Cut the Line: Planning Your Bar Menu for Events

Everyone's least favorite part of life, including our own, is waiting in line. Our cocktails are fresh, made to order, and taste and presentation are of utmost concern to us. This process takes time. We also hate long lines as much as the next guy, so we work with clients to balance several factors when planning their "garden to glass" craft bar to help avoid lines without sacrificing quality.

Quantity of Bartenders

First, we recommend using ours, or another really reputable company's bartenders who specialize in event bartending. Working events is an entirely different set of skills than most bar and restaurant experience gives you, and you want to hire someone who has done it well. We generally have one very talented, funny and good looking bartender (we gotta keep these guys happily employed, and flattery doesn’t hurt!) per 75 people at an event. One skilled bartender can serve a group this size very well unless large or complex menus come into play. However, there are several other factors that come into play to determine the number of bartenders needed and the possible efficiency of an event bar, and they are enumerated on below.

 

Planning Your Bar Menu

 The complexity of the menu plays a huge role in our possible efficiency. Unlike a fixture bar with tons of space, storage, and refrigeration, our mobility and limited space mean that a leaner menu will be helpful to promote efficiency and allow us to make your drinks faster. We just don't have the luxury of keeping everything under the sun cold and fingertip ready in the approximately 15 square feet that space we usually have to work in. Also, the larger the menu, the more your guests will hem and haw at the front of the bar line, especially if all of the options sound delicious, as is (not so humble brag) usually the case with our menus.

 I can assure you, this line moved very quickly! Photo by Toni Christine photography

I can assure you, this line moved very quickly! Photo by Toni Christine photography

With 1-2 light spirit cocktails, one dark spirit cocktail, beer, and wine offered, everyone is going to be able to find something exciting to order. The only exception we have ever seen after hundreds of events worked is the one time one woman wanted to order only a Bloody Mary. She was #bloodymaryorbust and walked away when it wasn't on the menu. But the truth is, it's an event bar, not a neighborhood bar, and guests generally expect to see a edited menu and are happy as long as you have a good quality selection and tasty sounding drinks to choose from. They will be able to order faster, keeping the line shorter, if you don't overwhelm them with choices. For these reasons, we highly recommend a curated menu of 3-5 wine varieties, 2-3 beer/cider options, and up to 4 signature cocktails.

Selecting the right signature drinks for events

Drink choice- as well as the number of varieties offered, the type of drink offered will play a role in the speed of preparation. Cocktails can contain 2, 3, or 7 steps each so working with your bartender to pick a recipe that is either simple or has steps that can be combined in a partial pre-batch will hasten speed per guest served. Definitely keep on the menu drinks that have special meaning to you, as one recent Pisco-Sour loving couple did (This egg white cocktail involves about 90 seconds of shaking per drink) but balance them with other, faster drinks on your specialty cocktail menu like they did, by also offering a spritz and a mule. Please, do not let your staff pre-batch entire drinks or try to mix batch drinks yourself to be served out of large dispensers, college party style, unless you are working with a solid understanding of cocktails and using a specific recipe made for this. Unless cocktails are either formulated with special recipes and methodology as in punch recipes, or kegged and pressurized to maintain freshness and consistency, quality of taste suffers in an extreme way! Stirred drinks like flavored lemonades, spritzes, fizzes, and spirit + soda cocktails are some of the speediest drinks to make so you might consider adding at least one of these to your menu. 

Consider hiring help for public, corporate, and non-profit events

ID checking- we typically don't ID every guest, or even most, but we absolutely have the right to and are held responsible by our state's liquor laws to do so properly. Fumbling for wallets and going back to tables to grab purses slow down the front of the line. To alleviate this time spent, have a qualified individual such as an alcohol service permitted bouncer check IDS at the door or working through the line, and use a wristband system to mark guests who have been verified to be over 21 with proper ID. This is mostly recommended for corporate events, fundraisers, and public beer garden events. At an event like a wedding, you might remind guests to bring ID's on your wedding website's travel section, take care to remind your wedding party separately since personal effects are often stored together if the wedding party got ready together.

How to Speed Up the Line at Your Event Bar

Tricks of the Trade- there are inevitably times in an event's schedule when a bar will experience a rush, such as post-ceremony at a wedding, or at the conclusion of an employee meeting. During these peak times, some things that will help move the bar faster include:

·       Signage- add signs the back of the line about ID checking and/or menu options so guests are ready by the time they reach the front. You could also print the bar menu on menus at your guest's table settings so they can dream about their order before they reach the bar.

·       Welcome cocktails- alleviate some of the line from a mad rush to the bar at the start of the evening by planning one batchable cocktail like our Spring Sangria (see note above, we make this recipe very carefully to ensure it tastes great when made ahead of time in a big volume)for your "welcome to the event" cocktail. Welcome cocktails help greet guests hospitably, quickly, and set a tone for your event, whether by incorporating themed flavors, colors, or both. With their thirst satiated by this quick-serve drink, they will meander back to the bar at a more varied pace.

·       Disposable cups- as well as being nearly equally earth-friendly when compared to the transportation, washing, and packing required to serve an event with rented glassware, recyclable or compostable disposable cups are much faster to use in service. We provide skilled bussers to stock and bus all glassware service for best possible results with glassware, however, nothing will be faster than reaching for a sleeve of earth-friendly single-use cups.

·       On that green note- save the seas and a tiny bit of your bartender's time by forgoing straws. Most guests ignore them, they pollute our waterways, and adding a straw takes about a half second.