How do you choose an online bartending course?
By Dan Bignold
May 15th, 2020
There are hundreds of options online for bartender training. Some show how to make cocktails and pour drinks, others go further with customer service, beverage knowledge and a more in-depth analysis of bartending. How to choose? The difference is usually cost – free course, or paid.

There are different reasons people type "online bartender training" into Google. It might be students looking at ways to get a job. Or it might not be for professional training at all – just someone wanting to take their home dinner party to the next level with a little fancy mixology.

Or, it might be managers at large venues looking to cement the skills of their bar teams with a multi-dimensional online courses for bartending covering different levels, from new hires up to senior bar staff, and which sit within a fully digital learning management system (LMS).

The results you get back will range from free to paid – to very expensive. The free end of the spectrum is usually a quick dash through the major drink categories, with some how-to lessons on drink-making technique. And they might not stay free forever – with limited courses, or limited time periods, before you pay to access further.

The paid versions should add in more hospitality industry-specific training, covering venue operations. And the really expensive end of the spectrum should include a fully functioning learning management system, a kind of enterprise-level training solution allowing businesses to author, organize and assign differing workplace training to multiple staff. 

Let’s start with the home enthusiast. If you're just trying to learn a few cocktail recipes, a free course is the way forward. Or YouTube. Watch some videos. Maybe buy a cocktail recipe book to go next to your cookery books. But, really, no need to pay for a course. 

Be warned, however, the quality of drink-making and the skills being taught can be patchy on YouTube – so it's best to check out the channels of the major spirits brands, where videos are made featuring more experienced bartenders and brand ambassadors, both of whom should have reliable technical skills you can copy.

How about if you’re looking for your first job? In this context there’s really no need to pay for a mixology course either – nor a bartender school. A lot of people will argue that becoming a professional bartender means learning the practical side, on the job. And they're right: finding a good bar in need of help, where the manager will be happy to teach you, is the best route.

However, there is still a lot of product and recipe knowledge, not to mention theory behind drink-making, product tasting and recommending, or responsible service of alcohol, that needs to be learned – and you can give yourself one hell of an advantage on your first day if you work on some of this knowledge beforehand. And you don't have to go to bartending school to do that.

But, most free courses still won’t give you this level of detail, so make sure you check through their course notes, and see how in-depth the freemium version goes before you sign up. And check that access means lifetime access, and won’t be taken away after a limited free period.

Just remember too not to claim you know everything on your first shift – even if you’ve studied up a bit beforehand. It’s guaranteed to annoy your new manager and likely mean you’re not invited back. Managers need people who are willing to learn. So listen, watch and answer questions when you know the answer, and ask for help when you don’t.

For those researching a more complex training solution, the options are numerous. Most paid-for providers however are really software providers, and don’t combine training content with a learning management system in a single package. So, there are a number of catches to consider in terms of cost:

  • The price per staff member or per outlet. Both are particularly relevant if you have a large group structure with hundreds or even thousands of staff. Like-for-like cost comparisons between different providers or LMSs are notoriously hard because of the fine-print and complex way that pricing is set. You may not even be able to get a price quote unless you give them a call.
  • Does access to more in-depth courses cost extra? For example, although Level 1 is free, what about level 2? The freemium model is very common, and although it works for individual learners, can sting larger organizations.
  • Certificates. Is the course free but then you have to pay for staff to download certificates? Certificates are popular for staff and help engage them in learning by nurturing a sense of achievement. But free training providers often charge for certificates as an indirect way to make money.
  • Does the training depend on you uploading your own content? Most LMS providers sell a software package, so consider the man-hours you need to invest further (even after you’ve purchased the training platform) before staff will actually be training. 
  • Is the content that is provided customisable? Will it contradict your own SOPs or confuse staff used to your management’s own training – thereby costing you more man-hours to train them back correctly? And can you train not just on skills, but the specific recipes and products sold in your venue?

We’re sure your research will turn up many options for you to consider. 

But lastly we’ll explain ourselves. At Small Batch Learning we provide a 100% free (forever) solution for all of the above user cases. There is no freemium version, no fee to download certificates, and no limit to the number of staff or outlets. 

Our platform is both a training provider, with ready-written, ready-to-train bartender courses (again, all available for free) and a professional LMS. It has also been designed from the ground up with hospitality in mind, so features many training tools, such as customisable content and our Virtual Menu training solution (for products and recipes), that cannot be found from other generic providers.

So, whether you want to bone up on a few recipes, and look the part making great drinks the next time your friends come over; or whether you want to get yourself prepped for your first job; or, if you’re going the whole nine yards, and need an industry-standard online training platform for hundreds of employees, Small Batch Learning’s solution could be a great fit.

If you’d like to hear from some other people from the bartending industry who’ve found Small Batch Learning to be the right answer for them, click here. Or if you want to dive straight in, click here to sign up as an independent learner or to register your group or outlet for your very own free training platform.

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