Bartender cost guide

An event such as a wedding or a birthday party is normally a grandiose undertaking. The organizers need to consider a bunch of things, starting from a suitable celebration party venue and ending with appropriate transportation. In addition, it's almost impossible to imagine a remarkable event without champagne, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. As the invitees along with the hosts want to enjoy every moment of the festive dinner, most people prefer paying waiters/waitresses and bartenders for serving food and drinks to them.

Here you will learn about:

Bartenders are professionals whose main job is to prepare and serve alcoholic, mixed, or non-alcoholic beverages to customers or guests. They may provide their services in a variety of places:

  • restaurants
  • bars
  • nightclubs
  • hotels
  • private events such as birthday parties

Bartenders need to know everything about serving standard alcoholic drinks, which may include vodka, scotch, or different types of wine or beer. They must also be able to prepare mixed or non-alcoholic drinks. Among other responsibilities of bartenders are these:

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  • Keeping drinking glasses spotlessly clean
  • Arranging the bottles in the bar so that they look aesthetically appealing
  • Occasionally serving food and assisting the personnel of the establishment in their duties

Typically, bartenders must be 21 years of age or older, although certain states allow 18-year-olds to serve alcohol as well. Many bartenders finish specialized schools, although it's not formally required. The average hourly rate bartenders charge at private events ranges from $40 to $55 plus tips, depending on a number of factors.

Price-related questions

What payment structures do bartenders use and how much do they charge for serving at private events?

There are normally two payment structures:

1. Per hour regardless of the number of hours served. The average hourly rate for private events is in the range from $40 to $55.

2. Flat fee for a specific number of hours. For any time above that, a per hour fee is taken. For instance, if a bartender served four stipulated hours for a flat fee of $180 with their hourly rate being $50, every extra hour will cost you exactly that hourly fee ($50).

What other factors may have an impact on the total cost?

1. How many people have come to the event. The more guests you have, the more money you will have to pay as one bartender may not be able to cope with their duties alone. If you hire two professionals, the fee doubles.

2. Elaborate mixed drinks that take much time to prepare: you may need to hire more bartenders to split the workload between them. That, again, will make your wallet lighter.

3. Bar backs. If you are entertaining a really huge crowd, bartenders may need all the assistance they can get to let things run smoothly. Bar backs or bar assistants ensure that bartenders always have alcohol, glasses, cocktail straws, ice, and other necessities on hand. While bar backs are cheaper than professional bartenders, you'll still have to pay them at least $20 an hour on average.

4. Gratuity. Certain bartenders raise their hourly rates if the host forbids a tip jar at the event. How much more you'll have to pay depends on the number of invitees and their status since bartenders need a compensation for a potential revenue they've lost.

5. Event date. If you are going to throw a party on the 4th of July, expect to pay around 30 percent more than on an ordinary day. For instance, a bartender who normally charges $40 dollars per hour, may ask for a 15-dollar increment ($55).

6. Paraphernalia for rent. In many cases, bartenders offer hosts items and equipment for rent. The list may include the following things:

  • Glasses: champagne flutes – $4 for one flute and martini glasses for the same price
  • Mobile bar: $100
  • Bus boxes to collect used glassware: $3 for one box

7. Getting the bartending service to buy what is required for the event like alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages or napkins. The exact amount varies from company to company, but it's customary to ask hosts for around 15 percent of the total figure in the store receipt.

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Information to check

1. Ask if the bartender is certified for safety. While requirements vary in different states, a certificate is a proof that a bartender knows how to deal with people influenced by alcohol to avoid liability.

Although different states and even cities have their own certification programs for bartenders, the most popular services nationwide are these:

  • ServSafe Alcohol. This program designed by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is being constantly updated in accordance with the most recent regulatory changes in different states. Bartenders need to take exams in order to be ServSafe Alcohol certified.
  • Training for Intervention procedureS (TIPS). The program teaches bartenders how to discourage their customers from sitting at the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol, as well as how to prevent young people who haven't reached the legal drinking age from touching alcoholic beverages. To obtain the certificate, bartenders must show their knowledge to an examination board.

2. Inquire the owners of the establishment where you're planning to hold your event what alcoholic beverages are allowed to be served (only wine/beer or liquor as well). Otherwise, you may be held liable.

3. Ask the bartender if he/she has an appropriate license from the state. Every bartender must be licensed to provide their service at a public location.

4. Ask the bartender if he/she can make elaborate mixed drinks and what experience they have in general.

Other frequently asked questions

Can I impose my own dress code for the bartender I've hired?

Yes, you can inform the bartender if you want him/her to dress in a specific way, for example, wear a uniform.

How can I determine the right number of bartenders for my event?

Experts recommend hiring one bartender for 50-70 guests. You may also consider hiring one or several bar backs. Ask the bartender you've hired if he/she will need assistance.

How can I prevent kids and teenagers from drinking alcohol at my event ?

The standard method is for the bartender to ask any of your guests who look younger than 25 to produce their ID.

Do bartenders need to obtain a nationally-recognized license?

There is no single bartending license in the United States. Each state has its own requirements and training programs that teach bartenders essential skills and safety procedures related to serving alcoholic beverages to public. Completing those programs may be obligatory is some states, counties, or even cities, while others don't require it. In certain cases, it even comes down to separate bars. While one bar may mandate its employees to have a corresponding certificate such as TIPS, an establishment across the road may not. This question needs further reviewing.

Are bartenders required to finish a specialized school?

No, they are not. You won't find a state where the owner of a bar will formally require a job seeker to have finished a bartending school. Such schools are privately-owned educational establishments that will teach people who want to get a foothold in the industry some essential things such as preparing different kinds of drinks and approaching various types of customers. A course normally lasts about 14 days and may cost up to a few hundred dollars. While much information given in these schools is really useful to a beginner, many bartenders start their career as bar backs to acquire the right hands-on skills.

Bottom line

Bartenders across the United States usually charge event hosts either per hour or for a fixed number of hours plus a per hour fee for any overtime. The average per hour fee falls within the range $40-$55. There are other expenses you may incur such as hiring additional bartenders and bar backs if the number of your guests is very large, renting essential things such as drinking glasses, or increased fee on holidays.

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