I have been asked on many occasions for advice on how to create a winning private bartending business. In this post I’m going to try and list a few things that helped me create one of the biggest private bartending companies on the east coast. I’m not going to get deep into things as this business is different from state to state due to laws, city size, and surroundings. It’s simply a few key things I remember to help you avoid the pitfalls.
Know your laws
Some states require permits and some don’t, while some states allow you make money off liquor by the drink and some will not. Before you do anything figure out your state and/or local laws.
Know your customers
It’s not something open for a huge amount of debate. In general your largest customers will be weddings, catering companies, party venues, and fund raisers. Sure you may end up bartending different occasions like baby showers, girl’s night outs, and even funerals, but don’t waste time going after things outside of your primary customer base.
Never spend money advertising to bartend to customers outside of your core list. Use highly targeted ads when you advertise and dominate them. Before you even spend a single dollar do absolutely everything possible to maximize free traffic. This comes from building links with other vendors, Search engine optimization (SEO), and free directories.
Links with other vendors may include getting the local caterer who often uses you to list you on his website as an approved vendor. SEO can be complex and I will not attempt to teach you but you’ll definitely want to pick up this skill, and free directories are all over the net.
If you decide to spend money on ads only advertise with the top sites in the industry. For example, you’ll find hundreds of wedding vendor directories on the web all begging for your money. Only use the top couple in the business. We advertised with David’s Bridal Directory and had great results as we could contact any number of leads we wanted from their database. Google ads can be affective but make very sure you know what you are doing before you jump in with both feet.
Bartending today can encompass so many styles and forms. When starting your business just focus on the basics and do not attempt to offer glassware, party rentals, and specialty drink packages off the bat. Start with your basic awesome bartending service. If the customer wants something special they’ll tell you. I say this because you’ll have enough on your hands doing the things above. Once you feel comfortable and have general idea of what you’re doing then feel free to rock it.
You’ll need to start a simple website and have business cards. Get more promotional items down the road as you get more comfortable but these two are the most haves. Don’t forget the legal stuff like a business license too!
There are hundreds of awesome products for the traveling event bartender these days. I think some must haves for any private bartender are a few coolers, wine key, shakers and strainers. I would never go to a job without these items. Beyond that check into a nice portable bar which can make your company stand out. Otherwise you’ll be using the old table and linen. A great place to start your search for portable bars is with www.BarChefs.com .
As you start to do jobs develop a system. Keep mental notes as to what should be done first and last. The smallest things can help you fun so much more efficiently like always loading your bottles into your coolers before dumping ice on them and never throwing those bottle’s boxes away. Off site bartending is not the same as most in house jobs. You’ll want to think about break down before you set up. Once you have a few events under your belt you should start to realize an order for things. Instead of giving you our list script for script I recommend you develop this to fit you style and needs.
Develop a checklist for your events that will force you to remember all supplies needed as well. All high off site event companies will use a checklist so make it part of your routine for every single event.
You must learn to get a deposit. This is a must so I will not spend much time here. Any successful event business will ask for a deposit. We typically would ask for a 20% non-refundable deposit to consider an event booked and the balance was due 10 days before the event. Use whatever method or amounts you like but do ask for a deposit to book.
We used our invoice as a contract which stated times to work and services. Just be sure to have it written down somewhere. In the world of bartending it’s very often that you’ll be asked to stay after an event was scheduled to end. Be sure you have a system in place to ask for payment should the event go over and way to show that you did in fact work the hours scheduled.
Everyone has a different view here. I recommend you to take a neutral stance and offer any option. Some brides will refuse a tip jar at their wedding while a fundraiser will encourage it. Just make sure you have a system to decide how this will run at each event that is clear with your customer. We offered a no tip jar option in exchange for a higher labor rate for example, but the customer always had to choose if this was an option.
There are hundreds of awesome products for the traveling event bartender these days. I think the basics for any private bartender are a few coolers, wine key, shakers and strainers. I would never go to a job without these items. Beyond that check into a nice portable bar which can make your company stand out. Otherwise you’ll be using the old table and linen. A great place to start your search for portable bars is with www.BarChefs.com . One last note I’ll add is about glassware. I would suggest you let the professional rental companies handle this. It may be nice to offer it for very small parties but for typical 50 people and above events leave it alone until you have a full understanding of the business.
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I hope some of the information I have provided will help you in your business venture. This is the same information I would give to a family member would they ask me and I feel these are some of the most important things. If you would like to stay up to date with me please subscribe to our companies social media links listed below.