26 Disadvantages of Being a Barback (Endless Night Shifts!)

disadvantages of being a barback

Considering a career as a barback?

It’s easy to get swept away by the appeal:

  • Immersing yourself in the exciting nightlife.
  • Opportunities for growth in the hospitality industry.
  • The satisfaction of assisting in creating memorable experiences for patrons.

However, there’s more beneath the surface.

Today, we’re going to delve. Delve deep.

Into the demanding, the strenuous, and the downright challenging aspects of being a barback.

Physical toll from carrying heavy kegs? Check.

Late-night shifts that disrupt your sleep schedule? Definitely.

Stress from handling multiple tasks at once? Absolutely.

And let’s not overlook the unpredictability of customer behavior.

So, if you’re contemplating about stepping into the world of barbacking, or simply curious about what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite watering hole…

Keep reading.

You’re about to get a comprehensive look at the disadvantages of being a barback.

Contents show

Physically Demanding Work With Continuous Lifting and Moving

Being a barback is not an easy job.

It involves a lot of heavy lifting and moving, as you are responsible for restocking the bar, which often includes carrying cases of beer, crates of wine, and kegs.

This task requires a considerable amount of physical strength and stamina.

Apart from this, you are also expected to clean and maintain the bar area, which often involves a lot of bending, stooping, and moving around.

This constant physical activity can lead to fatigue and strains, especially if you are not used to this level of physical exertion.

Furthermore, barbacks typically work on their feet for long hours, which can be exhausting and may lead to foot or back problems over time.

It’s not a job for the faint-hearted or those who prefer a more sedentary work environment.


Long Hours Often Including Late Nights and Weekends

As a barback, your work schedule often includes long hours, late nights and weekends.

This is because bars and restaurants typically have their busiest hours during the evenings and weekends when people are off work and looking to socialize.

As a result, barbacks are often required to work when others are enjoying their free time.

This can lead to a challenging work-life balance and may limit your ability to spend time with family and friends.

Furthermore, working late into the night can disrupt your sleep schedule and lead to fatigue.

This role requires a high level of stamina and adaptability to cope with such demanding hours.


Lower Wages Compared to Bartenders and Tip Sharing Discrepancies

Barbacks are often paid less than bartenders.

This is due to their role being seen as less skilled, as they are primarily responsible for restocking and maintaining the bar, rather than directly serving customers.

However, this doesn’t take into account the physical demands of the job or the importance of their role in keeping the bar running smoothly.

In addition, while barbacks do typically receive a share of the bartenders’ tips, the amount can vary widely and may not reflect the level of work they put in.

This discrepancy can cause tension between staff and create a sense of inequality.

It’s also worth noting that barbacks often work the same late hours as bartenders, but without the same level of financial compensation.


Limited Career Advancement Opportunities Within Establishments

Barbacks, also known as bartenders’ assistants, are typically responsible for maintaining the bar’s operations by restocking supplies, cleaning glasses, and assisting bartenders as needed.

While this role can be a stepping stone to becoming a bartender, career advancement opportunities within a bar or restaurant can be limited.

These establishments often have a smaller staff, and opportunities to move up can be scarce.

Additionally, the role is often seen as an entry-level position in the hospitality industry.

This means that, despite your hard work and efforts, you may be stuck in the same position for a long time unless you decide to venture into different areas within the industry or seek opportunities in larger establishments.


High-Stress Environment During Peak Bar Hours

As a barback, you are expected to maintain a fast pace, particularly during peak bar hours.

The bar can get extremely busy, with customers filling the space and demanding drinks at a rapid rate.

It’s your responsibility to ensure that the bartenders have what they need to keep up with these demands, which may include restocking alcohol, cleaning glasses, and preparing garnishes.

This high-pressure environment can be stressful and demands quick thinking and efficient multitasking.

The noise and crowded conditions can also contribute to the stressful atmosphere.

It can be especially challenging if you’re not accustomed to such high-energy environments.


Exposure to Rowdy or Intoxicated Patrons

Barbacks, like other staff in a bar or nightclub environment, are often exposed to rowdy or intoxicated patrons.

This can create a challenging and sometimes stressful work environment.

Customers under the influence of alcohol may be unpredictable, and there can be instances of verbal or even physical aggression.

Barbacks may need to deal with difficult situations while maintaining their professionalism and ensuring the smooth operation of the bar.

This can add an extra layer of challenge to the role and may require a certain level of resilience and ability to handle stress.


Risk of Injury From Broken Glassware and Slippery Floors

Barbacks are often the backbone of a bar, responsible for restocking, cleaning, and assisting bartenders.

However, this role comes with potential safety hazards, including the risk of injury from broken glassware and slippery floors.

Broken glassware is common in bars, and barbacks may accidentally cut themselves while cleaning or handling these items.

Additionally, spills are frequent in a bar setting, leading to slippery floors that can cause slips or falls.

Barbacks need to be vigilant and take precautions, like wearing appropriate footwear and using gloves when handling broken glass, to minimize these risks.

Despite these challenges, this role can provide a unique experience in the hospitality industry and pave the way for advancement to a bartending position.


Minimal Recognition for Work Behind the Scenes

Barbacks, often referred to as a bartender’s assistant, perform the crucial behind-the-scenes tasks that ensure the smooth functioning of a bar.

This includes restocking the bar, cleaning equipment, preparing garnishes, and generally making sure that bartenders have everything they need to serve customers effectively.

However, despite their integral role, barbacks often receive minimal recognition.

The spotlight typically falls on the bartenders who are directly interacting with the customers and creating the drinks.

This lack of visibility and acknowledgement can be demotivating and frustrating for barbacks, who work hard to ensure the bar runs smoothly.

The role of a barback can feel thankless, especially when their efforts are overshadowed by the front-end staff.


Job Instability Due to Fluctuating Hospitality Industry Trends

The hospitality industry, including bars and restaurants, is often impacted by external factors such as economic conditions, seasonal shifts, and public health concerns.

This can make the job of a Barback unstable, as these establishments may experience periods of slow business, or even temporary closures, due to factors outside of their control.

Furthermore, the industry is often subject to changing trends in customer preferences, which can also affect the stability of the job.

If a bar or restaurant fails to keep up with these trends, it may lose customers, and staff such as Barbacks may be laid off.

This lack of job security can cause stress and uncertainty for Barbacks.


Need to Work Quickly and Efficiently in a Crowded Space

Working as a barback requires the ability to operate quickly and efficiently in a crowded, high-pressure environment.

This role often involves stocking bars, cleaning glasses, and preparing garnishes in confined spaces full of people and with the constant pressure of time.

This can become stressful and physically demanding, especially during peak hours when the bar is crowded and bartenders are constantly requesting supplies.

Furthermore, navigating through a busy bar carrying heavy trays or kegs can increase the risk of accidents.

If you have difficulty working under pressure or in bustling environments, this aspect of the job can be challenging.


Dependence on Tips for a Significant Portion of Income

Being a barback often means relying heavily on tips to supplement your income.

The base pay for this role is typically minimal, with the majority of earnings coming from shared tips with bartenders and other staff.

This can result in an unstable income that fluctuates depending on the day of the week, the season, and the general business of the bar.

Furthermore, there’s a level of uncertainty involved as tips are not guaranteed and can greatly vary.

This financial instability can make budgeting and planning ahead challenging.

Moreover, this reliance on tips often means you need to consistently provide excellent customer service, no matter how busy or stressful the shift is, to ensure good tips.


Lack of Formal Training Programs or Career Development Paths

Barback roles often lack formal training programs or clear career development paths.

Many barbacks learn their skills on-the-job, which can be stressful and challenging, especially during busy periods.

Additionally, the advancement opportunities for barbacks can be limited.

While some barbacks may aspire to become bartenders, this transition is not always guaranteed and often depends on factors such as staff turnover and the availability of bartender positions.

Furthermore, the absence of a structured career development plan may lead to feelings of stagnation and lack of professional growth in the role.


Balancing Multiple Tasks Simultaneously Without Errors

Barbacks, also known as bartender’s assistants, have to juggle multiple tasks at once, which can be challenging.

They are responsible for restocking the bar, cleaning utensils and bar equipment, assisting with opening and closing duties, and sometimes even serving drinks.

The fast-paced environment of a bar can make it difficult to keep track of everything without making mistakes.

During peak hours, the workload can increase exponentially, demanding speed and precision from the barback.

This constant pressure to balance multiple tasks simultaneously without errors can lead to stress and burnout.

Additionally, this role requires constant physical activity, which can be exhausting.


Insufficient Health Benefits in Many Hospitality Positions

Barbacks, like many other roles in the hospitality industry, often suffer from inadequate health benefits.

Many bars and restaurants do not provide comprehensive health insurance for their employees, especially for those who are part-time or seasonal workers.

This lack of access to affordable healthcare can put barbacks at a disadvantage, particularly considering the physical nature of their work that can lead to injuries or health issues.

Additionally, the late-night hours commonly associated with the role can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to stress, further exacerbating the need for proper healthcare coverage.


Dealing With Environmental Factors Such As Noise and Crowds

Working as a barback can often mean dealing with a high-pressure environment that includes high volumes of noise and large crowds.

Bars and clubs are typically loud places with music, shouting, and clattering dishes, which can be overwhelming and stressful for some individuals.

Additionally, barbacks often work in cramped spaces and must navigate through crowded areas to perform their duties, such as restocking the bar and removing empty bottles and glasses.

The constant buzz and bustle can be physically draining and mentally challenging, leaving little room for peace and quiet during a shift.

This environment can also make communication with bartenders and other staff members challenging, potentially leading to errors or misunderstandings.


Overtime Work Without Guaranteed Extra Compensation

Barbacks, also known as bartenders’ assistants, often work long hours in the fast-paced and demanding environment of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.

Their work schedule often includes late nights, weekends, and holidays, as these are the peak times for these establishments.

The nature of their job also requires them to stay until the bar is clean and ready for the next day, which often means working overtime.

However, barbacks are often paid hourly or a flat rate per shift, and may not receive additional compensation for overtime work.

This not only means potentially working more hours for the same pay, but also less time for relaxation and personal life.

Furthermore, due to the unpredictable nature of the industry, barbacks may also be required to work extra hours on short notice, adding to the unpredictability and stress of the role.


Possible Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Some Venues

In some venues, especially those that still allow indoor smoking, barbacks can be exposed to secondhand smoke throughout their shifts.

This is a health risk as secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.

Despite some bars having ventilation systems, they cannot fully eliminate all the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke.

This exposure can lead to long-term health issues such as lung cancer, heart disease, and other respiratory conditions.

Moreover, it can cause immediate irritation, triggering symptoms like coughing, headaches, or eye irritation.

Hence, a barback should consider the smoking policy of a venue before accepting a role.


Limited Social Life Due to Nontraditional Work Hours

Barbacks, similar to other roles within the hospitality industry, often work during nontraditional hours.

The barback role usually requires working late nights, weekends, and even holidays when bars and clubs are at their busiest.

These unusual work hours can significantly impact a barback’s social life as their schedule might not align with friends and family who typically work nine to five jobs.

While this could potentially allow for free time during weekdays, it often results in missing out on social events that take place in the evenings or over weekends.

Furthermore, working late nights can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to potential health issues and a decreased quality of life.


Constant Pressure to Maintain Inventory and Stock Levels

Barbacks, also known as bartenders’ assistants, are always under constant pressure to maintain inventory and stock levels.

They are required to anticipate the bar’s needs and ensure that there are enough supplies for the bartenders to do their job effectively.

This means constantly checking inventory, restocking liquors, beers, wines, and other beverages, and making sure the bar is well-stocked with clean glasses, napkins, straws, and other necessary items.

During peak hours, the bar can run out of supplies quickly, and if the barback is not able to replenish the stock in time, it could disrupt the flow of service and result in unsatisfied customers.

This constant need to keep track of and maintain stock levels can be stressful and demanding.


Need to Adapt Quickly to Changing Menu Items and Bartender Preferences

Barbacks, also known as bartender assistants, constantly face the challenge of adapting quickly to changing menu items and bartender preferences.

On any given day, the bartender may decide to introduce new cocktails, which means the barback must learn how to prepare and serve these new items swiftly.

Additionally, different bartenders may have varying preferences for how they want the bar area to be organized, the setup of cocktail ingredients, or even the way a particular cocktail should be made.

This constant need for adaptability can be stressful for barbacks, who must maintain efficiency and accuracy in their work despite these frequent changes.

This requires a high level of agility, a keen eye for detail, and excellent communication skills to ensure they meet the varying expectations.


Working in Understaffed Conditions During High-Demand Periods

Barbacks often find themselves working in understaffed conditions, particularly during high-demand periods such as weekends, holidays, or special events.

They are responsible for keeping the bar stocked and clean, which can be extremely demanding when the bar is busy and there aren’t enough staff to handle the workload.

During these periods, the pace is rapid and the pressure is high to quickly restock supplies and maintain the cleanliness of the bar area.

This can lead to long hours, physical exhaustion, and high stress levels.

Despite the challenges, the role of a barback provides valuable experience in the hospitality industry and can be a stepping stone to becoming a bartender.


Compliance With Strict Alcohol Regulations and Age Verification Laws

Barbacks, also known as bartenders’ assistants, are responsible for a multitude of tasks, including ensuring that the bar is in full compliance with strict alcohol regulations and age verification laws.

This can be a great challenge for many reasons.

First, it requires them to be constantly vigilant, ensuring that every customer is of legal drinking age, which can be difficult in busy, crowded bars.

Second, barbacks must have a deep understanding of local and state alcohol laws and regulations, which can be complex and change frequently.

Failure to comply with these laws can result in significant legal and financial consequences for the establishment, including fines, loss of liquor license, and even closure.

Moreover, being involved in such violations can negatively impact a barback’s future employment prospects in the industry.


Frequent Cleaning and Maintenance Duties After Closing Time

Barbacks, also known as bartenders’ assistants, are often tasked with the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining the bar area after closing time.

This includes washing and polishing glasses, cleaning utensils, mopping floors, taking out the trash, and restocking the bar for the next day.

These duties usually take place late at night and into the early morning hours, which can be tiring and inconvenient, particularly for those who are not naturally night owls.

The work can also be physically demanding and repetitive.

However, these responsibilities are essential to maintain the cleanliness and efficiency of the bar, ensuring a smooth operation for the next business day.


Handling of Harassment or Unpleasant Interactions With Customers

Barbacks often work in the hospitality industry, particularly in bars and restaurants, which often involve direct interactions with customers.

Unfortunately, not all of these interactions are pleasant.

Some customers may be under the influence of alcohol, leading to inappropriate behavior or harassment.

In such situations, barbacks need to maintain their composure and handle the situation professionally, which can be stressful and challenging.

Furthermore, this can take a toll on their mental health in the long run.

Training in conflict resolution can be beneficial, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent such incidents from occurring.


Vulnerability to Economic Downturns Affecting the Hospitality Sector

Barbacks, like many roles in the hospitality industry, are particularly vulnerable to economic downturns that affect the sector.

When the economy is struggling, people tend to cut back on luxuries such as dining out or going to bars, which can lead to decreased business and subsequently, fewer hours or job losses for barbacks.

Additionally, in times of economic hardship, bars and restaurants may be among the first businesses to close, which can leave barbacks without a job.

Furthermore, this role is also susceptible to changes in consumer preferences and seasonal fluctuations which can cause instability in employment.


Potential for Burnout From Repetitive and Exhausting Work Demands

Barbacks, or bartender’s assistants, are typically tasked with performing a wide range of repetitive tasks that are essential to the operation of a bar.

These include stocking the bar with alcohol, glassware, ice, and other necessary items, as well as cleaning and preparing the bar area before, during, and after service.

These tasks, while seemingly simple, can be physically demanding, especially during busy service hours.

Long hours standing, heavy lifting, and constant movement can lead to physical exhaustion.

Additionally, the work can be monotonous as the responsibilities do not significantly vary day-to-day.

This lack of variety, coupled with the physically exhausting nature of the role, can lead to burnout.

It’s important for barbacks to take care of their physical health, take breaks when needed, and find ways to keep their work interesting in order to prevent this.



And there we have it.

A raw, unfiltered look at the disadvantages of being a barback.

It’s not just about mixing drinks and lively nightlife.

It’s hard work. It’s commitment. It’s navigating through a whirlwind of physical demands and high-pressure situations.

But it’s also about the satisfaction of executing a perfect pour.

The joy of seeing customers enjoy your creations.

The thrill of knowing you played a part in someone’s memorable night.

Yes, the journey is grueling. But the rewards? They can be intoxicating.

If you’re nodding along, thinking, “Yes, this is the challenge I’ve been craving,” we’ve got something more for you.

Check out our insider guide on the reasons to become a barback.

If you’re ready to embrace both the peaks and the valleys…

To learn, to grow, and to thrive in this vibrant industry…

Then maybe, just maybe, a career as a barback is for you.

So, take the leap.

Discover, dive in, and dominate.

The world of bartending awaits.

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