How do you get a job Bartending in South Africa?

Getting a job in South Africa is tough.

Over 70% of young South Africans under the age of 35 are unemployed, even those with university degrees, which makes the future look somewhat bleak, at the time of this article anyways.

For centuries bartending has been a vocational craft, taught from master to apprentice—something you can learn on the job—but in recent times employers have become less willing to take the risk on a completely untrained employee. This is happening in many industries, but it is especially true for bartending as it’s such a multi-faceted skill. Bartenders are required to wear many hats; it’s not just about serving great drinks but about being a wealth of knowledge, a master salesperson with exceptional organizational skills and the patience of a saint. Employers want to know you’ve got at least some of this knowledge before they take a chance on you.

That being said, here are some tips to help you not only get a job, but get a GREAT job at that:

Step 1: Start at your favourite bar.

Great bar owners know that they should hire somebody who not only is from the area, but someone who loves it and is familiar it. Their staff should mirror the culture of where they are based and the people that frequent it. You may even know many of the regulars after being one yourself, which will make adjusting that much easier for you when you start. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place they love and frequent often as a customer?! It will most likely be close to where you live which saves you on transport, and you will also know immediately if an opening becomes available and what the working conditions are like before you start by talking to the other employees. So, if you can, start as a customer, become an employee later.

Step 2: Bartending isn’t for everyone. Be realistic about what the job entails.

Bartending isn’t all glamour and parties and travel. There are some tough jobs that you may be required to do. You will often work long hours, for small but liveable wages, you may have to deal with rude and unruly people who don’t appreciate your hospitality, cleaning toilets etc. may be required of you. Managing money and the stock that the bar sells will also be your responsibility. Being prepared to do these jobs is part of being a bartender. You have to be honest with yourself if this is really what you want to do.

Step 3: If you lack experience, get an education.

Both experience and education are equally important to a potential employer. If you lack experience, get an education. If you can’t afford an education, get experience. Getting experience is easier said than done if you can’t get a job to begin with. Taking an International Bartender’s Course at Shaker Bar School will give you a thorough education in a short space of time, enough to make you more attractive to an employer. The course teaches students not only how to make delicious cocktails, but to serve all kinds of drinks professionally, quickly and with style. Students can experience both the fun and the pressure of bar service in a safe and friendly environment, preparing anyone to be able to work at just about any type of establishment.

Step 4: Network.

Immerse yourself in the industry. If you know a chef, cleaner, bartender, keep them close. They will let you know of any potential openings, changes, or expansions, and great employers will want to keep the same type of people employed in their business.

Step 5: Branch Out.

If you get rejected from one establishment, go to another one similar to the one you would like to work in. Never underestimate a hospitality business owner’s need for competition. If one says no, then go to their nearest competitor. If they see you working at their competitor’s, and they are hearing about how amazing you are from their customers, they’ll do anything to get you to work for them.

Step 6: Set up alerts.

There are plenty of job sites such as LinkedIn with job ads looking for educated and experienced bartenders. Make sure you are getting regular updates and notifications about new openings and possibilities.

Step 7: Always be prepared.

Have your CV up-to-date and ready at a moment’s notice. Make sure you have copies at hand. Always look ready for the job with great hygiene practices, be well-groomed and presentable. You never know if they might want you on the spot!

Remember this could be day-one of the most fulfilling career of your life, so take it day by day.

A note for employers:

A skill can be taught. Integrity is ingrained.

A CV can be doctored, and references faked. When hiring it’s important to look more at work ethic and integrity than anything else. Talent is a scarce commodity.

Understandably, there are many horror stories of working under influence or theft or both and this is tough to manage. So how does one go about preventing this? When looking upon potential candidates, a great first question is the famous, “Do you drink?” and one would think the answer should automatically be an emphatic “No!”

That doctrine may have gotten candidates hired in the past, but how do you expect your team to sell anything if they have no interest in what you sell or what your customers are going to buy?

When a cold call applicant approaches you try this instead:

Employer: “Do you drink?”

Candidate: “No”

Employer: “I’m afraid I only hire people who drink”

Candidate: “Well…actually sometimes….”

And that should tell you everything you need to know straight away. Being lied to off the bat and you don’t even know each other’s names.

The culture in your business is one that you have undoubtably fostered and nurtured, but shouldn’t that culture include passion? Some pride?

So perhaps the conversation should potentially go:

Employer: “Do you drink?”

Candidate: “Yes I do!”

Employer: “Fantastic! Tell me about what you drink and why?”

What will follow will tell you everything you need to know about how much they know, what they’re passionate about, their integrity and their ability to come to you as well as their salesmanship.