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Server Vs. Bartender

Server and bartender are both careers that do not require formal education. Bartenders focus on preparing alcoholic beverages, while servers focus on serving food and beverages to guests at tables.

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Comparing Servers to Bartenders

Servers and bartenders are both careers in the service industry. The salaries of both positions are similar. Bartenders prepare drinks and serve them to customers at the bar or give them to servers to bring to customers at tables. Servers take orders from guests at dining establishments and bring over what was ordered.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Servers No formal education required $20,820 7%
Bartenders No formal education required $21,690 2%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Servers vs. Bartenders

Servers and bartenders can work in similar environments. Many establishments have bartenders and servers working at the same time. The type of establishments can vary from family restaurants to dance clubs. Both servers and bartenders typically work indoors, but there are outdoor positions available. Both may be required to lift heavy items such as full trays for servers or kegs for bartenders.

Servers

Servers, also known as waiters and waitresses, must be ready for a variety of questions that can regard dietary restrictions, meal ingredients, restaurant specials, and types of beverages. Servers mainly take orders and bring meals to their customers, and many also have side responsibilities of setting up dining areas and refilling condiments. Processing payments is also often the responsibility of servers. Sometimes servers are responsible for preparing drinks and bussing tables, if bus staff is not present. There is no education required to be a server, and training is provided on the job.

Job responsibilities of a server include:

  • Welcoming customers
  • Presenting menus and specials
  • Placing orders and bringing food and beverages from the kitchen and bar to the customers
  • Inquiring about the customer's satisfaction

Bartenders

Bartenders working at establishments that serve food often share responsibilities with servers such as welcoming customers, presenting menus, and taking orders from customers. The focus of a bartender, however, is preparing alcoholic beverages, which can include mixing cocktails, opening and pouring from wine bottles, opening beer bottles and cans, and serving draft beer. Some bartenders are responsible for managing the operations of a bar and ensuring it is profitable. That can involve implementing systems of portion control to prevent loss from serving too much product per purchase. Bartenders are expected to have a basic repertoire of cocktail recipes. Many bartenders have no formal education, but some bartenders take classes to learn about bar management, sophisticated mixology, or showmanship.

Job responsibilities of a bartender include:

  • Checking identification to ensure customer is of legal drinking age
  • Cleaning the bar top and bar back areas
  • Ensuring the safety of customers by checking for levels of intoxication
  • Preparing drinks for servers to deliver to guests not at the bar
  • Limiting waste of expensive alcohol products

Related Careers

If you are interested in the job of a server, becoming a food service manager may also interest you since food service management offers higher pay in the same industry. Those interested in becoming a bartender may be interested in becoming a sommelier, as both careers involve alcoholic beverages.

Food Service Manager: Duties, Outlook and Requirements

Become a Sommelier: Education and Career Information

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