The life of a bar manager. A blog I wrote a few years ago but it’s time to repost it with so many new managers, curious folks and folks wanting to be one. I’ve retired now and write and edit full time but it’s still good information. Comments welcome.
The Life of a Bar Manager
A Blog by Adam AJ Judd
I have said that I would write this one for a while. So, today I finally found some time to do so. This post is going to be a detailed write up on what life is like as a bar manager in general. Keep in mind that depending on who one works for factors and items and hours may vary from owner to owner and place to place but in general most of this applies. Keep in mind this focuses on managing and NOT owning.
I truly enjoyed my job and enjoyed people for the five years I did it. For those who don’t know, I ran Sexy in the City on Soi Six for five years, from 2014 to 2019. I am going to be very honest in this write-up on the difficulties and rewards of the job. I am doing this for two reasons, number one because so many people often want to move here and get a bar and have no idea of the hard work involved behind the scenes and think it is just drinking and partying all the time.
Number Two, because I enjoy sharing and enjoy showing people the positive sides of the business and of living in Pattaya, Thailand. I am going to focus on what a successful Bar Manager does, not the ones who do not have successful businesses or a regular audience. This is by no means a be all end all to what the life of a bar manager is but IS a guide to what my life is like and what I did to run a fairly successful bar for over five years. The average manager I’ve met here lasts a year to two at most.
As a bar manager I averaged six days a week, 10-12 hours a day in my actual bar. I did get one day off, Sundays. We tried two days off, however, this is a business that really needs solid leadership there nearly every day to be profitable and successful, especially when you build a solid regular customer base who will not come into the bar if the manager is not there.
An owner has the ability to work much, much less if they hire a talented manager. This does not include the many hours I spent on social media, Pattaya Addicts, Twitter, Email, Private messages, getting supplies and things before work, etc, etc. This also doesn’t include my monthly bar crawls, taking customers out on the town, bringing newbies around, etc. This is all stuff I enjoyed doing but this should give one a true idea of the time away from personal life this job entails. Even on my day off I spent several hours responding and messaging customers and meeting them at venues around town.
Here is an idea of my typical day-Keep in mind depending on customers in the bar and regulars coming to see me and newbies coming to say hello and introduce themselves the timeframe on this can alter drastically as a customer in the bar takes priority.
2:00PM- Start answering Facebook PMS (Average about 30 a day), Emails including guest house emails (About 10, mostly guest house bookings), Messages to the bar Facebook (Mostly spam and garbage from guys in Arab countries wanting ladies shipped to them but some actual good guest house inquiries.), Tumblr and Twitter messages which I didnt get as many.
Post and Promote the bar and a photo of our girls on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, GooglePlus (gone now), Pinterest and Pattaya Addicts. Respond to any comments on the prior days photos. Spend time on PA promoting the next bars party or event, responding to newbie questions, updating posts in the whats going on party forum, etc. Sharing photos to the major FB groups and responding to questions and comments there. Responding to any comments on my youtube channel for newbies. Respond to business related inquiries in our private business communication groups. This takes about an hour normally.
3:00PM- Come down to the bar and greet any regulars or friends waiting for me. Do a count of the girls and have a quick meeting with the Cashier to determine how many staff members are there today, off, BF LT, Home, Sick, AWOL, etc. This can be a daily lesson in pain as you never know how many staff you will have on a day due to a variety of factors here.
I then send this out to our recruiters and our ownership in private chat and answer any questions about where they are, etc. I also speak to the cashier about any maintance issues we are working on, followup on parties and execution of ordering food, etc, any issues or problems with girls or customers, stuff we need to do, etc. Our cashiers are mini mamasans and communication between us and them is critical to running a successful bar.
3:15PM-Do a walk of the bar and premises. Ensure everything is working and clean, functional, etc. I walked the restrooms, kitchen, main bar area, outside daily. I checked that all the AC units are working (They go out here almost once a month, welcome to Thailand), that they are turned on (The girls get cold and sometimes take them off), all lights and signs are on and nothing is burned out, etc.
Twice a week or so I inspect all the rooms in the whole building. As a guest house our standards were higher then many bars and this can take up to an hour to walk every room and ensure everything is up to par. Most days this only takes about ten minutes. I sometimes have to have a post “meeting” with the maid and cashier to explain any issues.
330PM: If I do not have customers in the bar I usually work on one of my many side projects-IE. set up a bar crawl for the month, review business results from the prior days, Check on liquor orders, fix computer issues at our other bars, Promote parties, followup and respond in party threads on PA, respond to LINE group questions (I have quite a few LINE groups I was in) answer reviews and newbie advice questions on PA, film youtube videos for Newbie Wednesday, post profiles of the girls on the Soi 6 forum, create blogs like this to brand myself and get people to better understand what I do, etc, etc. I can spend hours doing this but most days have less then 30 minutes because…..
Almost all open hours: My primary job is hosting, greeting, talking and drinking with customers. This is about 90% of the role. I often tell guys looking for a job as a bar manager you have to be a TRUE extrovert.
You cannot be a part time extrovert or want to be just a behind the scenes wave hello manager. These days many guys need someone to talk to and want to relax, drink and get to know other people. As I was well known on Pattaya Addicts I tended to have a group of PA members here at almost all times. I truly enjoy talking, telling stories and most of all HELPING people and giving them guidance and advice.
If I can make a difference in someone’s trip to a positive manner it makes me happy. This often means that some days every waking moment is talking, bouncing between different guys, etc. This is a natural talent IMO and not something that can be learned.
Some people are introverted and will never be able to do this. Also, some guys are friendly and extroverted but are not entertaining, funny or give good advice and end up being boring and do not bring in new customers.
Also, its a careful balance between not getting too drunk and being able to host. I am fully aware that some popular Bar Managers do not drink. However, due to the nature of my former bar, this was not an option here. I did, however, control what I drink and usually (not always) turn down a silly request like ten jagerbombs in a row.
What about the girls you ask? Well, this is an interesting area. Girl management, to me, is not as difficult as people believe if you have a positive working relationship with your cashiers, staff and girls.
A lot of this requires teamwork and team building with your staff. Take them to lunch, treat them with kindness but not let them walk over you, be consistent and fair but firm and joke around a little here and there to show them you are fun.
To a Thai girl, the most important thing is having fun with their friends. If they are having fun at work and their friends are there they will not leave or cause a problem. We had four central recruiters who did most of the recruitment however we were responsible for the retention which is not easy if you do not build a solid core team and treat your team with respect. I had many girls who worked with me for two, three or more years due to loyalty and proper management.
Life as a bar manager means sacrificing personal privacy and personal life to be the life of the party. This at times can be mentally and physically exhausting. You can often be going to the supermarket, leaving your room to go to 7-11, or simply walking around and someone will spot you and run over to get you to come in for drinks or to hang out with you.
I sometimes went to restaurants and people will see me and invite themselves to my table when I am having a quiet meal. This is an example of how we become popular, well known figures especially if you are running your bar the right way. You also tend to draw people who dislike or troll you simply because you are a popular figure or run a successful bar, both from tourists and other bar managers and owners.
This is a VERY small town and it is VERY political. I tended to stay neutral the majority of the time and other then a blip on the radar here and there rarely fall out with people as I tended to stick to myself and not align with one group or another. However, being as small as it is and as small as the expat owner and manager community is a successful manager cannot help but being involved in some small ways.
The most rewarding part of my job, as stated, is helping people and newbies and making their trips successful, fun and exciting. I enjoy sharing stories, anecdotes and advice. I love when people come back and tell me the stories of their prior night and how advice I gave to them made it a night they will never forget.
I did like when people stateed I was their favorite manager or favorite bar on Soi 6. Yes, this might be a bit egotistical but to me it shows that I am truly working hard and working smart.
As for what drained me at work it was dealing with petty political situations and being stuck between varying opinions with staff. I come from a very Western retail background focused on staff development, strength based leadership and positive management.
I have learned over time that style doesn’t work often with many of the Thai staff we handle here due to the difference in cultures and nature of the job but at the core of my self I am still a nice guy and a carrot based manager and that tends to get me in trouble with some folks who are only policy or results driven and not behaviour driven.
Finally, as for problems, we have a security guard but 99% of the issues I handled myself as do most bar managers. Being proactive vs. reactive avoids the majority of issues many bars have. My head was always on a swivel and I am always aware of someones state of intoxication or general body language. I have trained my staff to be very clear with prices, hold up baht notes and have the customers repeat it if they are drunk and paying their bin, polite and be clear what everything means.
If someone is too intoxicated to come in I don’t let them in. If I fear someone may not pay a bin I make them pay in advance or drink by drink. If I can tell someone is bothering another customer I will sacrifice myself to the person being a bother and let them talk to me as I tend to deal with all personality types fairly well so the two customers don’t get in a dispute. A good manager in my opinion is proactive like this and will rarely have a problem. I never had a single serious fight between customers in five years of working.
I welcome questions, feedback and any comments.