Barback is the technical name for a bartender’s assistant. He often does many of the same things as the bartender, but his primary role is to help the bartender do her job effectively and efficiently. The role of the barback is more vital in very busy clubs or bars where the bartender must work more quickly to make drinks and serve customers. Barbacks are usually paid a minimum hourly wage and a 5 to 20 percent cut of the bartender’s tips, according to longtime bar service professional Reese Richards.
Bartenders have little time to clean counters, furniture, glasses and dishes when mixing drinks. The barback typically wipes off counters and cleans equipment and dishes as needed throughout his shift and at the end of the night. This includes picking up food and drink spills and broken dishes and bottles, which are common in a busy environment. He must also take out the trash throughout the shift.
A primary duty of the barback is to make sure the bartender has all the supplies needed to continually make drinks. She cuts garnishes, fills olive and lemon trays, refills ice wells, restocks liquor bottles and empty dispensers, changes out beer kegs and replenishes napkins, toothpicks and other basic bar supplies. This usually requires constant trips back and forth between the supply or storage room and the bar.
Maintenance and Repair
In fast-paced establishments, bartenders don’t have time to slow down for clogged drains or malfunctioning taps. Maintaining and fixing equipment as needed are duties for the barback. Sink clogs and equipment mishaps are common. Other repair issues are more random. The door to the supply room could become jammed, for instance, or the cash register may quit working. A barback who thinks on his feet and can make repairs is especially useful.
Setup and Cleanup
The bartender and barback typically share responsibility for setting and tearing down the bar at each shift. Setup includes setting out napkins, toothpicks, ashtrays, peanuts and other counter items. Checking all equipment and filling all stock are other setup duties. Cleanup includes picking up all trash in the bar area and throwing it out, wiping down equipment and restocking all basic supplies for the next shift.