If you’re planning to offer beer or wine at your event, you’ll need to figure out what to serve at your event bar. Based on our own experience, we have some general formulas to help you plan to buy the right amount of the right types of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks.
It’s notoriously difficult because of the number of variable that come into play. Is it a cash bar or open bar? When is it? What day of the week is it on? What types of drinks do you, as the host prefer?
While it’s nearly impossible to account for all the factors involved, we’ve laid out a method to help you find a successful starting point and some factors to consider on how you might want to adjust that. This is intended as a general guideline for all types of events including weddings, festivals, corporate parties, conferences, and trade shows.
All of this assumes you’ll be offering both food and nonalcoholic beverages to your guests. We highly recommend that you serve both as it both decreases consumption of alcohol and makes sure anyone driving or that doesn’t drink is not left out.
What to Offer
We’ve found the easiest way to organize our offerings is by offering Standard, Deluxe and Premium packages.
For the majority of events, one of these three packages will be appropriate, but you may want to consider additional options:
Wine and Beer plus a Specialty Drink
Some hosts will want to offer their guests something beyond just wine and beer, but don’t want a full bar either for personal preference or cost control reasons. A popular option is to offer a specialty liquor based drink that coordinates with the theme or has special significance to the host.
We’ve tried to simplify the pricing by offering these standard packages for a typical event running up to 4 hours.
Once you’ve decided on your package preference, multiply the cost of that drink by the number or people.
If you would like to plan your own bar, and stock the beer and wine inventory, then here are some tips that might help you out.
Bottles are generally the best option both for ease of service and appearance. For whatever reason, cans have the stigma of being less classy as do kegs However, both cans and kegs still have their place. Kegs can be a great option for certain types of parties. Kegs also come with additional equipment rental fees.
Choosing what wine to offer is more difficult than beer. If you’re concerned about matching wine with food appropriately, our event planners will be happy to make recommendations based upon your chosen menu.
If you aren’t serving the wine with food the typical split is 60% white and 40% red. However, this is shifting as younger generations tend to prefer red over white and for parties catering to the younger demographic this can reverse to something like 60% red and 40% white.
How much should you Buy?
Estimating how much alcohol to buy is probably the most difficult part of stocking an event bar. Not buying enough and running out looks bad, while buying too much means your fronting a lot of cash on inventory.
The estimates below are for a typical 4 hour cocktail reception for 50 guests. If you’re going to round, round up. As we indicated above, running out of alcohol is typically considered poor form and won’t win you a lot of friends.
The numbers are based upon 50 people as you’ll probably need about one bartender for every 50 guests or service will slow to a crawl. That makes it a good base number to work off of when doing estimates. You can multiply or divide the numbers given based on the size of your event.
The (not-so) Magic Bar Catering Formula
In order to estimate overall consumption, the typical estimate used is 2 drinks the first hour and then 1 drink/hour after that. For most caterers and event bars, this number holds true over time, but pay attention to the considerations included below to see how you may want to adjust this number up or down.
For a typical 4 hour event, 2 beers per person with no liquor (100 servings total). 1 beer per person if liquor is being served (50 servings total).
For a typical 4 hour event, plan on one 750 ml bottle for every three guests. So for 50 guests you can estimate about 17 bottles of wine. If no liquor is going to be served, this is likely to be closer to one bottle of wine for every two guests, or 25 bottles of wine for 4 hours.
Beer and Wine Only
100 bottles/cans/servings of Beer
25 bottles of Wine
50 bottles/cans of Beer
17 bottles of Wine
But Wait….There’s More!
While the information above should help you get started, here are some common factors that you may want to take into account.
Younger and Older age groups drinking the most. Younger groups lean towards beer and cocktails. Older guests tend towards scotch, vodka, and white wine.
Time of the year
If it’s hot out, people tend to drink more and lean towards tonic water and beer. If it’s cold, guests tend to drink less and favor red wine.
Day of the week
If you’re hosting a corporate mixer on a Wednesday afternoon, most guests are likely to take it easier since they’re in a professional environment and know they have to make it into the office. On the other hand, the same corporate mixer on a Friday evening could end with a lot more drinks going down.
Type of Party
Super Bowl parties and Fraternity parties are going to get rowdier than a business cocktail party. Plan accordingly.
Know your guests. We will be happy to make suggestions, but you should be aware there is a significant amount of variation between regions and cultures.
If your guests are from the South, you’ll go through a lot more bourbon and beer than if they’re from New England. If you’re unsure, talk it over with any of our event planners and they will be happy to help arrive at a reasonable mix for your event.
Are guests driving to the venue or is their transportation? If they’re driving, they won’t drink nearly as much.
Obviously there’s a lot to think about here and we hope we’ve given you a good idea of where to get started. If you have any more questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to call us and talk over your plans and let us help you plan a successful event!
For catered events, we offer customizable Beer and Wine Services to suit your specific needs.