A nightclub’s staff are its heart and soul. You can make or break your club depending on how well you identify your staffing needs and recruit the right people to fill those roles, so it’s worth it to spend the time and energy to do a thorough job. Nightclubs are complex operations that require a sophisticated staffing plan; if you’re already in a position to hire staff for your nightclub, the hardest work is behind you.
The bartenders are the face of the club, making them your most important hires. These positions require more skill than it may seem at first; to attract and retain good talent, you need to pay a memorable wage and offer good benefits. Look for applicants with existing bartending experience so that you won’t have to teach the basics of the trade, like remembering orders, mixing drinks, keeping a hygienic operation and presenting drinks and the bar itself stylishly. For the nightclub environment, you need thick-skinned, strong-minded people who are comfortable amid loud noise and potentially unruly crowds, show patience in difficult situations, participate in conversations on many different topics and project friendliness and confidence at all times. Good nightclub bartenders must know how to anticipate needs before they occur, so that they can call in support from staff before an ice chest runs empty or an argument escalates into a fight. Don’t understaff the bar, and hire bartenders early in the staffing process, making other staffing decisions with bartenders in mind.
Some of the earliest hires should be managers. You will need a general manager to run the entire club. Then, every division of the club - the bar, floor, engineering, security, kitchen, cleaning and administration - needs at least one section manager. In a smaller operation, that manager might be the only person in the division, and sometimes a manager will lead more than one division. All your managers need to be competent substitutes for the staff members they will be leading, because they will often work in the trenches alongside their subordinates. Aside from these specifics, the hallmarks of a good nightclub manager look similar to those of a good manager in general. Your managers need strong communication skills, prowess at handling logistics and respect for the organization. They also need solid leadership qualities, including an under control ego, and the willingness to absorb meaningful feedback from subordinates.
A nightclub’s security people tend to be the most conspicuous personnel, but from a staffing perspective, their purpose is to ensure the smooth operation of the club. That means hiring security last, so that you can hire them based on the needs and style of the rest of the staff. For security, you will need door entrance staff at a minimum, but for a larger or more upscale operation you may also need floor security, roamers, camera monitors and exit staff. All security personnel must be intimately familiar with your club’s policies and rules. All personnel who might come into contact with customers need to know how to talk firmly and clearly, keep their cool, take considerable verbal abuse, conduct ethical and effective searches on a customer’s person, spot illegal activity such as drug selling, gauge an argument before it becomes a fight and dominate a physical altercation or at least provide a reasonable physical deterrence. Door staff control lines and crowds, know how to check IDs and record people who enter and leave the club for fire and safety reasons. Make sure you hire female security personnel along with males, because only women can search female customers and female restrooms.
A full-sized nightclub may have dozens of named job roles and hundreds of employees. Some of the more important miscellaneous roles include the barbacks who assist the bartenders, the engineering staff who handle music and lights, the waiters and bussers on the floor staff who keep dishes flowing and tables clear, the administrative staff who handle purchasing, accounting and band booking, and the cleaning staff who keep garbage bins clear, clean up floor spills and sanitize and stock the restrooms. These jobs require different skill sets, and you can expect to spend several weeks in the initial staff recruitment stage for your new nightclub. The biggest danger at this step in the startup process is hiring the wrong people. Take your time and do your homework.
- Miss Charming: How to Become a Bartender
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Nightclub Security Positions Part 1 - Roamers
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Nightclub Security Positions Part 2 - Floormen
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Nightclub Security Positions Part 3 - Door Outs
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Nightclub Security Positions Part 4 - The Doorman
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Female Security Staffers
- Tao of the Velvet Rope: Nightclub Security Positions Part 5 - Head of Security
- Earthbar: Steps to Open a Bar, Cocktail Lounge or Nightclub
- Nightclub & Bar: Managers, Don't Make Your Bartenders Cringe!
- Nightclub & Bar: The High Cost of Bartender Turnover
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.