Bartenders work directly with customers and restaurant staff, and one must be friendly, enjoy working with others, and be able to work in a fast-paced and stressful environment. Bartenders take and fill drink orders (either directly for customers or for the wait staff), keep the bar area clean, check ID and enforce local and state drinking laws, and stock the bar. Most bartenders also have to operate the cash register, serve food to those seated at the bar, and wash glasses. Some bartenders take stock of the inventory and order new supplies as needed.
Bartenders work in bars, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, casinos, social halls, and more. Many bartenders work seasonally at a resort. Job prospects are best in large cities and in tourist areas. Working conditions include long hours standing, carrying heavy trays, and working under pressure. It is important to stay alert; bartenders cannot afford to make mistakes with glassware, expensive liquor, or the cash register.
Many bartenders are young people looking for a way to make immediate income; most do not have bartending in mind as a career. However, dedicated, friendly, and hard-working bartenders can stay at the job and make very good money. Rollover is quite high in the industry, but competition for the best jobs (busy fine-dining facilities) is always fierce. Two out of five bartenders work part-time. Shifts are often long but somewhat flexible, and include evening and weekend hours.
In 2002, bartenders reported a median hourly wage of $7.21 (including tips). Bartenders in public facilities usually earn over half of their income in tips. The top 10% of bartenders earned over $11.96/hour. Free meals and uniforms (and sometimes lodging) are usually provided. Full-time employees should receive health care and other benefits, while part-time workers usually do not.