If you plan on having an upcoming event catered, one of the most important decisions you can make is in regards to alcohol service. To serve or not to serve, and if you plan to serve, how and what should you serve? If these are like the questions running through your mind, continue reading to learn some helpful tips for making the right selections.
First Make a Plan
There are several steps to take when it comes to making decisions about serving alcohol for a large group event or celebration. Some principle topics to consider when putting a plan together include the estimated head count, the budget, time and date, location, and theme (optional). Once your plan is made, you can choose a bar type, the number of bars you want, and how they will accept payment.
Then Choose a Bar Type
What type of bar do you want available to guests at your event? People do not usually realize there is more than one way to cater alcohol at parties, and even different ways to set up payment. Some of the most popular options include:
↠ Beer and Wine Bar – These bars will only serve choice beers and wines picked out by the host, you, or organizer of the event. This is a more economical choice if the budget is slim but alcohol is a must for your event.
↠ Full Bar – This is the pricier option, but the more fun option, none-the-less. This bar gives you all the advantages of a real bar in an actual restaurant or club. They serve everything from margaritas to Manhattans.
↠ Dry Bar – This is the cheapest option for your large group catering event, because it means there is NO BAR. This is more prevalent for school and church functions.
Decide on a Number of Bar Stations
Most catering companies recommend setting up a bar for every 75 to 100 guests, with the idea of having one bartender for every 75 guests. This is just a recommendation and is not mandatory, but if you want effective bar service at your event, it is suggested to have a sufficient amount of bartenders or bars. This will reduce traffic at the bars as well as long lines.
Choose a Payment Option
There are 3 popular ways to set up payment for your catered bar. You can choose an open bar, cash bar, or ticketed cash bar. A “host bar” is a scenario in which the host (that would be you) pays for all the drinks for the night. This is often referred to as an “open bar” to guests. This can be paid for by the drink, by the bottle, by the hour, or by the person; it all depends on your preference as well as what the catering company offers.
A “cash bar” is a bar set up in which guests pay for their own drinks. A cash bar is also called a “no-host” bar. You can also do a cash bar with tickets, which works by the hosting passing out drink vouchers to guests, who in turn, use them as currency for drinks. Once the vouchers are gone, guests are responsible to pay for their own drinks the remainder of the night.
Note: As far as budget, a cash bar would be the least expensive option because you only have to pay the company providing the service, not the service itself.
Budgeting an Open Bar
If budget is in question, but you really want an open bar, there are a few ways to save money. For example, it is common for the host to put a time limit on the open bar. So drinks are free for a few hours, then the rest of the evening guests are required to pay for their drinks. Another way is to allow beer and wine to be free but require guests to pay for any other type of cocktails or hard liquor.
Another common practice to save money on an open bar is to put a “cap” on the amount spent on the open bar. So the host can tell the bartender or catering company to serve cocktails for free until the cost reaches $1000, and from there, the guests are required to purchase their own drinks.