Scheduling Your Nightclub Security Staff

Make your Schedule in every week.

How many times have you as a Manager or Head of Security gone into a weekend understaffed? Or conversely, staffed for a busy night and had to cut 1/4 of your Staffers? These are both recurring issues in Bars and Nightclubs, but easy ones to solve with a little forethought and planning.

First off, depending on the size of your establishment, you may want to think about purchasing some type of scheduling software. Some of you might balk at the idea, especially if you run a small bar or club. However, if you are needing to keep track of 15+ employees, it would behoove you to have in place a system that not only schedules your Staffers, but contains a way to contact them and disseminate important information. I won’t throw my hat into the ring of any particular program, but many people vouch for HotSchedules. Do your research and decide what your needs are prior to purchasing anything.

Once you have a system in place, the work really begins. As a general rule, your schedule should be created every week for the 2 weeks to follow. In other words, schedule 2 weeks in advance. But when do you Staff heavy? Who works events vs. happy hour? Does the Head of Security (HOS) work every night? Many of these decisions are location specific, but we can try to break the problem down.

Let us use a Thursday College Night At Any Bar as an example. To begin with, you should already have a good idea of when your first customers arrive. Let’s say your bar opens at 9pm, but the first customers don’t really begin to stream in until 9:30. Seeing as your bartenders already have great training in ID Checks (right?) they can cover any ID’ing needs until your first Security Staffers show up.

For our sample schedule we’ll use a Security Staff of 15 employees:

  • At 9:30 pm, your first Security Staffers should arrive. Usually this pair will consist of your Doorman and a Roamer, but they combination can be anything of your choosing. At the very least, you should have a Staffer that is familiar with IDs and ID checks on the clock first. For most establishments, these 2 Staffers can keep an eye on things for the first hour of business.
  • Your Head of Security should arrive soon after to begin his checklist, double check on the Staffers, take care of any logistical needs, meet with the Manager, etc.
  • Beginning at around 10:00-10:15 pm, you want to start bringing in more Staff. You bar will no doubt begin to get a crowd and as such you should have at least 5-7 Staffers on the clock.
  • Your remaining Staff can arrive at 11:00 pm to coincide with your later rush of patrons.

Obviously, the times and number of Staffers that you choose to bring your Staff into the establishment can vary depending on any special events or promotions. You can also stagger your Staff so that someone can take over for the Doorman when he needs a break. It is always a good idea to consult with your HOS when trying to determine staffing needs for special events. Together you can work out a schedule to make the most of your available manpower.

Who Shows Up When…

…is not the title of a 1940’s comedy sketch, but if not planned correctly, it can be just as confusing (or amusing). As a general rule, your least experienced Staffers should be scheduled early as long as they have a Supervisor to help them with any questions that might arise. An empty bar is a great place to run training scenarios, ask questions, and double check the skills of your newer employees. They can get a feel  for how the night ratchets up instead of being thrown to the wolves. It also gives them a sense of empowerment as they are “in charge” for an hour or so until the more senior members of your Staff show up.

"Who's on first?" should never be a question when it comes to scheduling.

Your more experienced Staffers need not be in place early, unless you have a large event or are expecting a big crowd. If the latter is the case, it is always best to have more Staff on the clock early. Experienced staffers tend to be more at ease walking into a packed establishment and getting right to work, so their late arrival will should not disrupt the flow of your operations.

Another benefit of bringing on your more experienced Staffers later in the evening is the payroll savings. Generally, your experienced Staff is making more money. The fewer hours they have to work, the less you have to pay out. And, if they are scheduled late, it is easy to call them off if the business is slow. On slow nights you have the option of giving the “new kids” more experience running the show or paring your staff down to a small group of experienced Staffers who can handle any situation. The choice is yours.

Cutting Staff

Every bar manager has been faced with the dilema of how many/which Staffers to take off the clock on a slow night. The first thing that one should keep in mind is that there is no correct time to cut your Staff. As many of you know, picking a “set” time to send people home only gets you an overly crowded, understaffed bar. A late night rush is not unheard of nor is a crowd that doesn’t thin out when you are expecting it to.

Tempting as it may seem, this is NOT what I mean by "cutting staff"

The best solution is to cut the Staffers that are “unneeded”. What do I mean by that? First off, every Security Staffer has an important role to fulfill. But on slow nights your entire Staff is not “needed”, meaning that some of them can be sent home without effecting the overall continuity of operations. It is possible to run an establishment with a small crew of experienced Staffers or a blend of veterans and newbies.

Here are some possible configurations for slow nights:

  • Send home the Head of Security. This will give him/her a break, cut back on your overhead, and allow a less experienced Staffer step into the role for a night. This is very beneficial for training and the morale of the Staffer you “promote” for the evening.
  • Retain the HOS, but send home all but a small crew of less experienced Staffers. This allows the HOS to spend time with the less experienced members of your crew, review their performances, and lets them ask questions they may not be able to under normal working conditions.
  • Send home all of your inexperienced Staffers and let the veterans run the show. For one, this option allows the veterans to brush up on their skills on a slow night, catch up with each other and the HOS, and discuss scenarios. It will also give you fairly solid coverage as your more experienced Staffers can generally do the work of 2 or more less experienced ones.

Remember, there is no correct Ratio for Staffing. A lot of the decisions that you make regarding staffing on slow nights will be based on gut feelings and sometimes you will be wrong. However, if you take into account your Staff’s abilities, you should be well covered in case of any incidents. And, as always, your HOS is an excellent resource.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 4) – The Doorman

Everyone wants to be The Doorman. No, really. The goal of every person working on a Nightclub Security Staff is to be The Doorman. It is seen as the ultimate power position, the shot-calling spot, the decider of who enters or who does not. Security Staffers think about what they have to do and how they have to do it to reach this coveted spot “On The Rope”.

Well, it’s time to crush a few dreams.

One of the most difficult positions in any Nightclub or Bar is, you guessed it: The Doorman. You take the most abuse, get cursed at regularly, and are told that you are worthless, stupid, and on an ego trip. And this is from people trying to get INTO the bar. Doorman are spit at, swung on, laughed at, and have things thrown at them. Boyfriends want to fight you for hitting on their girlfriend and girlfriends want to fight you for not letting in their boyfriend. 90% of the time The Doorman is taking abuse. The other 10%? Actually doing your job.

So what in actuality IS The Doorman’s job?

To begin with, you need to know how to do the jobs of every other Security Staffer in your establishment. Roamers, Floormen, Door Outs, all these positions have some bit of knowledge that will be relevant to your position at the Front Door. And more often than not on a slow night, you will be called on to fill in someone else’s position in a pinch.

As Doorman you need to be well acquainted with the Policies and Procedures of your establishment. This is to ensure that you can answer any Patron’s questions with confidence. Nothing is more telling of a Doorman’s lack of professionalism than his (or her) inability to answer basic questions about their bar or nightclub.  A Doorman needs to know all Security Staffers’ names, the establishment’s capacity, entrance and exit points, the location of fire extinguishers, equipment, the Manager’s Office, and any and all information that Law Enforcement or the Fire Department may request. After all, the Doorman is usually the first face that they will encounter upon arrival during an emergency.

As Doorman you need to know your IDs inside-out and back to front. You are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping underage drinkers out of the bar. A good Doorman will always keep an ID Book near should an unusual ID pop up. You should know a fake ID within a few seconds of it being handed to you. Believe it or not, one of the biggest Doorman fails is just checking to see if the ID is real and not matching it up with the person who gave it to them!

Controlling the flow of people into the nightclub/bar is another important duty. If your establishment is running multiple lines (VIP, Table, General admission), communicating with the other Doormen/Hosts is key to keep things moving. The second a line starts to back up or bulge onto the sidewalk, you are presenting yourself with a whole other set of issues. Now, some nightclubs/bars want a long line. Fine. But you need to figure out how to move those people in quickly once they get to the front of the line.

Managing the individuals entering the club is another important aspect of the Doorman’s job. Are they drunk? Aggressive? Rude? You need to make a call on whether or not to let them in. Your club may have a strict dress code or a “look” that they expect from their Patrons. Make sure you know what it is depending on the night of the week. And finally, it is often the Doorman’s job to be the “face” of the club. You are the first people see when they arrive and the last one they see when they stumble out the door. You want to be remembered as the nice guy, not the jerk.

Among the Doorman’s other responsibilities:

  • Prep and clean Front Entry
  • Set-up line ropes, stanchions, trashcan, and mats
  • Assist VIP Host/Hostess throughout evening with any concerns. Make sure that you are in constant communication with the VIP booth in order to ensure a smooth flow of Patrons. The last thing a VIP wants is to be held up at the Front Door, regardless of how much money they are paying
  • Facilitate cover charge (when applicable). IF you are tasked with charging cover, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH CHANGE AND CHECK IT OFTEN. Nothing will hold up a line faster than a Doorman waiting for change.
  • Keep capacity count. This is very important, especially is medium sized clubs. The Fire Marshall and Law Enforcement WILL shut you down for being over capacity. And while the tendency is to go over capacity, make it your job to let the Manager know when you are getting close to full. This will help you manipulate the line.
  • Work closely with Law Enforcement to maintain order at Front Door and Sidewalk. Listen to Law Enforcement. They may make your life miserable at times, but it is for a reason. While it may be a pain to clear that sidewalk, it is an even bigger pain (and way more dangerous) to break up a fight between two groups waiting to get in.

A Doorman needs two things more than anything else: PATIENCE and a SENSE OF HUMOR. Patience is key when dealing with language barriers, intoxicated Patrons, people who have been ejected, or people you won’t let in. It is important that you learn how to defuse heated situations, without getting personally involved. Anyone working in Security should read: Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

Being a Doorman is like being a comedian who is being heckled for four hours a night. Learning how to deflect insults will prolong your sanity and make your nights far less stressful. Learn how to take a deep breath, count to 10, and move on. You must be able to laugh at the ridiculousness of any number of situations you encounter. You must be able to laugh at yourself, your co-workers, and yes, Patrons who are acting irrationally (though hopefully not in their face).

You will be yelled at.

You will be called names.

You will be poked in the chest.

Your friends will approach you when the line is 50 deep and ask to be let in.

Women will flirt with you and call you the wrong name.

Men will suddenly become your best buddy and try to tip you $1 instead of paying the $20 cover.

Someone will threaten you.

People will get angry at you.

People will tell you that  your club sucks and that you are a terrible person, even though they waited in line for an hour to get in.


If you cannot handle being treated poorly, you should not be a Doorman. If you can’t take insults hurled at you from across the street, you should not be a Doorman. You have to take abuse with a smile and break bad news to people with a smile. You have to turn people away from the door in a manner that makes them feel good about themselves and let people into the club that you would never talk to in the “real” world. You will make people angry, sad, or happy depending  on whether or not you let them in. As a co-worker of mine once said, “The Doorman is only the good guy when someone is let into a club, without waiting, for free, with five of their friends. The rest of the time we are just big jerks.”

Still want to be The Doorman?