Open Bar VS. Cash Bar

Open Bar VS. Cash Bar

Anytime you’re hosting an adult event where you will be serving alcohol, you will probably have to decide between a cash or open bar. There are a lot of benefits to both formats but deciding which one works best for your event is dependent on your guests, budget, and party size. If you’re not sure which one to choose, here are some things you can consider before making your decision.

Open Bar

An open bar provides guests with the opportunity to choose any available drink without having to pay. It is often paid for by those hosting the event. As many catering companies or venues offer an open bar style, some will provide more services than others. This can include their own garnishes, glasses, bar table, etc. This will help determine what will be offered and what drink selection will be available. Make sure that the bartender you hire meets your budget and has everything you need. If they provide glasses and you already have them, don’t be afraid to request a decrease in price for the items you won’t use.

Advantage

The goal of any event is to have your guests enjoy themselves and mingle with others. Providing guests with the opportunity to drink whatever and whenever can help to encourage guests to make new friends and network with others. No matter what type of event you are holding, alcohol can keep the atmosphere and mood fun and upbeat. You can even get more people to join in on the dance floor. When having a fundraiser or VIP event, you want to show your guests you appreciate their generosity and say thank you for their participation in the cause. Most often, but not all the time, guests at a professional conference or event are in attendance for work purposes and may not be open to mingling. Open bars are a great way to provide your attendees with the opportunity to loosen up, network, and thank them for coming. Additionally, guests will be more likely to stay later.

Choosing an open bar can save you a lot of time. When planning for an event, you are already taking so many factors into account and ensuring everything else will run smoothly. Make sure you are spending your time on things that matter most. Vendors will vary on what they offer in their services. But one consistent thing is that it removes a lot of the decision-making in your planning process. Open bars eliminate the need to guess what drink guests will like, what will be complimentary, how much to provide, what garnishes you need, serving items, and so forth. 

Disadvantage

Since you are paying for the drinks, you will be taking a bit more out of your budget for it. Depending on the caterer you hire, you can pay in advance or after the event takes place. The fee is often determined by an hourly fee, drink packages, or per-head cost. Keep in mind the additional costs of having an open bar. Take taxes, set-up fees, corking fees, and hourly bartender fees into consideration and don’t be afraid to ask about all the costs upfront. If a full open bar is too expensive and doesn’t make your budget, you can offer a limited open bar. Limited open bars offer drinks for free for only part of the event. This is usually during happy hour (during dinner) or the final hours of the event.

Anytime there is alcohol, the risk of someone having one too many is there. Open bars are more likely to cause guests to overindulge and become overly intoxicated. Planning for providing transportation or accommodation is smart, but it adds to the number of things you have to plan and spend on. You may have to determine a cut-off number that can make guests upset or uncomfortable. 

Cash Bar

A cash bar is when guests are expected to purchase their own drinks. They are common at events where many in attendance will not yet be of legal drinking age, such as BBQs and college formals.

Advantage 

Guests can pay with credit, cash or create a tab and pay at the end of the night. The most significant and principal factor of choosing a cash bar is it saves you money. If you are working around a tight budget or planning a minor event, the cash bar will eliminate some costs. That money can be allocated to other expenses.

One of the cons of using an open bar is that guests likely may overindulge. In contrast, because guests are paying for each drink on a cash bar, this reduces the chance of guests consuming.

Disadvantage

The most significant impact a cash bar will have is the aspect of hospitality. Guests may become annoyed or upset that after potentially purchasing tickets, or supporting a cause they are asked to pay. It is often understood that the one hosting should provide the drinks. Because guests pay for their drinks, they have to take out their wallets, handle the money, accept the change, and grab their drinks. This process can disrupt the flow, which can increase waiting time due to long lines.

An open bar may seem like the obvious choice, but the cash bar may be the best idea depending on how much money you have to spend. When hosting adult events, it is always wiser to have a cash bar than no bar at all. Ensure to inform your guests before the event, so they are prepared and are not surprised.