So you're having a party or event and you're interested in hiring a Professional Bartender/Mixologist to take care of you and your guests? Great idea! But how do you evaluate professional bartenders and which service is the best for you? After all, it is a profession that many people are truly unfamiliar with. There is a lot that the common man or woman does not know. Here are the questions you should ask before you consider hiring a Professional Bartender/Mixologist. Make sure they meet all or most of these requirements. Sometimes go with your gut and make sure there is good rapport and trust. Otherwise, you aren't getting your money's worth.
Make sure the Bartender you hire has actual experience bartending. They don't need to have 10 years of experience (though that's a plus) but they do need at least a few months experience in an actual bar or bartending private parties. The training at Bartending Schools can be very valuable for private parties as well. A graduate will at least know how make the drinks your guests will request. Make sure to ask your Bartender what kind of experience he or she has and make sure they have at least 6 months under their belt of actual bartending.
Here is another important detail. Does the Bartender you're considering have a website? You don't have to entirely discount them if they don't but be a little leery. After all, you won't know what they look like, what kind of services they provide, or anything else until you call them. If they do have a website, what does it say about them? A website is important because you can gather the details of their business including contact info, pictures, video, testimonials, links to other party professionals and/or articles, plus you can tell that they take their business seriously. It's even better if they offer you free advice right off their website.
Highly important. How quickly do they respond to your emails, phone calls,and inquiries? You don't want to have to hunt them down if you have an important question. If they don't respond to your initial request within 24 hours then move on to another Bartender.
Willingness to Travel
Is the Bartender willing to travel to your event? Does he or she charge a gas surcharge to come to your event? Find these details out beforehand. A gas surcharge isn't necessarily a bad thing especially if they offer better services than your local Bartender, but make sure it isn't more than $50 or at least isn't more than what you're willing to pay.
Your Private Party Bartender should have General and Liquor Liability insurance, especially in PA. Don't choose a Bartender unless they have these insurances.
Responsible Vendor Training
Your Bartender for hire should also have some sort of responsible vendor training for alcohol under their belt such as RAMP. This way they have a good legal sense about what they're doing and it could prevent some bad situations from occurring.
Small or Large Business Preference
Hiring from a large bartending business can be a good thing because you know they have a lot of experience, probably great testimonials and happy customers, and chances are they'll have a bartender or two for your event without saying "we're booked out for that night". However, the person you talk to on the phone probably isn't going to be the one bartending at your event, and the average employee might not be as inclined to provide exceptional service since they generally don't work on tips but on an hourly wage. Rates are generally higher due to a larger overhead and usually charge extra fees. Also, the bartenders tend not to have as much knowledge of industry trends, cocktail knowledge, and being creative. On the other hand, a small bartending business may be new to the field and might not have as much availability or resources. But chances are the actual owner will be bartending your event and therefore will be far more inclined to give great service since the name of their business is at stake and they are trying to build their business.
How soon will they arrive?
Make sure your Bartender-for-hire arrives no later than 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to your event. One hour before is even better. Otherwise, there's no telling if they'll be on time or not. Plus, if they offer comprehensive services, like cutting garnishes, icing down beverages, organizing liquor bottles, juices, mixers, etc… it will take more time.
Make sure your Bartender brings their own supplies including all mixing supplies, speed pourer spouts for liquor bottles, wine key, bottle opener, garnish tray, towels, ice bins, knife and cutting board (for garnishes), and other tools at a minimum.
Do they offer a portable bar? If you don't need one then this issue won't be a big deal but if you do, make sure they have one available for your event. Also, make sure they don't charge more than $50 extra for this service. Not a deal breaker though. Tables functionally can serve the purpose
Custom Shopping List
Every Bartender should give you a free customized shopping list right after you book. Make sure it includes not just alcohol products but quantities, measurements, garnishes, accessories, brands, mixers. The more guidance they provide, the better.
Custom Cocktail Menu
This is a great bonus to have. If you wish to have a cocktail menu, having a Bartending Service provide one for you based on your specifications and taste preferences is an awesome service to have. Depending on the extent of the menu and time required to create and develop the menu, there may be a small charge. Most services do not or waive the charge if booked.
Party Planning Advice
This is must have for a Private Party Bartender. They should be able to provide you with answers in a timely manner about any party planning question concerning the bar that you may have. If they don't, then don't waste your time.
Free pre-party setup
This is a plus and can save you money. Bartenders should be able to arrive an hour early and set-up for free.
Does your Mobile Bartender provide you additional options or packages? Go with a Bartender that is flexible and gives you options for a bar, garnishes and plastic ware should you need it. Having a list of services speaks well of a bartending business' level of commitment and the quality of their service. Avoid bartending services that charge fees for setup, cleanup, charges per hour, bartender fees, drink level packages.
How will your bartender present? Attire should match the type of event. A bow tie is not necessary for a pool party or summer event. Same goes for a private cocktail party. If it's casual, then a nice long-sleeve button down shirt for fall and winter is fine or polo/dressy short-sleeve shirt is fine for summer. Black pants and black shoes/sneakers a must. Looking professional and well-groomed is the key.
Prices & Gratuity
Though you don't want a Bartending service to leave a horrible gash in your wallet, don't go with a cheap service either. The services that cost more will usually deliver more. Also, you should expect to pay more if you live in an affluent or a high cost of living area. However, make sure you get the most bang for your buck. If a Bartender service charges $300 for 4 hours plus gratuity yet doesn't provide you a shopping list, cocktail menu, advice as you ask for it, they have no flexibility and charge for pre-party setup, find another Bartender. Also, go with a Bartending service that requires gratuity. Even though it's extra money that you or your guests will pay, that Bartender will be more motivated and far more inclined to provide great service. Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for and if you want premium service, expect to pay premium prices.
GOOD NEWS - If you're wondering, 'Raise Your Spirits, Inc.' provides all of this and much more... Winner of the 2015 "Best of Harrisburg" for event planning, event services, bartending services, and hospitality services and 2015 “Best of Thumbtack” for Central PA in exceptional customer service.
Contact them immediately for bar needs and check out their reviews and testimonials on their website, Thumbtack, and facebook to see what people are saying...
Michael Nagy, Owner & Operator
Raise Your Spirits, Inc.