What is the Average Bar Manager Salary?

Black and white image of bar and with bar manager in background and bartender in foreground
// By Kyle Thacker // , Aug 22, 2019

Topics: Restaurant Management

The life of a bar manager is filled with long shifts and heavy workloads. A traditional 40-hour work week would feel like a vacation for many. If you're considering a bar or beverage manager job, it's important to know how much money you can expect to make in this position. But asking what the average bar manager salary is can return a lot of inconsistent numbers.


We'll attempt to parse through the wide range of compensation numbers and give you a roadmap to better understand what level of pay you should accept.


Average Bar Manager Salary 


Like any job position, there are a lot of factors that affect compensation.


But the boom of the cocktail bars and growing interest in craft beer has made bar management a more lucrative and viable career option.


And the bar and restaurant industry at large is seeing a growth in consumer spending. A Time article from August 2018 noted a Commerce Department report citing a 25.3% gain from May-July in year-over-year in sales at "food-service and drinking establishments."


It's a good time to be working in the bar and restaurant industry.


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But what are the salary numbers?


For bar managers, your location has a big effect. Big cities have higher costs of living, more competition, and more of a potential customer base. So it makes sense that salaries for beverage managers in a big city will be higher than suburban or rural areas. 


Looking at Chicago, Glassdoor lists the average base pay for bar managers at $44,329 per year. On top of base pay, it also lists an average for additional cash compensation at $10,519, totaling $54,848 for bar manager salaries in Chicago.


Information listed on payscale.com for average bar manager salaries pegs it at $41,569, with an additional $2,013 in bonus pay. Totaling $43,582 as an average salary for the industry.



Can Bar Managers Make Tips?


One of the difficulties of finding accurate information on bar manager salaries is that people who manage a bar often work behind the bar as a bartender and accordingly earn tips. 


A common set up is having a lower base pay that is supplemented through tips. 


But changing laws surrounding tip pools puts this practice into murky legal waters.


According to Federal law, employers who take a tip credit, which allows employers to pay wages below minimum wage to employees who earn tips as part of their income.


Employers who operate with a tip credit are legally barred from taking tips, or being part of a tip pool, with their employees. 


This rule also states that employees cannot be required to pool tips with manager or supervisor level employees. 


Legally, a bar manager isn't eligible to receive tips through a tip pool policy. 


What is a tip pool?


A tip pool is a policy put in place by an employer where tipped employees will contribute the tips they receive from customers into a single pool of tips from all tipped employees. The money in the pool will then be redistributed among employees to ensure fair pay for work. 


The amended federal tip pool laws now allow for non-tipped employees like kitchen cooks and other back-of-house employees to participate in the pool, even if they are being paid minimum wage.


But the law still bars managers from participating the tip pool. 


Outside of federal law, states have different regulations for tip pools. Some even outright ban the practice of tip pooling. 


Tip Sharing Instead of Tip Pool


Another policy for distributing tips amongst restaurant and employees is tip sharing.


This practice does not require tipped employees to pool there tips together, but instead asks for a percentage of tips to be distributed to other employees like support staff. For example, a bartender would tip out a barback a percentage of their tips for a shift. 


When can bar managers take tips?


For questions like this, it's important to research your state's laws to make sure you're operating within the law. Labor laws vary state by state, so the following information is a general view on industry practices.


But as mentioned before, many bar manages are compensated with tips. So how does this happen?


Generally speaking, if a bar manager performs a shift acting as a bartender or service staff performing the job of a tipped employee, then they can receive tips from those shifts. 


The tip pool law prevents a manager working in a managerial role from taking tips from employees. This protects tipped workers. But if a manager or supervisor working as a bartender or server, they should be eligible to earn tips. 


Hourly Pay and Shift Roles


It's common for bar managers to receive an hourly wage instead of an annual salary. This can benefit managers because it makes them eligible for overtime pay. 


Another reason bar managers are paid hourly is so employers can adjust their pay rate depending on the type of work they are doing.


A manager coming in to work a shift to perform managerial duties like menu planning, ordering/receiving, or scheduling would be paid a higher hourly rate for a management shift. 


And when they work a bartending or service shift, they would be paid a lower hourly rate and earn tips from customers. 


The easiest way to handle this is to offer a bar manager different shift roles to select when clocking in to start a shift.





Kyle Thacker

About the author, Kyle Thacker

Kyle is the Marketing Director for Backbar. Before helping Backbar connect with the restaurant industry, he managed multiple bars in Chicago, with a love of whiskey and cocktails.

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