By Donald Michael Schwartz
Starting a bartending service can be very rewarding. Being a walking drink mixing encyclopedia is not the key. The main thing is to know how to mix the top 50 or so popular drinks. The bartender sets the tone of the party. Not only do you need to be “the life of the party,” but the bartender is also responsible for the party hosts’ and guests’ safety. You need to make sure that there is no under age drinking going on, and ensure that nobody is getting heavily intoxicated.
When interviewing your clients, you need to find out about their drinking tastes and of their guests, so you can help them plan for the successful party. Think of yourself as more of a resource than having to be an expert on every alcoholic beverage sold in your town. You need to find out who are the best purveyors of liquor, beer, and wine in your town.
Where will you work?
Weddings and anniversaries are a big source of business for freelance bartenders. Much of your work will be in halls that don’t require hall renters to hire the hall’s house bartender. Beyond the usual family parties, you could do corporate functions, record releases, business openings, and other types of promotions. Once you get highly recognized, you could even expand your business to train bartenders at bars and clubs – or other independent bartenders.
Starting a bartending service can be relatively inexpensive. You will need to print up business cards and flyers to spread the word about your bartending service. There is the necessary insurance and licenses. You will need to check with your state and localities to find out what coverage you need to legally run a bartending service. Go to a quality liquor store or a bartending supply web site to purchase the necessary strainers, shakers and other tools of the trade. You can consider buying a portable bar. Another must is a reliable vehicle to get to and from your different locations of work. You can consider getting a small truck/van or car with a trailer.
Helpful Tips for Starting a Bartending Service
- Be Reliable – For many people, the party does not start till the alcohol is poured. Find out when you can arrive at the site to start setting up. For a successful party, you will want to have an attractive, well-organized bar ready for the official opening time.
- Gain Experience- Before starting your bartending business it is a good idea to get a bartending job at a restaurant or bar. You will not only gain valuable working experience but it also reassures future clients that you what you are doing.
- Establish a Good Report with Suppliers – The suppliers can make or break your business. Treat them well. Make sure they get paid on time. Pick up orders in a timely manner. For deliveries, make sure someone is there to receive them. The liquor and beer and wine stores are your business’s lifeblood, and they can supply much needed expertise to assure the long term success of your bartending business.
- Define Your Business – When starting a bartending service you need to stand out from your competition and make it clear to your customers the services you will or won’t supply. You will want a uniform that fits your personality and to stay engaged with the customers in a fun, but professional manner.
- Know Why You are There – Remember that the parties are about who the party is being held for, it is not about you. Make the hosts, guests and entertainment feel comfortable. It is your job to help make all the elements work together.
- Do It Legal – Make sure you get the proper licenses and insurance. Make sure you know the drinking law as they affect your business.
- Keep It Safe – Alert the host to any significant problems which may be developing.
- Have Fun – You are one of the focal points of the party, so have fun, and stay focused and the guests will most likely follow your lead.
- Promote Yourself – When starting a bartending service get to know all the other people who work at parties so that you can promote each other. For example get to know the local DJs, party entertainers, bands and party planners. Also rent booths at shows. Demonstrate to others that you are an expert in your field. Get on a speaker list and talk about party hosting tips or good wines and beers.
Advertising a Bartending Service
When starting a bartending service you can advertise through the following methods. You can test various forms of advertising to see which are the most effective for your bartending service in your location.
- Flyers- Determine if you can put up flyers in local grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, community centers, party supply stores and party halls. It is best to ask the owner of these businesses for permission first. Also hand out flyers to passer byes on the street.
- Bartending Business Cards- Create business cards and hand them whenever an opportunity appears. Network as much as possible. Seek recommendations from friends and family.
- Yellow Pages- Consider buying an advertisement in the yellow pages of your local phone book. You can also include your business in the online version: YellowPages.com.
- Local.com Having a listing at Local.com can help people that are searching for your service or product locally find you.
- Yahoo Local Searches- If you include your business in the Yahoo Local Searches, when people search for your service in your local area your business will appear in the list. To add your business to Yahoo local search, enter the term “add business to yahoo local search” in Yahoo.com and click on the first link.
- Google Local Searches- Google has a local search as well. To add your business to Google local search, enter the term “add business to google search” in Google.com and click on the first link.
- Local Events- Local events are a great way to create awareness when starting a bartending service. Learn about local events in your area and find out if they are in need of a bartender.
- Fund raisers and Charities- Donate your services to local fund raisers and charities in order to gain publicity.
- Newspaper classified ads- Newspaper ads in your local newspaper can help spread awareness of your bartender service.
- Form a Partnership- Consider forming a partnership with a local party planner. You can agree to give the party planner commission when they use your bartending service.
- Website- You can decide to develop a website to provide clients with access to general information about your bartending service.