Becoming Part of Bar Management – A Good Goal?

I just finished another 55 hour work week & am wondering why the hell I moved into management, why does anyone? Why do we give up great money, normal shifts & the lifestyle? We give up all these things because we are ambitious, have leadership qualities, & it is inevitably the final step in your career. The difference between management in Canada vs Australia is that back home you get paid more as a manager than as a bartender. Here in Canada & in the US, bartenders make ridiculous money in tips & would never think about giving that up to manage.

When I first started my management career I was a very green, very young 22. I had supervised & managed various departments & venues but this was the first time that I had someone training me to be what I have become. “Cheers” was a small suburban tavern & it was run by Paul who I attribute my basic training to. Paul was the general manager; he had been in the industry for about 14 years & had been with “Cheers” for about 2 years. He interviewed me along with a dozen guys who were older & had more experience. I am not quite sure why he hired me but he took me under his wing & showed me the trade. He taught me everything that I know about back of house operations.

I moved on from “Cheers” after a year or so & jumped around a while managing various places from 120 seat restaurants to 3 story five star cocktail bars. Every time I have moved I have started over, learning new tricks, new secrets. Each place I have worked I have realised that I work a hell of a lot for little pay. It has been worth it, I am 26 & I have a lot more experience than most 35 year olds. I have said it once & I will say it again, you can never stop learning.

I had a decision to make earlier this year, either open my own bar & restaurant with 3 of my best mates, or come to Canada & travel. I am here in Canada & I have a job at Moxies Classic Grill in downtown Victoria, it’s a beautiful room with an elegant touch of casual class. I started there as a server / bartender & loved it, I was making a minimum of $600 a week just in tips. I was lucky enough to have the perfect blend of bartending & serving. I fell in love with the industry all over again.

When I walked into that restaurant, I just needed a job. Lindsey is the GM & was more than happy to give me a job. I didn’t want anything but an easy, simple bar job. I thought I knew everything about management until I met Lindsey. I had spent so much time perfecting my back of house techniques, my cocktails & my customers happiness that I had never developed my people skills with regards to staff. Lindsey has the inane ability to read people, make them feel fantastic & be able to get the most out of his staff.

My dad taught me my people skills. He was ex military & when I worked with him it was “yes sir, no sir, & three bags full sir”. I have realised now that this is not the way you should talk to people especially Canadians. I am not like that all the time but when we are in the weeds I tend to forget please & thank you’s & just tell them what I need. Lindsey is teaching me slowly how to interact with my staff more efficiently & I suppose more politely. He is probably one of the most influential people I have had in my career & I am glad every time I walk into work that I made that decision to come over here to Canada.

These are the reasons you get into management, to be nurtured, to learn & become the best person you can be. Sure there are times when I am rolling cutlery at one in the morning & I am pushing an 11 hour shift & I am thinking that all the servers tonight walked out with $200, why do I do this? It’s the fact that I love leading, I love being shaped into a better manager & shaping people to be better servers & bartenders. I love talking to customers & being able to give them the experience they deserve. So when you are posed the question, “to do or not to do” weigh up the pros & cons, figure what you want from your career. Love what you do regardless of what it is.

Shawn Soole
December 1, 2006

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