Food & Drink

A New App Promises To Be the Uber For Bartending Gigs

First the gig economy came for taxis, then it came for hotels. Now it’s coming for bars. Jitjatjo, an app that officially launched in late 2016, is trying to function like an Uber for bartending by connecting service industry workers with bars in need of temporary workers.

According to Justin Melia, head of marketing for Jitjatjo, the app is already being used at traditional bars, places holding corporate parties, nightlife clubs like TAO and sporting event venues in New York City and New Jersey. The promises sound familiar to anyone who has worked in, or been on the receiving end of, the tech-assisted gig economy: the app finds the gig for you (or finds the worker) and the more someone uses the app the better it gets at placing jobs. Most importantly, payments are quick, paperless and directly into workers bank accounts. Because if a side hustle is about anything, it’s about the money.

“Work when you want,” the app’s description page reads, adding, “No more time wasted searching for work, just enter your availability and we’ll find you gigs that fit your schedule.”

Jitjatjo is for the entire service industry, not solely for bartenders. It also includes line cooks and catering servers to name a few. Bars are a decent part of the company’s business, though, and Melia says around 25 percent of the gigs booked through the app are bar related. Once someone chooses the positions they are looking for, they add at least one qualified reference for each position. Bartenders are classified into three tiers: Solid (knows basic drinks), Outstanding (extensive bar experience) and Epic (“mixologist-level”). It’s up to the establishment hiring the bartender to make a choice on the level they need. Around 15 percent of gigs require a TIPS alcohol certification.

As for the tips that bartenders care about—the ones that customers give them—it’s a little more complicated. Workers “receive a higher than normal working wage in exchange for tips,” Melia tells Supercall. He compares it to how a bartender might work a catering event. Worker tips aren’t guaranteed, but are at the discretion of the bar manager. That could mean the manager allowing workers to keep only the cash tips they receive or the manager dolling out tips after the shift is over.
To go back to the Uber reference, Jitjatjo uses an algorithm that places a worker at a gig. Like Uber, you don’t have the ability to select the car that’s coming to you,” Melia says. “Uber sends you the best car for a variety of different reasons and influences.”

As with all gig economy apps promising ultimate freedom and flexibility, there are some downsides. A recent reviewer on the App Store page by someone looking for barback and busser jobs stated that he received one gig in three weeks despite having six to seven days of availability each week (Melia noted that job frequency varies, but the average bartender with full availability could get jobs three to four days). Others complained about the pay (one user review specifically cited getting $13-15 an hour compared to employees who received $20-25 an hour). One user mentioned that they were deemed unqualified despite having worked in the industry in the past (which actually might be a good thing for businesses looking for people with recent experience). The general reviews for the service have been overwhelmingly positive, though. As hard as it is to put too much trust in user-generated reviews, Jitjatjo’s Talent app for bartenders has 4.5 out of 5 stars from 100 ratings.

Will this take over your high-end, specialty cocktail bars? Probably not. Bar owners depend on long-term bartenders who are familiar with the ins and outs of original menus. It also isn’t likely to impact your neighborhood dive, where bartenders knowing each customer by name is a major plus. For the casual bartender with some experience who is looking for an occasional extra gig or two, however, the promise of gig-economy freedom shines bright.