How Much Do Bartenders Make? Some Research

How Much Do Bartenders Make? Some Research

We’ve heard the stories before.

The friend’s friend’s girlfriend who makes a thousand dollars a night and pays for her rent in 5 hours. The guy at the steakhouse who’s been there for 20 years, pulls in 6 figures, and gets comped tickets to all the Phillies games he wants, and the guy at the airport who gets hotel, travel, and a solid benefits package even though he doesn’t make as much as when he worked in a club.

The problem is, these are exactly what they sound like, stories. But why are they so prevalent?  It’s because unlike most other professions, and even unlike most of our compatriots overseas, bartenders in the United States rely on tips, which makes tracking how much a bartender makes really difficult.

On average, the lowest I’ve heard is around $300.00 a week, working 4 full eight hour shifts a week, at a very poor and slow venue.  The highest I’ve heard, was a consistent $1,000.00 per night shift done at a bar in Manhattan. However, there are many instances where that’s been exceeded, like when our instructor Luciano texted me the $2,500.00 he made working the Eagles home opener at Xfinity Live last year.

On a consistent basis, however, research seems to support that bartenders make between $20-40 an hour depending on their location and experience.

CNN Money Reports that:

A top earner at an “A-List” restaurant or bar can bring in up to $100,000 a year, including tips, according to Brenda Carter, of UniteHere, a union that represents workers in the hospitality industry.

And describes the income and tips as:

Median hourly tips: $8.30

Median hourly tips: $15.00

A Huffington Post Business Article with a bartender corroborates the CNN Money Source:

A New York City Bartender who made $96,000 last year said the starting wage at her hotel is $26.00 an hour, not including cash tips, holiday pay, overtime, and insurance.

A Daily Campus Article reports on a bartender who says:

On average I make $300.00 in tips a night, and I’d say one third of the money I make goes to paying my college tuition.

While this is more money than most people expect, many of our recent graduates ask me how they if they’re in a “good” place, or if they should move on and look for another job. The average hourly wage is a great way to gauge it as bars can vary so widely.

-A hotel, like the Marriot, which frequently wins awards for the best company to work for if you don’t have a college degree.  These are the situations where you have high hourly pay, great benefits, but you won’t see as many people as you would in a “volume” bar, like an Irish Pub or a nightclub.

-A fast paced Irish Pub/Sports bar, but a Monday night might make you only $70.00 in tips, but then have a Saturday night where you make $400.00

-Small private parties, where there are only 30 people, and the owners pay $30/hour, and then tip you $50.00 at the end of the night.  The caveat is, you are discouraged from accepting tips and having a tip jar.

-A restaurant environment where the servers give you 10-15% of their tips.

-A bar that requires that you pool your tips with other bartenders who work the service bar.

A good rule of thumb is to look at how much money you’re making versus the times you’re working a week.  A starting bartender should average around $230.00 a night, or about $23/hour for a full ten hour shift.  So if you’re working twice a week, and making an extra $460.00, you’re right in the middle of where you should be.  If you’re making only $300.00 in twenty hours, that’s a signal to start looking for other options. However, if you’re making $600.00 or $30/hour, you’re making above average and should definitely consider staying where you are.


Photo is a cash register from Philadelphia’s Architectural and Antiques Exchange in Northern Liberties

Read the CNN Money Article Here:

Here is the Huffington Post Article:

And the The Daily Campus Piece: