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November 06, 2017

Knowing When It’s Time To Fire Your Bartender

Bar managers often have a difficult time discerning which bartenders are exhibiting dangerous red flags of behavioral issues and which ones have simply made honest mistakes. No one enjoys the responsibility of firing a bartender, but bar mangers are responsible for maintaining a healthy workplace. This involves removing negative employees from your place of business. This list highlights common warning signs and red flags that every business owner needs to be aware of.

While we are all human and make mistakes, a consistent pattern of disrespectful behavior from your bartenders or other hospitality employees should not be tolerated.


Stealing from customers or the business should always be grounds for immediate termination. Theft does not necessarily have to be outright or obvious but can come in subtle forms like giving away unauthorized free drinks, taking excessive breaks or neglecting to ring orders into the computer. Sometimes mistakes happen, but there is no excuse for outright theft. As an employer, you are legally protected to take action by terminating employment on the grounds of theft. Security cameras can help prevent stealing by deterring undesirable behavior, and cameras also preserve evidence when theft does occur.

Aggressive Behavior

When a bartender begins displaying aggressive behavior towards co-workers, management or customers, it should be a huge red flag for management. Aggressive behaviors will typically start out with small offenses that build up to bigger, more problematic events. It’s crucial for bar management to recognize early signs of aggressive tendencies in individuals like spreading vicious rumors, excessive searing, frequent arguments and damaging business property. Any incidents should be recorded, and aggressiveness should not be tolerated when it becomes a pattern of behavior. If a pattern of aggressiveness is established, then it is time to take action by terminating your bartender. Failing to take appropriate action may result in increasingly aggressive behavior from the bartender.


Even as children we are taught that we must get along with one another, so co-workers that refuse to cooperate for the success of the entire team are displaying a major red flag. If you have a bartender who consistently has problems with other employees, then you need to consider that the individual may be the one causing problems for everyone else. Uncooperative individuals will display a pattern of behaviors like failing to help with side-work or expecting to be scheduled for the best shifts every week. When you start to recognize uncooperative behavior from your bartender, it’s time to start looking closely for other red flag behaviors from your bartender. While this trait shouldn’t warrant immediate termination, it should definitely be recorded in the employee’s file.

Customer Complaints

Customer-centered businesses often entertain the well-known motto ‘the customer is always right’. Bar managers and restaurant owners know that this is not always true, and customer complaints are not necessarily proof that an employee has done something inexcusable. While customer complaints should always be heard out and respected, you will need to evaluate each claim to determine whether the complaint warrants employee termination. Often, the bartender has made an honest mistake or fault has been unfairly put on their shoulders. When a manager finds that a customer complaint is not due to the employee’s negligence, it should still be noted in the employee’s file.

Escalating Behavior

While many of these signs warrant immediate termination, bar managers always need to be aware and record any incidents of undesirable behavior. Warning signs should not be ignored because they are likely to escalate into worse behaviors in the future. Stopping small incidents and taking action against warning signs will help prevent future escalations, violence and crisis. Small incidents that are left unchecked followed by an escalation should be considered grounds for termination. Documentation of each incident is important, and a conversation should be held with the bartender in question. Clearly communicate to the bartender that they are exhibiting unacceptable behaviors that are being documented. Work together to find a solution to the issues before the ultimate solution becomes termination.

Bar managers are expected to show respect to their employees, but employees are also required to maintain a healthy level of respect for their authority figures, co-workers and customers. While we are all human and make mistakes, a consistent pattern of disrespectful behavior should not be tolerated. Documentation is crucial because it can help verify that the bartender’s behavior is a pattern and not simply the result of a mistake or ‘bad day’. Certain behaviors warrant immediate termination, but all unwanted behaviors require attention.

TAGS: bars, management, bartenders
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