I’m thinking of putting some money behind the bar!

This is another great conversation with our clients “I’m thinking of putting a tab behind the bar so we/I can buy everyone a drink”.

There’s nothing wrong in wanting to provide your guests with a free drink(s). The next question could well be, how much do you think? If you have 100 guests and you want to give then a drink of their choice, then let’s say the average price of a drink is £6 per glass (why £6 – beer is cheap compared to a cocktail or double spirits). Simple maths – £600 (now you know why I pickled a 100 guests 😊).

Now consider this. Some of your guests arrive earlier than others and based on a free bar they help themselves to a couple of drinks each, let’s say a cocktail and a beer. That’s around £12-15 and very quickly, they nip back and order another round of drinks. Your bar money is being eroded quickly and not everyone has arrived yet.

The bar staff will simply continue serving not charging your guests until the agreed bar tab has run out resulting in some people having several drinks on you and those feeling they missed out.

What about covering the full cost of the bar – free drinks all night?

Don’t get me wrong, a free bar is a great gesture for your guests, but it has many downsides to consider.

The obvious one is controlling the costs – simply put, there is no control. Your guests ask for a drink and the bar staff provide the drink running up the cost against your account/tab.

The downside which you don’t necessarily see (we do) is the number of part filled drinks being left. When it’s a free bar (this doesn’t apply to everyone) people don’t care about finishing their drink before ordering another – its free, who cares!

Now the dark sobering downside. You have a duty of care to your guests especially having provided free drinks. A free bar (not on all occasions) tends to create more highly intoxicated people at the party. The question you need to be able to answer is “who is going to take care of them” – you?

Please consider what would happen should any of your guests have an accident at your event which could have been a result of intoxication. Now I’m not saying this will happen, all I’m saying is be mindful of the outcome when offering a free bar.

How do we ensure everyone gets a drink whilst controlling costs?

Here a couple of ideas which might help:

  • Agree with your bar provider what drinks are available to go against your tab up front e.g. only single measure spirits (G&Ts), don’t include cocktails, …A simple menu list with five or six drinks will still be welcomed by guests.
  • Instead of a money behind the bar, use vouchers (you can get some vouchers printed fairly cheaply) saying “a free drink on us” either to send out with the invites or to collect from the best man on the day. Your guests would simply trade these vouchers at the bar for a drink and the cost of the drinks would be charged back to you either at the end of the event or shortly after. This ensures ALL of your guests get a drink on you and if you couple this with the agreed drinks menu, you can control your costs accordingly.