When it comes to choosing the right bar service or package for your event, the primary bar options include Open or Hosted Bar, Consumption Bar, and Cash Bar. Determining which is best means understanding what each one includes (and what it doesn’t), as well as considering factors such as the event’s purpose and guest expectations.

Open or Hosted Bar

This type of bar service allows guests to order as many drinks as they like without having to pay for them or tipping the bar staff. Open bar packages are charged on a per person basis, and may incur additional charges such as bar staff, back bar fees, and gratuities. This is all paid for by the host, regardless of how many drinks are served. An open bar adds a level of luxury and is a good option for groups who consume a higher than average number of drinks per person. It’s also a good choice if the event is focused on celebrating or recognizing the attendees (think incentive or awards event).

Consumption Bar

This type of bar service is similar to an open bar except that the host only pays for what is served. This is a good option if guests aren’t big drinkers or the guest count is moderate. The host still may incur those additional charges, and some hotels require the host to pre-purchase the alcohol. This can limit guest choices to what has been made available, and if replenishment is needed or requested, additional charges would apply. Consumption bars are good for events with a focused itinerary (think executive working lunches).

Cash Bar

This type of bar service puts the burden of paying for drinks and tips for the bar staff on the guest. While hosts may still incur charges for bar staff fees, back bars, etc., this option can be ideal for modest budgets, or events where guests are expecting to purchase their own drinks (think closing night dinners).

Since most of us aren’t blessed with unlimited event funds (need a budget to figure this out?), getting creative and combining elements of each bar type can help meet budget requirements. Consider an open bar with house brand beer, wine, and one or two specialty drinks for an industry welcome reception. Choose a cash bar with tickets/wristbands for event staff, billed on consumption, for an offsite dinner. Celebrate utilizing a cash bar with hosted specialty cocktail offered upon guests’ arrival at a final night’s reception.

No matter what type of event you’re planning, there’s an ideal bar service option that will meet your budget and help deliver your desired guest experience.

If you’d like to work with a seasoned planner who can help you make these decisions, contact us today!