Your Bar Manager Sucks!

Many people may not know this about me, but I’m on a committee to pass a bill that requires bar managers to do “management ride-alongs” with other successful managers before they are allowed to get hired as a bar or restaurant manager.  Alright, I lied.  After all, committees are hard.

It wasn’t until I started my business five years ago that I really started paying attention and putting managers under a microscope, and since then the lack of leadership and accountability I have witnessed has started me down a rabbit hole of madness. I’m talking curl-into-a-fetal-position-and-suck-your-thumb kind of madness.  Forget postal workers. Apathetic bar managers incite me to be 21 times more likely to carve someone’s eyes out with a salad fork than a mailman.

I can only compare it to Chinese water torture (drip, drip, drip).  That single drop splashing on your forehead is nothing at first, but witnessing bar managers leaning indifferently on the end of the bar for an hour without moving adds up until the tension becomes so unbearable I want to take a cast iron frying pan to my face until sweet unconsciousness envelopes me.

Alright, perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but I’m done with this shit. I’m done with that manager who is as effective as a homeless tramp who has wandered in off the streets because all he does is hang out at the bar all night flirting with girls and pouring shots for them every few minutes, which he never rings up. Every time they have a shot, he joins them and then tells the bartender, “I got those,” even though he doesn’t “got them” at all because it’s the owner who has “got them” and who is paying for them. And whenever there’s a problem with a guest at a table, instead of walking over and actually engaging the guest in conversation, maybe making things right, he simply cranes his neck like a drunken giraffe in the direction of the upset table but never actually walks over. Instead he orders more shots for the girls at the bar and then creepily lowers his hand to the small of the closet girl’s back.

I’m telling you, I’m done with them. I’m done with owners and managers telling me, “Well, taking care of our regulars and giving away a few drinks is just the way our industry works.” Bullshit! That’s the way 85% of bars go our of business in our industry. THAT’S the way this industry works. I’m done with them, and so should you.

Now you believe me about that postal thing, don’t you? (Drip, drip, drip)


So what exactly are your managers doing to wreck your business? I have a hunch that deep down you already know, but you’ve been ignoring these issues because you have your own balls to juggle, and adding another ball into the mix by firing, hiring and training someone new is about attractive an idea to you as climbing naked through a field of razor wire and red army ants.

However, you can’t continue to ignore the giant elephant staring right at you, and whether you want to believe it or not, much of this neglect is going on when you’re not there. Many managers are masters of deception, like Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver. Remember him? He’d be nauseatingly sweet to Wally and the Beav’s parents face-to-face and then when they left he’d turn into the most devious little shit you’ve ever met.

From my experience, there a number of ways bad management will cancer your bar/restaurant right out of business, but I’ve narrowed it down to the five most detrimental behaviors that are preventing you from being a happy and successful business owner.

1.  Your manager is too close with the staff.  Being friends with the people you’re supposed to be a boss to is a Kryptonite to a manager’s authoritative powers. Staying on top of unproductive or inappropriate tasks is a key responsibility in managing a business, and if the manager isn’t willing to have those difficult conversations, it’s a detriment to the operation of your business. Worse yet is when he/she starts sleeping with the staff. No industry has employees hook up more than the bar/restaurant industry, but my rule is: once you take on the job as manager, no dating/boinking within the ranks. If you don’t adopt this policy, you will regret it.

2.  They sit in their office on Facebook instead of making warm-fuzzies with the guests. Your manager’s job when you aren’t there is to be the face of the bar/restaurant. To interact with guests and keep employees on task. When you find him/her in the office every time you come in, that’s bad, even though they will convince you that they were “making the schedule” or “ordering liquor” or “doing payroll”. They’re up to no good when they spend too much time in the office. They need to be on the floor.

3.  They give away free drinks/drinks him/herself. You’ll need to straighten and brace yourself for this one. If it makes them look good, your manager will use his/her authority to give away whatever they want to guests. They especially know they can get away with this with no inventory management system in place. It’s bad enough to have to worry about your bartenders. You shouldn’t have to worry about your bar manager as well. And believe me, their doing it when you’re not there.

4.  They fail to enforce or support the standards and systems that have been put into place (basically leadership in general). First of all, if you don’t have specific standards and systems in place, your first order of business is to sit down and draft those out. Second of all, you’d better make sure your managers and entire staff understand that those rules and standards are law. It’s your job to enforce your standards to the enforcers or they will never do the same for you. It’s a tough question to answer, but if someone were to ask me the most important factor for succeeding in this industry (listen up here), it would be enforcing the standards of the bar/restaurant. Without accountability, businesses go to shit.

5.  The manager is your friend. This might difficult for you to hear, but similar to #1 on this list, if you are too close to your managers to be the boss, trouble is coming. You are trusting him/her and putting the business in their hands, so in your mind it’s inconceivable to you that they would do anything to hurt you. But the truth is, they don’t do it to hurt you. They do it because they are unmotivated and they have not been properly trained. Even if the manager is your friend, you need to have those conversations with him/her to make it clear that the standards that have been set are expected to be enforced. If you are not firm with your managers, they will take advantage by doing a very mediocre and uninspired job of running the business.

Your managers should be an extension of you. Take a minute to step back and make the decision to set high standards, not only for your bar/restaurant, but for your entire staff, and then have regular meetings with your management to review how well they’ve been enforcing those standards. Without monitoring and evaluation, there is no improvement, and without growth stagnation sets in. At that point, your on a path to doom, or at the very best mediocrity.

Best of luck to all.

Cheers, until next time.

The RB