“How much do bartenders REALLY make?”
This is an extremely common question from aspiring & current bartenders alike. Aspiring bartenders want to know how much they can make if they choose to pursue this profession. And current bartenders want to find out if they’re getting paid enough in the first place.
When I was learning how to become a bartender, I used to wonder about these things too.
Unfortunately, there’s no one answer here, as a bartender’s salary will vary widely from country to country, state to state, city to city, venue to venue, and even from shift to shift!
Because a bartender’s income is made up of 2 things, wages & tips. Wages are predictable and easy to find out. But tips will vary drastically depending on where you’re from and a multitude of other factors. So it’s hard to predict/know how much a bartender is really making.
That is unless you work in the industry of course.
So today, we’re going to look at the bartender’s salary in detail from an insiders perspective. We’ll be looking at the bartender’s take home pay in the USA, Australia, the UK, and other parts of the world too, so you’ve got a decent idea of what you can expect, regardless of where you’re from/traveling to.
I’ll even dish out some advice on how to make more tips too!
So whether you’re wondering if you’re getting paid enough, you’re a traveling bartender and you’re looking for your next adventure, or you’re simply curious as to how much money you can expect to make as a bartender, your questions will be answered.
Strap in, grab a coffee and let’s get to it.
***REQUEST*** I’d love to update this article with bartender pay structures from all over the world. But it’s impossible to do it on my own so I need your help! If I haven’t included your country (or you think I’ve messed up some of the details), please let me by leaving a comment in the comments section below. Thanks in advance.
A Few Things to Consider
How much you make as a bartender will depend on:
- Where you’re from.
- The type of venue you work for (cafe, restaurant, nightclub, pub, fine-dining, cocktail bar, etc).
- The shifts you work.
- And how good of a bartender you are.
Some of these things are outside of your control. For example, you can’t do too much about where you’re from unless you’re willing to move overseas (provided you can get a visa), to a different State, or to a different city.
But you can control how good of a bartender you become and that will make a big difference in how much you end up earning. Better bartenders will always be able to earn more money because:
- They’ll make more tips (if you’re from a tipping culture).
- It will be easier for them to land a job in a higher paying venue (exclusive nightclubs, specialty bars, fine-dining, etc).
- They’re more likely to be given the better shifts.
- And they’ll be able to work more hours (only matter if they’re paid by the hour).
So if you’re looking to make more money as a bartender, forget about what you can’t control (i.e. where you’re from). And focus on what you can control. Become the best bartender you can be and the money will follow from there.
United States Bartender Salary
Of all the countries we’re going to look at, being a bartender in the United States seems to be the best. Not only do they have the potential to get paid better than everywhere else, but bartending as a profession is slowly starting to be seen as a genuine career path (as it should!).
Still, the biggest advantage of being an American bartender is the money that you can earn. The USA has a GREAT tipping culture and bartenders here make the majority of their income from tips.
This tipping culture means that a bartender’s salary varies widely depending on what state/city you’re from, the venue you work for, the shifts you work, and how good of a bartender you are. This makes it very difficult to know exactly how much an individual bartender is earning.
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a bartender’s average hourly rate (tips included) is around $12.30 ($25,580 per year) and the top earners are making $19.34 an hour ($40,230 per year).
But I know for a fact that these numbers are wrong. As you’ll see below, there are some bartenders out there making over $100,000 per year.
The reason these numbers are inaccurate is because the BLS has no real way of tracking exactly what bartenders are making in tips. And since bartender’s don’t “declare” everything, even the IRS has no idea. So in order to find out, you have to talk to the bartenders themselves.
State to State, City to City
As I mentioned earlier, a bartender’s salary will vary from state to state, city to city, venue to venue, and shift to shift. And it also depends on how good of a bartender you are.
America’s tipping culture means that the more experienced and skilled you are, the more you’ll earn because you’ll able to serve more customers (i.e. work faster) and give those customers a better experience (i.e. provide better customer service). This naturally leads to more tips.
As a newbie, it can be hard to rake in a ton of tips until you’ve developed the necessary confidence & skills.
As far as State to State, and city to city goes, as a general rule, the bigger and more affluent the city/area you work in, the more you’ll earn because there will be more people to serve and those people will have more money to spend with you.
The BLS have got a fantastic photo showing us the highest paying areas in the States.
**Note** These statistics aren’t entirely accurate because the BLS has no real way of finding out exactly how much a bartender is making in tips. So this photo should be used to give you a general idea only.
And these are some of the highest paying metropolitan areas:
So if you’re looking to earn decent cash as a bartender, head to the coast (or Hawaii!), or hit up one of the big cities like San Fransisco, Miami, Boston, or New York. Averagely speaking, these bartenders make more money!
Shift to Shift, Venue to Venue
The best shifts to work are always the busier ones. The more drinks you can sell, the more money you’ll make… It’s as simple as that. Generally speaking, the “good shifts” are Friday & Saturday nights. And the “bad/slow shifts” tend to be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.
As you’re about to see, even within venues, the amount you earn will vary a lot depending on the shifts you work.
For simplicity, I’ve broken down the differences between venues into 3 separate classes based on how much a bartender will potentially make in tips. Those classes are lower, middle, and upper.
Lower-class bars are the venues that you’ll make the least amount of tips in. These include dive bars and lower class restaurants. On a quiet night, a bartender might make no tips (no-one came in!). But slow nights will usually bring them at least $40.
On a good night, it’s possible to make upwards of $200. But that’s about as high as things go.
Middle-class bars include sports bars, well-attended dance/music venues, decent restaurants, and nice pubs. On a slow night, the bartender will make as low as $40. But on good nights, you’ll usually bring in around $200-$250. Occasionally you can have a REALLY good night and bring in upwards of $500.
The main thing that differentiates middle-class bars to lower-class bars is that you’ll have more “good nights” more often.
The upper-class bars include high-volume/high-end nightclubs, fine-dining restaurants, and specialty bars (cocktail bars, gin bars, whiskey bars, etc). Bartenders in these venues make A LOT more money. A slow night for these bartenders will make them no less than $150 and good nights will bring them in $400-$600.
And as Rob Doherty from Break Into Bartending likes to put it, “when the stars line up just right, you can make upwards of $1,000.”
How High Can You Go?
You’ll often hear about the bartenders who earn 6 figure incomes in this industry. Some people seem to think that this is the norm whereas others seem to think that’s it’s impossible.
So let me clear up some confusion. Yes, it’s possible for bartenders to bring in 6 figures, but it’s NOT the norm…
The only bartenders bringing in this kind of money have a ton of experience (5 years plus), or they’re very attractive females. They’ll also need to work a lot of hours and they’ll work in the finest establishments around town.
Needless to say, these positions are highly competitive to break into.
That being said, it’s still possible. Freddy from ‘The Truth About Bartending’, will ONLY work for venues where he can earn an income like this (you can read about it here). But he does have a ton of experience.
If you’re willing to work hard, put in the time (minimum 3-5 years) and become the best bartender you can be, you can get there too.
These are normal take home incomes you can expect to earn as a bartender if you have a little experience. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a very decent salary.
How to Earn More Tips
It’s natural to wonder how you can earn more tips when you work in a tipping culture. After all, this is your livelihood so the more tips you can earn, the better.
Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula. Earning more tips comes down to being the best bartender you can be, working for the right venue, and providing outstanding customer service.
I know that’s not very helpful so here are a few specific things you should focus on:
- Know your shit – Be highly knowledgeable about all the products you serve (including cocktails) so you can up-sell and recommend them as appropriate.
- Be friendly – Smile, maintain eye contact, tell stories, tell jokes, listen to your guests stories, laugh at their jokes, etc.
- Pay attention to the details – remember what your guests like to drink, make them how THEY like it, remember what they like to talk about, use napkins/coasters, etc.
- Work fast – The more customers you can serve, the more tips you’ll receive. Also the longer your customers have to wait for a drink, the less they’ll tip you.
- Move up to the finer establishments – Bartenders in nightclubs, fine-dining restaurants, craft cocktail bars, etc (basically anywhere with a more affluent clientele), will earn more tips.
- Work more often – The more you work, the more you’ll earn.
It’s all basic stuff. You just need to be disciplined to follow through with it.
Australian Bartender Salary
**Note** $ Prices here are expressed in AUD. $ prices everywhere else are in USD.
Unlike the United States, Australia doesn’t have a tipping culture. Bartenders here earn most (if not all) of their income from their wages. And even if they do receive some form of tips, it’s mostly negligible.
Because bartenders earn most of their income from wages, their salaries don’t vary too much from state to state, city to city, and venue to venue. So regardless of where/when you work, you’ll be on a very similar wage.
According to Payscale, the average wage for an Australia bartender is around $20.52 per hour. And at 40 hours per week, their yearly income works out to be around $40,000 per year.
Not too bad…
But from my experience, the wage tends to be a little better.
By law, casual workers (which most bartenders are over here), are supposed to receive penalty rates. This basically means that on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, bartenders receive a higher hourly rate than they do Monday-Friday.
Saturday rates work out to be around $26 per hour and Sunday rates work out to be around $30 per hour. This is HUGE if you get a 10-hour shift on a Sunday.
That being said, not all venues will pay their staff properly so penalty rates aren’t paid out as often as they should be.
**Note** The laws regarding penalty rates have recently changed and might change again soon. See here.
Full-time salaries generally range from $50,000-$60,000. But full-time workers will almost always work more than the 40 hours required per week. So their hourly rate still works out to be around the $20 mark.
Australia also has the super scheme (similar to the 401k scheme in the US), where employers MUST pay an extra 9% on top of the bartender’s wage directly into the employee’s nominated retirement fund.
All in all, Australian bartenders do pretty well.
Pump out the Hours
Because bartenders in Australia are paid a great hourly rate, you can pump out the hours here and earn A LOT of money.
When I came back to Australia in between my travels, I worked for 5 months at a restaurant bar and averaged 60-70 hours per week. At $20 an hour, I saved up A LOT of money. And I was able to head back overseas relatively care-free.
If I did that for an entire year, I would have earned anywhere between $60,000-$70,000. That’s better than an entry-level corporate role…
When you’re a good bartender, it’s relatively easy to find work in Australia too. That makes pumping out the hours reasonably easy because if one venue won’t give you all the hours you’re looking for, you can work across two venues to make up for the difference.
Finally, Australia has a fantastic hospitality scene. Even though bartenders don’t get paid as well as they do in America, there are a lot of great bars & bartenders here. The weather, beaches, tourism, and wages make it a great place for a traveling bartender to work.
If you’re from outside Australia and you’re wondering whether or not you should make the trip to, I’ll leave you with a fantastic Reddit comment made by an American cocktail bartender who worked in Sydney.
Spoiler Alert – He LOVED IT!
For the locals, working as a bartender in Australia is a no-brainer.
United Kingdom Bartender Salary
Life for the UK bartender is a little bit different than that of the Australian & American bartenders.
According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for a UK bartender is £6.74… That’s about $8.85 USD per hour. And with no tipping culture around bars either, the English bartender’s salary works out to be the worst among these 3 nations.
£6.74 an hour is crap! At 40 hours per week, that totals out to be around £14,000 ($18,400 USD) per year…
That’s barely enough to live on. And pumping out the hours doesn’t even feel like a viable option because those extra hours won’t make enough of a difference.
With that being said, there is an element to the UK bartender’s salary that is slowly changing. Even though their tips are negligible, it’s becoming more and more common to see venues charge a “service charge” on top of the bill to help bartenders and servers take home more money.
When I was working in the UK, this service charge helped out my income tremendously. I would have really struggled week to week if I wasn’t getting service charge.
But it hasn’t happened everywhere (it probably won’t). And you usually only see “service charge” in venues that serve food.
Why do UK Bartenders get Paid so Poorly?
A lot of it has to do with politics… Hopefully, things will change soon (Vote Jeremy Corbyn!) and the minimum wage will be raised to something more liveable. But right now, living on a bartending wage (especially in London) is hard to manage.
So why do people stay?
Passion mainly. Just like in Australia and the US, there are a lot of Brits out there who are passionate about bartending too. I’ve worked with a few of them and they were some of the best bartenders I’ve ever seen.
So it’s a damn shame that their wage is so poor…
As far as traveling to the UK as bartender goes, I’d highly recommend it.
You won’t get paid very well (so save up before you get there), but the UK is a really cool country, the people are amazing, and like Australia, their hospitality scene is extremely professional. Especially in London.
So you’ll learn a lot from bartending there and you’re bound to have a great time. If there’s one thing the Brits are well known for, it’s how TO PARTY!
The Rest of the World
As most of you reading this will be from America, Australia, and the UK, I wanted to talk about these countries in detail first. But obviously, there are bartenders from other parts of the world. So what’s the pay structure like for them?
That’s what we’ll take look at here.
Seasonal work isn’t country specific. Any country that has a decent tourism industry will have seasonal work opportunities.
Seasonal work basically means that during a certain period of the year, an area will be hit with a ton of tourists (generally lasts for 3-6 months). You’ll usually find this kind of work during the winter months in ski resorts, and/or during the summer months along the coast (i.e. anywhere there’s a beach).
You can get paid EXTREMELY well during seasonal work, especially if you’re working somewhere with a tipping culture (Spain, America, Canada). The reason being, most people holidaying in these expensive resorts are wealthy and they’re in a good/relaxed mood, so they happily tip you a bunch of cash (upwards of $1,000 a night!).
However, you can also be paid extremely badly. And in some cases, you’ll only be doing a ‘season’ for the experience, as opposed to for the money.
For example, when I worked in the French alps, all the bartenders around town were paid really badly. But none of us cared because we could go snowboarding everyday and party every night!
Australia, Europe, America, South-America, and parts of Asia all have season work opportunities. And if this is something that you’re interested in doing, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you do get paid poorly, it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
Getting paid well is just an added bonus.
A bartender’s pay structure in Canada is very similar to a bartender’s pay structure in the USA. They get paid an hourly rate, usually around $8-$10 per hour. But the majority of their income will come from tips.
Similar to the US bartender, they can bring in hundreds of dollars in tips a night. That obviously has a huge impact on their take home pay and this means that individual bartender’s incomes will vary widely.
If you want to learn more about Canada’s bartender pay structure, re-read the USA section as it’s very similar to them.
Similar to Canada & the US, a bartender’s pay structure is based on tips in South Africa. On average, bartender’s will get paid a base salary of around 250 Rand (around $18.50 USD) per night. Which isn’t that good when you compare the base salary to that of an Australian.
But the tips they earn make up for it. On a good night, it’s possible for bartenders to earn over 1500 Rand ($112 USD) in tips which bring their nightly salary to around 1750 Rand ($130 USD).
I know that’s not as much as an American or Canadian bartender earns, but when you take into account that the living expenses in South Africa are much cheaper, it works out to be a fairly decent salary. All in all, South African bartender do alright.
**Note** Because bartenders here get paid in tips, their salaries vary widely from venue to venue & from bartender to bartender. The above estimate is based on a nightclub bartender’s income who is good at their job.
I worked in France for a couple of years. 1 year of it was seasonal work in the French alps. The other year was spent working in Nice in the South. As mentioned above, seasonal work can vary quite a lot, so I’m only going to discuss regular bartending work here.
As a country, the French take hospitality seriously. Bartending is seen as a genuine career (it has been for a long time) and most full-time hospo workers will study it at some point in their life.
A bartender’s salary here will vary quite a bit. Some will get paid very well (like I did). Others will be paid relatively poorly. That’s because there’s a tipping culture there. It’s not as good as the US, but it’s much better than the UK and Australia.
Their wage is decent and works out to be around €9-€10 per hour, tips can range from nothing to over €300-€500 a night. When I was working there, I would often walk out with at least €100 in tips per night.
If you’re interested in learning French or having a good time, France is an incredible country to enjoy the traveling bartender experience.
I recently spoke with an Italian bartender and he told me that if you speak Italian, working as a bartender is amazing in Italy. Here, bartending is seen as a respectable, cool job and the bartenders here are treated like rockstars.
As far as wages go, there is no tipping culture here and if bartenders are given any tips, they usually hand them back because they don’t know what to do with them!
Base wages work out to be around €7-€8 per hour which doesn’t look great on the surface. But when you take into account that you can buy a pint of beer, a pizza, & a dessert for under €20, their base salary doesn’t work out to be that bad.
According to my Italian friend, it’s possible to easily bring in €150 on a busy night for a “single call rockstar shift”. I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds awesome!
A big shout out to Allessandro Scire Calabrisotto for helping me out with this section.
South-East Asia and the Philippines have similar pay structures, but I’ve only got the specific details for the Philippines here.
A bartender in the Philippines will earn on average $200-$300 a month and there’s no tipping culture there either. In comparison to the rest of the countries we’ve looked at, these bartender’s are easily getting paid the worst…
To top it off, these bartenders will work harder than everyone else. More often than not, they pump out 10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week… That’s 60-70 hours each week and they’re barely being paid for it.
Fortunately, the cost of living is much cheaper here. But it’s still a bad salary. According to Jeorge Dela Cruze, it’s enough to live on if you’re single… But there’s no way you could support a family on a bartender’s salary.
A big shout out to Jeorge Dela Cruze for sharing this information with me.
Finally, if you’re from a country that hasn’t been mentioned yet, make sure you let me know your country’s pay structure details by leaving a comment below!
The more countries we can get on this list, the better. As it will help us all better understand what it’s like for our fellow bartenders from around the world.