Can’t I just work without going to school?
A lot of people feel that they don’t need to go through training to bartend, and they try to get jobs on their own, by knowing someone, or by working really hard as a barback, hostess, server, or cook.
Here’s the thing: It almost never works. Every month, we meet with dozens of people who’ve been working in the industry for years, with the promise, and expectation that they’d eventually be moved up to bartend. And their employers like them, their coworkers like them, and their customers like them. So what’s the problem?
There’s a fantastic book called the Tender Bar, which is a memoir of growing up in a bar, and the author J. R. Moehringer talks about graduating from Yale, and interning at the New York Times. And the Times would get these Ivy League interns and have them get coffee and other menial tasks for the promise of a promotion, but then whenever they actually needed a new editor, they’d invariably take someone who was already great from Chicago or LA.
What’s happening here is that once employers see you in a certain way, it’s very difficult to change that perception.
If they hire you as a hostess, and you become an incredible hostess, they don’t want to move you. They see you as hostess, not a bartender/mixologist, and it costs time, money, and energy to train you. Why would they? To top it off, hiring is done on short notice, when someone suddenly leaves or is let go. Establishments typically don’t have the luxury of time even if they did have every intention of moving you up.
Knowledge is power. When you walk with knowledge of Wine, Beer, Craft Cocktails, Flair, Speed, Customer Service, and all the nuances of the industry you have such a rare and potent combination of skills that it forces employers to take action. It puts the ball in your court.