bartender compensation
March 6, 2017 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In an open bar situation (i.e. no POS), what is a reasonable way to compensate a bartender for their time and labor?

My brother is getting married in June (yes, very soon!) and so we are now kind of in RUSH PLANNING mode. The plan is that after the ceremony there will be a reception followed by a dinner. During the socializing part of the reception, bro and bro's fiancee would like to have a very minimal bar setup for the guests - a couple of beers, one red wine, one white wine, and maaaaaybe one specialty cocktail.

The venue is set but isn't the type of venue that has catering staff available to us. But we do have a bartender friend who has offered to bartend the event. Obviously, she's not going to bartend free of charge because bro and bro's fiancee are not assholes. However, we are not entirely sure what is a good way to compensate the bartender for her time, given that this will be an open bar.

I have worked in and around the hospitality industry as a purchasing agent for a decade, which is why the handling of this issue (and basically all issues pertaining to vendor management) has been delegated to me. I have a sense of what is an appropriate hourly wage for a bartender, but that wage calculation also includes the assumption that customers will be tipping 15-25%. For an open bar we have no way to guarantee that wedding guests would tip (and given the demographic of the guests it likely wouldn't occur to any of them to tip) and we don't want to insult our bartender friend with a lowball offer. I have no problem asking her how much she would charge for her services but I'd like to have a sense of what is reasonable in this circumstance so I can be somewhat informed when we do have this conversation.

Let's say the reception + dinner is going to be 5 hours total, with no more than 50 guests. The wedding is in the Hudson Valley. Are there any bartenders/catering manager Mefites who can give me a sense of how much would be appropriate to compensate a bartender for this kind of event given these parameters?

Thank you!
posted by thereemix to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
For our wedding, (with a very similar bar set up) we agreed to an hourly rate (negotiated as part of our catering and staffing package) and tipped out all of the waitstaff, bartenders and the manager who was onsite with us based on what was recommended on a million wedding blogs/in books. I'm sure if you ask your friend, she'll have a figure in mind. Calling around to a couple of caterers might give you a ballpark figure if you're really stuck. This tipping guide is in line with what I remember reading back then too.
posted by goggie at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2017


I have a sense of what is an appropriate hourly wage for a bartender, but that wage calculation also includes the assumption that customers will be tipping 15-25%.

Take what you already know to be an appropriate hourly wage, reduce by the amount that would usually be deducted for taxes etc. (presumably payment will be under the table), and add 15-25% of the cost to you of the drinks.

Just curious, what is "no POS"?
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind too that she'll be paid significantly more on the hourly side than she would typically be compensated in a bar. Somewhere between 20 and $35 depending on the going rate near you.
posted by goggie at 1:46 PM on March 6, 2017


For an open bar we have no way to guarantee that wedding guests would tip (and given the demographic of the guests it likely wouldn't occur to any of them to tip) and we don't want to insult our bartender friend with a lowball offer.

You should find out how the bride and groom want to run things, but my expectation is that in this kind of circumstance tipping would be actively discouraged (no jar + "That's very kind, but I'm not accepting gratuities").

Which makes your job easy. Figure out what a bartender would make hourly, inclusive of tips, and pay that. I don't have a number because this depends on your location and bartender. I would ask the friend for their estimate, and pay them that.
posted by danny the boy at 1:52 PM on March 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Just curious, what is "no POS"?
no Point of Sale
posted by soelo at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


It'll depend on the crowd, but the average man in a catering situation consumes 1.5-2 drinks in the first hour and the average woman consumes an average of 0.5-1 drinks. After dinner, men consume at about a rate of 1 drink per hour and women average 1 to 1.5 drinks every two and a half hours.

So you're asking someone to prepare roughly 215 drinks if the bartender works the entire time. If they were doing that in a bar, they'd likely make at least $250 in tips, though they'd also be doing less fun things like having to clean up the bar afterwards.

It feels like having someone as bartender the entire time is overkill, so what I might suggest is asking her to just do the cocktail hour and let people pour their own wine after that. Most of the bartenders I know wouldn't be offended if you offered $50-80 for that and quite a few would say that doing so would just be part of their gift to you.
posted by Candleman at 2:04 PM on March 6, 2017


let people pour their own wine after that

Depends on the venue, but if it's any type of moderately formal venue there's a good chance they won't allow this, and will require a licensed bartender for any alcohol service. It comes down to a liability issue: the licensed bartender will, at least theoretically, check IDs of people who may be underage, and cut off anyone who is notably intoxicated.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:39 PM on March 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also think about whether you're going to ask them to pour and serve a champagne toast. They'll need help for that.

Definitely do not have a tip jar and don't encourage tipping by guests. Tacky at a wedding with open bar. Instead, plan to pay her by the hour, but also give a generous tip yourself at the end of the event.
posted by Miko at 6:44 PM on March 6, 2017


« Older The Italians are after me for a two year old...   |   Is this how a smart company works? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.