Career Profile: Bartender
Most people know what a bartender is, thanks to movies and television shows with characters in the role as well as real life experiences at restaurants and events. But the job of a bartender involves much more than just serving drinks and chatting with customers.
The core of a bartender’s job is mixing and serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to people at a bar, restaurant, private club, banquet hall, special event, or other venue that possesses a provincial liquor license to legally serve alcohol. Bartenders take orders directly from patrons, as well as from serving staff, and prepare drinks including pouring beer or wine, mixing cocktails, and pouring or mixing non-alcoholic beverages.
They also accept payment for drinks, enter sales and payments into electronic point-of-sale systems, review inventory and process stock re-ordering, and must maintain the cleanliness of all bar service areas, equipment, and glassware according to provincial and local health and safety standards. Bartenders are also responsible for ensuring that they perform their job within the requirements of provincial legislation and regulations related to the sale and serving of alcohol.
However, bartenders are responsible for more than just mixing and selling drinks. They also must have extremely good people skills in order to assess patrons for dangerous levels of intoxication, or to determine whether there is a safety risk from a patron’s behaviour.
Bartenders often work evening and night hours, as late as 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and will spend most of their shift on their feet. This means working as a bartender requires the physical ability to work standing and walking for 6 to 8 hours, and being able to reach, lift, and carry stock and equipment.
To work as a bartender in Canada, you must be above the legal drinking age of the province in which you work, which will be either 18 or 19 years old. In most cases, you will be required to have completed a high school diploma, and some employers may also require additional courses at the college level which offer training in bartending and mixing drinks.
Depending on your employer’s requirements, you will likely be required to complete a responsible beverage service certification course, such as SmartServe in Ontario. Each province offers its own version of this certification; these certifications are required in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, P.E.I., and British Columbia, and are optional in the other provinces. However, responsible serving certifications are always recommended, and individual employers have the right to require that their employees be certified. Responsible service certifications can be completed both online or in-person, and cost between $25 and $50 on average, depending on the province and which program you take.
These courses train bartenders on the safe serving and handling of alcoholic beverages, including the laws around liquor sale and service, how to check identification, what is accepted as proof of age, how to identify fake identification, risk management, and how to identify and prevent intoxication in patrons.
Bartenders in Canada typically begin their career earning minimum wage in their province, which ranges from approximately $13 to $16 per hour, or around $30,000 per year. Bartenders, like many service industry workers, also receive tips as additional earnings on top of their regular hourly wage. This amount will vary depending on the type of business, how busy your shifts are, and how collected tips are distributed between staff.
While some bartenders can earn upwards of $25 to $30 per hour, depending on experience and where they are employed such as at a private club or event venue, this is not the case for all bartenders. Many people work as bartenders when they are in university or as one of several part-time jobs, and eventually move into other careers post graduation. Others who desire to build a career in the hospitality industry will begin working as a bartender with a career path directed toward becoming a bar or venue manager, or eventually owning their own bar or restaurant.