Posted on: August 31, 2023

Barback Meaning: What is a Barback and How Do You Become One?

Barback Meaning: What is a Barback and How Do You Become One?

If you’ve ever been to a bar and thought how great the service is, you probably think you have only the bartender to thank. But that is far from true. The bartender is usually the face of the establishment, interacting with customers, taking orders, and preparing drinks.

However, there is another person contributing to the smooth service. The barbacks work in the background and assist bartenders with service. This article will discuss what a barback is, what they do, their pay, and the skills they need to succeed.

What is a Barback? 

Simply put, a barback is the bartender's assistant. They make sure the bartenders have everything they need to serve customers, filling in any of the gaps along the way. Barbacks are similar to bussers, except barbacks work in a bar setting rather than the kitchen. The barback ensures that bartenders always have access to the supplies they need, such as glasses, garnishes, stocked bottles, and fresh kegs.

It's certainly a balancing act of keeping an eye on both the front and the back of the house. This is because barbacks are on the floor more often than bartenders, cleaning up and collecting supplies from the walk-in. Getting a job as a barback is one of the best ways to earn your way behind the bar if you have no prior experience and want to become a bartender.

What Do Barbacks Do? 

Barbacks carry out all the unseen tasks that enable the bar and bartender to work effectively. That means a wide range of duties. A barback's responsibilities will vary depending on location. However, there are a few basic jobs that any barback will encounter during their shift regardless of location.

For someone who hopes to work as a bartender or bar manager, this is a starter position. Before they are able to take orders, serve clients, and mix drinks, barbacks typically perform minor duties and assist the more experienced bar employees.

Barback Duties

Before Service - Before the shift, their primary duty is to prepare the bar for service. This could mean the barback is putting away the beer and liquor deliveries from earlier in the day, restocking the straws, napkins, and coasters at each bar station, preparing the juices for service, and chopping garnish and back-ups. Barbacks collaborate with the bartenders to make sure the bar is well stocked and prepared for business.

During Service - The barback is usually the busiest in the bar or restaurant during the shift. They are often in charge of restocking everything in the bar, from spirits to syrups, cleaning and refilling glassware, changing kegs, washing the bar top, and changing kegs during a shift. They rarely ever provide drinks or take drink requests.

After Service - The barback helps the bartenders in dismantling the bar during closing. This can mean emptying the trash, restocking the bottle supply, and washing all the glassware.

How Much Are Barbacks Paid?

Just like bartenders, barbacks are paid hourly plus tips. The minimum tipped income varies by state, but according to Glassdoor, the national average yearly salary for barbacks is $39,559 before tips as of September 2022.

How much you make in tips will depend on your businesses' tipping, tip pooling, and tip sharing policies. Every bar has different procedures on barback and bartender tipping. According to Bars and Bartending, each bartender will tip out the barback at the end of the shift, anywhere from 1-2% of sales to 5-20% of tips.

How Do You Become a Barback?

Barbacks do not usually have any prior experience. Barbacks typically shadow and assist bartenders. Almost all bartenders begin as barbacks, and depending on how quickly they pick things up, they may spend anywhere from 6 to 18 months there before moving up.

A good barback should be proactive, well-organized, and customer-service oriented. They prioritize well, are accustomed to working in noisy, busy workplaces, and know how to use knives safely. They must be well-versed in service and mixology to guarantee that bartenders always have the supplies they need.

One of the best ways to get a leg up on the competition is to complete alcohol server training. Some states or employers require certification before letting you handle alcohol. Alcohol server training will also better prepare you for bartending duties. To begin your career on the right foot, try the TIPS alcohol safety training course.     

Barback Skills

Employers looking for barbacks will be seeking someone with:  

  • Basic culinary abilities - Barbacks must be able to make garnishes and assist in the kitchen as needed.
  • Heavy lifting - Moving liquor and beer shipments and hauling kegs demands some physical strength. Make sure you can handle some heavy lifting.
  • Bar and drinks knowledge - Although barbacks will learn a lot of this on the job from the bartender, it is essential that they have a fundamental understanding of liquors, spirits, beers, wines, and taste profiles.
  • Organization - To be successful, a barback must be organized and systematic, as well as versatile enough to expect and meet any challenges throughout each shift.
  • Proactive - A great barback must be able to anticipate and complete duties before they become dire. That means replenishing bottles, garnishes, and so forth before the bartender asks.
  • Problem-solving - It is the people who make customer service both a pleasure and a pain. If a customer is upset, you must maintain your cool and answer their problems with a smile.
  • Customer service - You will inevitably have to interact with customers. Make certain that you have great interpersonal skills. Be friendly, outgoing, and helpful above all else.
  • Multitasking - A successful barback will aim to maximize the number of tasks they complete in the time available.
  • Working under pressure - The service business moves quickly. A barback must be able to manage the stress of a busy Saturday night without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Prioritization - Multiple issues will inevitably arise at once. Barbacks must have the ability to prioritize tasks quickly and take appropriate action.
  • Adaptability - What distinguishes competent barbacks from great ones is their capacity for change. A bar needs to be able to evaluate and prioritize when the evening rush hits. Always be sure to accomplish the tasks you begin; don't delegate them to others.

Last Call

Without a doubt, barbacking is a difficult job. The physical demands alone could turn away the more faint of heart, but any bartender will attest how greatly the industry needs good barbacks. It's an excellent stepping stone for advancing to a bartending position. You will be a great barback if you put in the effort, pay attention, and strive to improve every day!

To be better prepared for barbacking duties, consider taking an alcohol server training course. The TIPS alcohol safety course offers training for serving and selling alcohol that complies with many jurisdictions' legal requirements. Online, simple, flexible, and most importantly, affordable. Follow the link to check out our catalog today.