To many, bartending is not a “real job.” It’s a gig you pick up on school vacations or to bide the time as you wait for your big break. But regardless of your motivations, bartending is a true career that both requires skill and presents many challenges. So next time you’re waiting for your order, think about these seven reasons why bartending is an underestimated job.
7 Downsides of Being a Professional Bartender
1. Kiss holidays goodbye.
For some, this is a blessing, but as the years of disappointing your loved ones go by, it can become a burden. While bartenders usually trade-off Thanksgiving or Christmas Day shifts, it can be hard to make holiday plans. Other professions face these same schedule challenges, but we’re the ones actively serving your family while missing out on time with our own.
2. You have to multitask like few others.
A bartending shift is filled with an ever-changing list of priorities that looks a little like this: “Take B7’s drink order; run credit card for awkward online date; avoid eye contact with creeper in the corner; two Mezcal Margaritas on the rocks, one with salt, one without; we’re out of pint glasses; etc.” And we do it all with a smile and a bit of small talk.
3. You’re always being watched.
Imagine doing your job on a small stage where you’re the focal point. It’s like being a preschool teacher with a room full of needy, adult eyes on you at all times. What’s even more challenging is that you know your energy is infectious. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, everyone at the bar picks up on that vibe.
4. You can’t eat when you’re hungry or pee when you’re bursting.
Some nights you can snag five minutes here or there, but often you don’t get breaks when you work in the service industry. If you have ever walked into a bar or restaurant near close and the bartender has a pained look on their face and is unnecessarily brusque, know that they may just need a snack and a bathroom break.
5. You must be able to connect with people from all walks of life.
It’s your job to make your guests feel comfortable at your bar. It’s like being the host of a dinner party every night, only your guests are all ages, all professions, and all different backgrounds. The ability to read people and anticipate their needs, no matter who they are, is a highly underrated skill that’s essential to bartending.
6. Just because a bar doesn’t look that busy, doesn’t mean that the bartender isn’t busy.
There are times as a bartender when a bar is standing room only and you have nothing to do. Other times, there are only a few small groups and you’re scrambling. It all depends on a combo of factors from guest flow to the drink orders to the amount of staff present. It’s a challenge for a bartender because you want to serve everyone as quickly as possible, but if you get five drink orders at the same time, someone has to wait.
7. It’s stressful AF.
Bartending is stressful. There are moments when it feels like you’ll never get through the night. And as much as you prepare yourself in advance, you can never predict how the shift will go. All you can do is be as prepared as possible and try to do the best you can.