8 Questions to Ask Your Bartending Service

We know how important it is for everything to be just right when you’re celebrating with family, friends, or coworkers. One component of many events is drink service, which is why we’ve compiled this list of eight questions to ask your bartending service before your event.

Ensure you have enough alcohol for everyone, all the supplies you need, and certified bartenders to keep you and your guests safe.

Guests pick up beer from the On the Rocks bar trailer at a summer HOA mixer.

How far in advance should I book?

You don’t want to be scrambling last-minute to find a bartending service suitable for your venue and event. Traditional wisdom for a wedding is to book your bartending service 6 months in advance. 

With current industry-wide shortages, it’s best to book even earlier. For shorter, smaller events and weekday events, you may be able to get away with booking closer to your event date.

Even if your event is just a couple of weeks away, reach out to us. Our flexibility and mobility makes our mobile bar ideal for last-minute bookings. 

How do you charge for your time and for drinks?

You’ll want to know the breakdown of your bartending service’s pricing, so you know where you might be able to save money for your event and where you should allocate more funds. 

Some bartending services charge an hourly rate for bartending, typically with a minimum number of hours, while others charge a flat rate. Some bartending services, particularly those associated with a venue, charge you, the customer, an amount per drink that includes an upcharge. 

Finally, some bartending services will require you to rent the necessary equipment, such as glassware and other supplies, and the bar itself (this applies to both mobile bartending services and mobile bar trailers).

On the Rocks offers some of the most affordable rates in northern Colorado. We charge to cover the use of our bar trailer, Pearl, and charge for bartending services for packages that include them. We do not charge extra for travel within 25 miles, and, since you provide your own alcohol, there is no per-drink upcharge!

View our packages and pricing here.

What is your tipping protocol?

When bartending services are included in your catering or venue package, gratuity is typically included as part of your bill. If you’ve hired an outside bartender, a traditional tip is 10-15 percent of the pre-tax bar bill. 

Alternatively, if your event is serviced by multiple bartenders or you did not pay a tip to your bartending company, you may choose to tip your bartender for the entire evening, or use a tip jar so guests can tip for the services provided. 

Since we don’t sell alcohol at On the Rocks, tips are not calculated into drink prices. We use tip jars because we believe our bartenders deserve to be recognized for their stellar service!

On the Rocks TIPS-certified bartender Tiffany wears a mask while holding two Moscow mules at a Valentine’s Day wedding during the pandemic.

Are your bartenders trained in safe service?

This is a biggie – not all bartenders are created equal. Some bartenders may have no formal training. Depending on what state you’re in, your bartender may be required to have a bartender license. Often, this license just allows a bartender to serve beer and wine, and does not include mixology or safe service training. 

Some states offer a bartender certification, which does include mixology training and responsible service training. 

A TIPS-certified bartender is recognized in every state and city in the U.S. as someone who can legally and safely serve all types of alcoholic beverages. TIPS-certified servers are versed in:

  • State liquor laws
  • Identifying fraudulent IDs
  • Recognizing the signs of intoxication
  • Proper incident reporting, should the need arise, and 
  • The “people skills” needed to enforce safe service while de-escalating difficult situations

All of our On the Rocks bartenders are TIPS certified, which protects you, our client, and your guests.

A bottle opener and lime and celery garnishes are displayed on the bar top inside the On The Rocks mobile bar trailer.

Who will provide alcohol, mixers, and garnishes? What about supplies?

What is supplied by your bartending service varies greatly from company to company and based on type of service. Bartending services included with catering are most likely to include all of these items, but at significant cost. 

Mobile bartenders may provide some, but not all of these items. Purchasing your own alcohol, if your bartending service allows it, is always more cost-effective than purchasing it through a catering company or venue. The same can be said for mixers and garnishes.

Our packages include drinkware, napkins, straws, and standard bartending utensils. Because we do not sell alcohol, we serve alcohol that is purchased by you, our client. This means you can shop around to find the best deals, and you won’t pay any upcharges. 

How much alcohol should I buy, and what kind?

We can help with this! Any reputable bartending service should be able to assist you in calculating how much alcohol you need based on your guest count and length of your event during your consultation. 

We are always happy to recommend types of alcohol, brands of alcohol, brainstorm signature cocktail ideas, and even recommend alcohol-free or “dry bar” options.

On the Rocks bartender Kathy wipes down the bar after an HOA mixer event.

Who is responsible for setup and cleanup?

Don’t be stuck with clean up duty at the end of your event. You might be surprised to learn that many venues hold the client responsible for cleanup, which means if you haven’t hired someone, your friends and family could be left doing it themselves.

Catering companies typically carry out their own cleanup during and after the event. An independent bartending service may or may not. 

We consider our bar trailer, Pearl, to be our responsibility. Any of our packages that include bartending service also include setup of the bar for your event and bar cleanup afterwards. However, you’ll still need someone to clean up any waste not contained within the bar.

What type of license do you have?

License requirements vary by state and according to the type of bartending service. A liquor license is required for bartending services that provide and sell their own alcohol. 

In addition, some venues require you or your bartending service to purchase a liability license, which is an insurance plan that protects the business from paying the full cost of any liability claims stemming from damage to property or safety concerns.

Mobile bars in Colorado cannot sell alcohol and therefore do not hold a liquor license. Our TIPS-certified bartenders are a great line of defense against personal or property damage incidents arising from intoxicated guests. As part of their training, our bartenders also carry a journal for legal use to record such incidents.

Book On the Rocks for your next event for safe alcohol service at an affordable price. For nonprofit, corporate, wedding, and private party news and tips, follow On the Rocks on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find bar decor and drink ideas on our Pinterest board.

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