How Much do Bartenders Make?

How Much do Bartenders Make?

by Ryan

Since I’ve been bartending for years people often as me “how much do bartenders make?” This is a question that simply “depends,” but I’ll do my best to try and answer it.

If you want the short answer the range varies from $5 an hour, all the way up to $100 an hour, but in my experience, an average of $20 an hour is a safe bet (tips and hourly pay combined).

I’ve worked at four bars in my life and each one was slightly different ranging from sports bars in college towns to upscale dining establishments. Although each place is different one thing remained constant; The number of drinks you poured directly correlates to the amount of money you’re going to make as a bartender.

That’s the most important thing you need to realize. If a place has zero customers, you’re going to make zero dollars. So your first priority is finding a bar that people go to in numbers.

Things that Will Affect How Much You Make as a Bartender

-How busy is the bar?
I’m probably beating a dead horse at this point, but make sure you know the bar has plenty of customers during the shift you plan on working. At many places lunches are dead, so the bartender standing around it barely making minimum wage. However, nights and weekends tend to be better, this depends of course.

Bartenders-How many other bartenders are there?
If the bar is busy, but there are a dozen bartenders, many of whom are standing around, it’s going to take A LOT of people to make good money when you’re splitting your tips twelve ways, which leads me to my next point.

-Are you splitting tips with other bartenders?
This should be a question you ask in any interview. If you’re a terrible bartender and splitting tips, this will work to your benefit, but if you’re great and picking up the slack for the other bartenders, you probably won’t be happy about it. This also means if you’re splitting tips at a bar that likes to over staff, it could be a big chunk of your pay being lost.

-Do the servers tip you out?
I’ve worked at bars that have servers tip you out, and bars that don’t. Ideally it will be mandatory for servers to tip you at least 1% of their sales, or a higher percentage of their alcohol sales. Either way, you’ll be making drinks for servers, so make sure you’re getting paid for it by the bar you work at. It won’t be a ton of money, but will add up.

-What’s the clientele like?
Are you dealing with a bunch of regulars, or a tourist crowd? Also, is the crowd older (and more stingy), or young drunk and loose with their money. Tips are usually best when your patrons are nice and liquored up, so nightclubs and bar hours after 11pm generally allow for good tip percentage.

-Are there bar backs?
Bar-backs are the guys who stock your bar so that you don’t have to cut into your bartending time to go grab a bottle of booze or a case of beer. These guys will save you a ton of time in the long run so it’s better to work as a team. When you’re “in the weeds” you’re going to want bar backs. Although you have to tip them out at the end of the night (at most bars) they’re well worth it.

-When will you be working?
You may get hired as a bartender, but if it’s crappy shift you’re going to make diddly squat. The best way to know when a bar is busy, is to visit it at different times to get a feel. Be sure to talk to the current bartenders an ask them when they think the busiest times are.

See How Much I Make Bartending

I track my part-time bartending wages at a bar/restaurant that has a downtown late night crowd, so you can see how much I make as a bartender on that page. Roughly I’d say you should expect $15-$30 per hour in this field if you’re good at what you do and have steady business.

Are you a bartender? Feel free to share below how much you make along with any tips on getting a higher paying bartending gig.

Photos from brostad and phanatic

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