How to Become a Beverage Server: Career Guide

Mar 09, 2020

Learn how to become a beverage server. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as a beverage server.

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Should I Become a Beverage Server?

Beverage servers may work as bartenders or as part of a wait staff. While bartenders will mix and serve drinks, members of the wait staff will serve prepared drinks to customers sitting in a dining room. Duties of a bartender and server may include taking drink orders, pouring drinks or opening bottles, mixing drinks and checking identification for customers' ages. Servers often spend many hours standing and may need to deal with disruptive or difficult customers. The median annual salary for bartenders was $22,550 in May 2018, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Requirements

You don't need to have any formal education to be a beverage server, but there are professional bartending programs available. In addition you may receive training on the job. As a beverage server, you'll need to have customer service, communication and organizational skills. Having physical stamina, dexterity and knowledge of drink recipes will also be beneficial.

Steps to Become a Beverage Server

Let's now look at the steps you'll want to take to become a beverage server.

Step 1: Gain Restaurant Experience

There is no education requirement to work in a restaurant, and many prospective bartenders and beverage servers may start off as bar backs, waiters and waitresses, or hostesses. This is an opportunity for you to learn about food and beverage operations and begin developing customer service skills. Employers often look for bartender and beverage server applicants with experience in the field, and having experience working at a food establishment in any capacity will be beneficial.

Step 2: Receive On-The-Job Training

Whether someone obtains a job as a bartender or cocktail waitress, newly hired employees will have to go through a training period. Training may last anywhere from a few days to weeks, depending on the employer and the employee's prior experience. During the training period, you will work and learn under the supervision of an experienced employee. You'll develop an understanding of what drinks are available on the menu and the prices for each item. It's also important to learn about the computer systems that track orders and how to open or close each shift.

Step 3: Consider Obtaining Education

While not required for employment, attending a bartending school or taking bartending courses at a local college will teach you how to make and pour various mixed drinks and shots. These are often short-term programs that may last anywhere from 1-3 weeks. The courses will cover areas involving drink and garnish preparation, pouring techniques, wine and beer selection, legal aspects of drinking alcohol and opening and closing an establishment. Experienced bartenders who pursue additional education and training may have opportunities to work for more pay or in more prestigious restaurants and bars.

Look into other bartending training options. Attending a school isn't your only option to learn about making drinks. Several websites are available that will teach you how to make popular mixed drinks and shots, as well as books and self-study programs.

While you don't need any formal education to become a beverage server, you will need to gain experience in the industry and may consider completing a formal program in bartending.

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