Post # 1
Fiance and I are having our reception at a restaurant (in their event space) and are having an open bar. A wedding planner friend brought up a really good point to us the other day…
She asked us how we were going to track the drinks at our open bar. I hadn’t thought about this, but the restaurant obviously won’t be ringing in every drink as it’s poured. When bartenders get busy, they may not keep close track of how many they’ve poured. They could think they’ve poured 10 when it was really 8. Or vice-versa. But we could potentially end up really over-paying. So the friend asked us how we plan to handle vendor accountability and ensure the drink count is as accurate as possible.
Two options came up – drink tickets and bottle counting. I’d really rather not do drink tickets. I just want my guests to feel like they’re a guest. As if they were in my home. I wouldn’t ask for a drink ticket at my house. 🙂 But bottle counting doesn’t seem very accurate either. You could assume that each bottle is 25 drinks and have the bartenders show you the empty bottles at the end of the night. But our venue charges differently for well drinks vs. signature cocktails. Our signature cocktails will be more. I suppose we could use a particular liquor for our signature cocktails that isn’t the standard well. But they’re also a microbrewery and the beer will be poured from kegs. So they couldn’t exactly count bottles for that either.
Have any other Bees run across this issue? If so, how did you handle it? I plan on contacting my coordinator at our venue about it but I wanted to get an idea of what our options may be first. Thanks!!
Post # 3
Have you asked the restaurant? I find it strange that they wouldn’t be tracking the drinks at all. We are just paying a per person which well most likely cost less in the long run. We asked how they do it if we were to pay per drink and they told us they would ring it up like normal and just give us the tab at the end of the night.
Post # 4
I think an open bar is usually run as a per-person cost… but it is strange that they don’t have a system.
Get in contact with your venue (with someone who knows!) and ask how they do it. If that doesn’t work, post up a seperate question somewhere about your specific venue and the experience others have had with an open bar.
but really, your venue should be able to clearly explain to you how you’ll be charged. In writing.
Post # 5
Why would you need to track drinks with open bar? Open bar is one flat rate for however many drinks your guests order. No need to count anything or worry about over paying because you won’t get any money back if you pay $5000 for your open bar and your guests only drink $3500 worth.
Consumption service is more like what you’re describing, where guests can order whatever they want, and the bartenders ring it in on a tab that gets cashed out and paid by someone at the end of the night.
Post # 6
I work as a meeting/event coordinator for a University and when my department has an open bar we do something called a “tally bar” where the bartenders keep a list of what they have served. This would be tough to do with a large wedding (we usually cap at 60 ppl) but I would definitely ask for the drinks to be charged through toa tab if you are not doing a set price either as an overall format (as in $5000 set price for whatever amount of beverages are served) or a per person price.
I’m sure your venue must know how to do this if they have an event space and hold weddings regularly. Just ask them their plan 🙂
Post # 7
@vorpalette: I think she means open bar as in “guests can get whatever they want and don’t have to pay for it”, but because it’s a restaurant they won’t offer a flat rate, simply at the end of the night they’ll pay for every drink ordered.
Post # 8
I guess we’ve been using the term “open bar” incorrectly. Our bar will be open in that our guests will not have to pay for drinks and can order whatever they like. But our venue doesn’t charge us a flat rate. Since we’re having it at a restaurant, we’re charged per drink. $5 for wells and draft beer, $7 for signature cocktails. She gave us an estimate of 3 drinks per person for our quote, but that won’t be the final bill. I plan on contacting the venue, but I wanted to begin the conversation in an informed way. I find that the bees generally have some really good ideas and advice.
Post # 9
@BrewCityBRIDE2014: Thanks for the advice! I think we’re on the same page. 🙂 How are the bartenders kept accountable for the tally? If they get busy, how do you know the tally sheet is accurate?
Post # 10
@MrsRight: How long is the reception? a 3-drink average seems low to me, but my friends are drunks 😉
Post # 11
I think any bartender working at a relatively busy bar would be capable of making sure drinks are being rung up properly. After all, there’s no difference from the bartender’s perspective if the tab is all for one big group, or if it’s many small tabs for individual groups of strangers. I would ask the restaurant what percentage of the bartenders will be their regular employees and what percentage would be temps/now-and-then bartenders. If you’ve got a seasoned crew that usually works at that bar, you can pretty much assume that they’ll use whatever system they already have in place and that the system is accurate (otherwise they would have customers complaining about messed-up bills or owners complaining about missing alcohol, all the time).
Post # 12
@MrsRight: Okay, you’re doing consumption service, not open bar. Open bar = flat rate per guest that you pay up front. Consumption service is where they tally each drink. But @fishbone is right that any bartender worth his or her job will be just fine. They’ll take the order, and either make the drink or ring it in/write it down (whichever comes first for them). Seasoned bartenders are great at keeping track.
Post # 13
I’m sure every place is different, but it really seems odd to me that your venue would count drinks when you’re paying for an open bar. The reason open bars are so expensive is it’s a flat fee for a certain number of hours…regardless of how much is consumed. I would check with your vendor/read your contract to clarify what their policies are and what you paid for before you get worried with finding a solution to drink counting.
Perhaps you’re thinking of a bar that has open options to guests, but you pay for the guests usage (many call it price based on consumption). So if you end up with pay based on consumption, I’m not totally sure there is a great way to accurately keep track without making it obvious to your guests.
Post # 14
@bkrocks13: hahaha I hear ya! Our families don’t drink but our friends sure do!! So about 40-50% of our guests would drink. Plus, it’s a cocktail reception. So I thought there would prob be more drinks ordered than at a full dinner.
Post # 15
Every wedding I’ve ever been to with an open bar (in our area the only kind is consumption based – liquor laws reasons), the bartender keeps a tally and does ring it in somewhere. You should be able to get a breakdown sheet at the end of the night: 24 of beer a, 22 of beer b, 18 rum and coke, 33 wine a, etc. You get the idea.
Post # 16
@MrsRight: We don’t know for sure that they have done everything correctly but that is a risk you take when you do an open bar without the set price or a tab, unfortunately.
Since it seems like you have a wedding coordinator, if she’ll still be around during the reception and you/venue uses the tally system, have her occasionally check the tally sheets to see if anything jumps out to her as off. It won’t be perfect but better than just guessing.