Is Bartending School A Rip Off?

Attend The Best School Not The Closest School

I am posting a bartending school “rip off” checklist at the end of this article but the most important thing is to choose a school that will help you find a job, not necessarily the closest school.

Training Hours

Many bartending schools claim they can, “train you to become certified in bartending in 32-hours”. Some schools advertise less time than 32-hours. It is not possible for someone to become a competent bartender in 32-hours of training. It takes nearly three times that amount of training depending on the student’s ability to learn and the effort the student puts into the program.

As a seasoned bartender, bar manager, bartending school owner, and restaurant and bar consultant, I would never hire a graduate from a school with a reputation for under training their students. The loss of sales, in a high-volume restaurant or bar, would be too great of an impact on profit. 32-hours of training is not enough exposure behind the bar for a person to fast, efficient and knowledgeable about bartending, let alone serving customers. Less alcohol served means less profit, which means if you are slow, you are going to lose sales and profit.

Why do governing bodies allow schools to have such a short curriculum? Many states allow this type of behavior and the school becomes approved by the state board of education and similar state entities. For example, California is a free-for-all and the state has deregulated bartending schools, along with many other types of vocational schools. The state lets school owners do whatever they want. Currently, I do not know of any other state allowing vocational schools of this nature to merely do what they want. California is rather unique.

Most of the other states I have encountered, which is at least 15, have no clue about what is and is not needed for someone to become a competent bartender. The state typically relies on “the industry” to tell them what is and is not acceptable for teaching someone to become a bartender. Then, the state approves the school to do business and calls them “State Certified”. Bartending schools’ regulating themselves is what it amounts to. Not a good formula for the consumer.

Why the states do not require a graduate to pass a “practical exam” at a restaurant or a bar is beyond me. If I want to be a Respiratory Therapist, I have to pass exams at a hospital and pass a state and/or federal licensure exam. In other words, the consumer is on their own when choosing a school. However, I am going to make a checklist, in this article, for everyone to use and I know it will be effective for consumers searching for the proper education.

Many 40-hour bartending schools around the nation are very effective as long as the student studies at home tenaciously every night. One thing the consumer should do is find out how many hours a day they need to attend and there should be at least 4-hours of homework every night and 8-hours of homework each weekend. For example, if I were going to a 40-hour school I would expect to go to class, behind the bar, for 4-hours per day and have 4-hours of homework every night studying recipes. That class would be 2-weeks long, 5-days per week for a total of 40-hours. Typically, with a 40-hour program one will not become a high-volume bartender and make excellent money. 40-hours of training will usually help the graduate gain the skills necessary to be put on a day shift at a bowling alley or something similar to that. Most of the time the 40-hour graduate will not be invited to start out in a busy nightclub, restaurant or bar but it does happen occasionally.

Make sure the school you attend has lifetime learning, lifetime job placement assistance and the job placement assistance is valid nationwide. Therefore, if you are not understanding the curriculum for some reason you can take the class as many times as you want. In addition, if you are feeling rushed or have a sick child you will not be penalized for something out of your control. Now, 40-hours can turn into 60-hours if you are having a hard time learning in such a fast paced manner. Many 40-hour schools try to fit 100-hours of training into 40-hours and the graduate is a total mess when they graduate. If you feel like you are not on your “A” game when you graduate, you should be able to attend, at no additional charge, until you are confident and accurate as a bartender.

Length of Time in Business

A huge contributing factor for consumers being ripped off is a bartending school opening and 3-years later they are shut down. The school shuts down because they receive bad reviews on the Internet, the state is notified they are not doing their job as a school, and graduates bad mouth the school for being a scam. The school is started as a scam and finishes as a scam and no one gets their money back because the corporation or LLC is defunct.

Make sure the school you are planning on attending has been in business for at least 5-years and they are in good standing with their governing body. California does not have a governing body so I would check the status of their corporation or LLC by going to the UCC website for the State of California and looking up their company by name. Remember, 5-years is the minimum recommendation for a bartending school to be filed with the governing agencies. Sole proprietorships, in my opinion are not recommended. It shows a lack of preliminary effort to start a school and should be viewed as borderline unprofessional. It takes serious investment to form a corporation and it shows more commitment on the part of the owner/s of the school.

Check all Yelp, Google+, and Facebook pages. Make sure the school has at least 500 “likes” on Facebook and 1000 is even better. Active social network marketing is good but it can be time consuming and overwhelming for a bartending school owner so go easy here. However, check the posts, comments, and feedback from students and graduates. They do not have to be “rock stars” at social media but they should have a relevant presence.

Bartending School Checklist

Lessons:

· Two Liquor Drinks

· Wine and Coffee Drinks

· Cream Drinks

· Highballs and Mixed Drinks

· Martinis, Manhattans/Rob Roys

· Sours and Blended Drinks

· Shooter, Shots, and Snifters

· Customer Service

· Beer Pouring, Layering, and Keg Maintenance

· Food and Wine Pairing

Job Placement Assistance:

· One-On-One With an Experienced Job Placement Director (5-years)

· Resume Service

· Interviewing Techniques

· Direct Phone Number for Job Placement Help (6-Days a Week Min.)

The above checklist for curriculum is a minimum and you should be able to take any class as many times as you want until you have it down! Do not let the bartending school tell you it is all right to pour a drink inaccurately. You cannot make a mistake 10% of the time as a bartender or you will typically get fired. Imagine if you were working at a fast food restaurant and made a mistake 10% of the time, you would probably get fired. Therefore, it is imperative that you receive 100% on all your pouring tests and the bartending school instructor is not trying to pass you to make room for the next set of students signing up next week. Bartending schools will oftentimes try to become more lenient as time goes on so they can pass you to make room for the incoming enrollees.

Keep communicating with the Job Placement Assistance Director and make sure you exhaust every lead they have. Stay in touch with them daily if you can. If not, at least 3 or 4 times a week. As they say “The squeaky wheel gets oiled.” Make it known that you are the one that wants the job and you are the one that deserves the job because you are being tenacious and you are following through.

If you take this advice, you will likely find a job and a new career in bartending. Just like everything else, it takes effort and tenacity. Not everyone graduates from trade schools and vocational schools, nor do they all graduate from community college or universities. So make sure you follow through and great things will come from it. I hope this helps the lingering question of the bartending school rip off.