Controlling Overhead



When I got into the mobile bar business most people were just throwing together sub-par cocktails and putting them on a specialty drink menu at a wedding.  Well-made cocktails in the mobile bartending industry were uncommon.  Now, it seems like you have a difficult time not finding a well-made cocktail at a wedding, or party or event.  The mobile bartending industry is not only becoming oversaturated it’s becoming oversaturated and competitive.  Everyone is looking for a piece of the pie now when it comes to event bartenders.  

So what can you do to stay ahead of the competition and still make money in this oversaturated industry?  I would recommend that before you start raising your prices, start with looking at what you’re including in your package.  Reducing your overhead without cutting corners is what you should be aiming to do.    

Concierge Service:

Are you providing a concierge service, running to the store collecting everything for that you will need for the event, providing the host with the receipt then handing them an invoice with a 15%-20% concierge fee? How much is your concierge fee?  Are you providing the host with the best rates possible when it comes to the alcohol your buying?  Are you getting the best alcohol for your buck?  Are you buying in bulk to get the best rates for your host?  Start cultivating strong relationships with bar owners, or liquor store owners, build friendships anywhere that will need to be purchasing for events.  Know when your local store is having the $.5 sale on wine.  Know someone that is knowledgable in all things liquor and not just someone who wants to sell you the most expensive product just for the money.  There are products out there that are comparable and/or to your mainstream favorites – do you know what they are?  Maybe you don’t need a 25% concierge fee if all of your traveling is within 10 miles.  Some hosts consider these random fees as unacceptable and petty – especially if they are high.  Everyone is out to squeeze as much money out of the client as possible.  Why not start trying to squeeze more than one event out of the client – make their first experience a pleasant one.   

Menu Design

When you are designing the custom menu for the host are you using several different spirits and mixers?  When you are creating the menu is it all over the place in of maximizing with one of two spirits and mixers.  Again, I ask the question of what mixers are using?  Are you using top-shelf stuff just because, or are you experimenting with other brands?  On some occasions I’ve noticed I can make a batch of peach nectar or other mixers cheaper than I can buy it, but since the client didn’t pay for the handmade stuff – some people won’t handmake it.  Making suggestions on saving money for the client is another way to stay ahead of the competition.  Coming up with a plan on menu design should be the first thing you discuss in the first consultation. 

Personal Host Supply

Are you asking if the host wants to use any of their own supplies – beer, wine, spirits etc anything leftover from a previous event?  I’ve noticed with many of the competitors that I shop none of them have ever asked me if I would be using anything from a previous party.  Many hosts don’t think about asking the bartender this question.  What happens is that the bartender assumes that the host doesn’t have anything when giving them the information on how much product they will be needing for the event.   Maybe the host will need 3 bottles of vodka and already has 2.5 bottles – you don’t know so you tell them they need 3 bottles, now they’ve lost money.  Anytime you can save the host money, you lowering the chance of a competitor coming in and taking over.  A lot of the competition out there isn’t working as closely with the hosts or the clients because most of them are just looking for the next big event. 

Seasonal Analysis

What is in season in your local area?  If you are asked to create syrups, or bitters, or infusions etc.  It’s important to know what is in season in your local area, this helps cut down your cost, usually what is in season is cheaper than something that has to be brought in.  Make sure you know what will mix the best while it is in season, this comes with practice and trying different cocktails throughout the year.  Examining the cocktail menus of some bars or restaurants in the area can help you with this as well.  Most of the time they will update their menus based on seasons, and through extensive research, they have come to create cocktails that sell best during that particular season. 

The last on the list that I would recommend for keeping cost low for you and your clients is probably the most important thing on the list. 

Staff Training

I will always take into account human error,  but it can also many times be prevented by properly training the staff that helps you.  Even if I hire someone that is experienced behind the bar I will train them, or at least have them show me how they pour alcohol.  Improperly free pouring will cost your host money.  Setting up glassware in places where it is most likely not going to get damaged as easily, using the proper tools to measure, to pour, to cut.  How to pour a beer with a minimal amount of head.  These are items that staff needs to be trained on properly to reduce costs.  You have to think outside of the box to prevent problems from occurring. 

There are several other ways that you can help the host cut cost for their event, these are just a handful of the most common things that I do to help.  I’ve found that the more I help the host the more profitable I become because they want to keep having me come back.  They will also refer me to their friends, because they know I pour a good cocktail and because I will save them money in the long run.