are likely to involve working odd hours. As a result, this job will suit people who have other obligations throughout the day or who want to pursue a bartending career. If you want to reduce pressure on your bartenders, hiring a barback should be your top priority. 

Hiring a barback who takes pride in their work and has a positive attitude can help your organization quickly achieve a better income and repeat clients while boosting teamwork.  

Type of Barback

Before creating a barback job description or interviewing candidates, you must identify whether you need a full-time, freelance, part-time, or contract barback. Freelance or contract bartenders are a possible option if you need a bartender for a specific occasion, such as a wedding, private party, or business function. Full-time bartenders, on the other hand, may be a better option if you manage a busy restaurant or bar and need someone to pour drinks on a regular basis.  

Method of Recruitment

Experiment with a few different hiring techniques to find the best barback for your company. Post your barback position online to find and attract qualified bartender candidates or talk to your suppliers and industry contacts. A window ad may also alert consumers and passers-by that you're recruiting.  

Job Description

A detailed job description is vital for hiring a qualified barback for your open position. A barback job description clearly outlines the work, a complete list of actions and responsibilities, and the position's needed and desirable skills. You may also want to include details about the role's physical requirements and needed availability.  

Interviewing Candidates

Bring in your top barback applicants for an interview after reviewing their credentials and asking extensive questions to better understand their skills, accomplishments, and objectives. Top candidates for barback roles will be confident when answering questions about bartending tasks. 

Training A Barback

Even if the recruit is an experienced barback, teaching the ropes is vital. This is a chance to show the barback around your business while also introducing them to the bartending team.  

  1. Make a list of the products that must be kept on hand at all times.  
  2. Introduce your barback to the rest of your team.  
  3. Educate them on what needs to be cleared on a regular basis, such as the garbage bin.  
  4. Provide appropriate health and safety training so that these activities can be completed safely.  
  5. Encourage your new barback to inquire.  
  6. Learn the beverage menu from your new bartender.  
  7. Provide a mentor for your new barback.   

A formal training program will make your barback feel like a member of the team. Feeling valued is vital in the barback profession because barbacks typically work behind the scenes doing thankless work; hence, thus, despair may quickly set in.  

A barback's job is fast-paced and physically demanding. It can also be frustrating because coworkers are always asking for supplies. As a result, only some are cut out to be barbacks.   

Conclusion

Most people are motivated to work as a barback since it provides valuable training for becoming a bartender. As a barback, many bartenders learned the profession's fundamentals and the ins and outs of a bar's functions.