As you have probably heard me say many times throughout the course, banquet bartending is a great place to get your start. And, it’s also a wonderful way to make some extra money.

Watch the video below:

This is one of the longer lessons in the course. I want to make sure that you’re aware of everything about how Banquet Bartending works. Yes, you will interview a bit differently for this type of job than you would a regular bartending job.

I’ll show you the differences – but don’t forget that there is more information on preparing for the interview process for bartending jobs in Section 15 “Job Preparation” and Section 16, “Bartender Job Interview Tips and Techniques,” which directly follow this lesson.

I highly recommend interviewing at 3 and 4-star hotels. 5-Star if they’re in your area. The pay is good, and tips pools are consistent.

Do You Interview Differently?

Yes! The Banquet Manager is more likely to hire inexperienced bartenders than a regular Bar Manager would. They almost always hire inexperienced food servers. Get your foot in the door!

The interview will be similar to interviewing for a traditional bartending job – but they will focus more on personal appearance and availability. Not so much experience – unless you’re interviewing at the 4 and 5-Star Hotels.

The interviewer is going to be mostly concerned with availability. Most banquet departments have a lunch shift (10:00 am – 2:00 pm), and an evening shift (4:00 pm – 9:00 pm) for food servers. There will be breakfasts here and there – but usually food service only.

Bartending is a bit different. Day bartending shifts are not common – unless it’s on the weekends. You may work a wedding from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Or, some other type of function from 4:30 pm – midnight. It’s all over the place.

So, can you work the day shifts or the evening shifts? You WILL be asked this question! Of course, working weekends goes without saying, but you can still hire on to work only days or nights. Banquet managers understand this.

Most banquet food servers and bartenders that I have worked with usually work at two different hotels. Day shifts at one place and evening shifts at another place. I certainly did.

Side Note: Networking with other employees is a gold mine. I have been hired at different hotels as a bartender simply on the referral of someone I was currently working with. Without even interviewing.

I have also recommended many of my co-workers (bartenders and food servers), to the other hotel I was currently working at. Believe me, the word gets out on exceptional bartenders.

Banquet Bartending Counts as Bartending Experience!

Yes, banquet bartending counts as bartending experience. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it doesn’t. In fact, some of the best bartenders I have ever worked with do banquet bartending only.

As a bar manager, I found that those applying for a bartending job that had banquet bartending experience were just as good as any other bartender applying for the position.

So, why do many “regular” bartenders believe that banquet bartenders aren’t as good as they are? Because they’re arrogant. And ignorant. And I was one of them.

Bartender Making Three Rum Drinks

I thought I was the “bomb.” Bartending at places that were so busy, I just knew that most bartenders out there couldn’t possibly be as good as I was. I had the experience. I moved fast. I never called in sick. I was always being offered bartending jobs.

Then, I started working some side jobs as a banquet bartender. I found that it was just as demanding as working in a regular bar. The only differences, really, were that I had to set up and tear down a small bar every shift. And, of course, you had limited products/supplies to work with – but that made it easier.

I found that my schedule was now extremely flexible. I could take pretty much any shifts that I wanted. Short shifts, long shifts, higher-paying shifts (in tips), and the list goes on and on.

Yes, you have to “move up” the ladder to get the best shifts – but it happens quickly. There’s a huge turnover in banquet bartending. More so than in regular bartending. That’s good for you!

As you have heard me say throughout the course, my priorities changed as I grew older. From bartending at kick-ass nightclubs to working just events/banquets at hotels.

Banquet bartenders deal with the same issues that regular bartenders do. ID’s, very busy periods of the day, demanding customers, etc. There’s no difference.

In banquet bartending, you’re going to have some seriously busy bar shifts. I’m not kidding – I have been so “in the weeds” before that I thought I’d never get out.

Great money. The most money I have ever made in a bartending shift (actually, probably the top 50 bartending shifts), were as a banquet bartender.

Double-Dipping: The Greatest Thing About Banquet Bartending!

What is double-dipping? Getting tipped twice.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re working a Sunday afternoon wedding event. 125 people. It’s an “Open Bar” for three hours after the ceremony. (More on Open Bars later). In other words, all of the guests get free drinks. Lots of drinks. For three hours!

The person (or group), paying for the event has agreed to an 18% gratuity on all food and beverages. Nice. The cost may be on a “per drink” basis or a “consumption” basis. I’ll explain the difference in more detail, below.

The bartender rings up all drinks using the normal house prices. After the three hours, the Banquet Captain rings out the register and then adds 18% to the bill.

You rang up 500 drinks at an average of 4 drinks per person (125 guests), at $8.00 per drink. That’s $4000.00 in bar sales. Nice. Add 18%, and that’s a $720.00 built-in tip. Very nice.

Of course, there may be two bartenders working the party. And, this $720.00 tip may be put into a tip pool for all food servers and bartenders. That’s OK, as you will be in the food tip pool – and the house added another 18% onto all food items. Very nice!

But here’s the kicker. Even though there is a built-in tip – people will still tip you! Yep. Now, there’s a few things to consider:

  • The Bar Captain may not allow you to put out a tip jar. In fact, they’ll probably insist you don’t – house policy.
  • There may be a sign on the bar: “No Tipping Necessary”
  • Or, “Tips are Included in the Open Bar”
  • The above two items are tacky and unprofessional – but do happen in some places.
  • If someone tips you, the “house” may insist that you inform the guest that the tip is already included in the event costs. Ouch.

From My Personal Experience on Double-Dipping:

  • For open bars, tip jars are usually not allowed. At least, not visible.
  • Guests will tip you anyway. Nice.
  • The person paying the bill may insist that you put out a tip jar! And, the Banquet Captain will comply.
  • Some guests will inform their friends that the tip is built in – so they don’t have to tip the bartender. Ouch.
  • Some guests will “chide” their friends for not tipping. Nice.
  • Many guests “over tip” because the drinks are free. Vey nice.
  • Many bartenders play “cat and mouse” with the Banquet Captain on hiding their tip jars.
  • The person paying for the event may come up and slip you some extra money anyway.
  • Many times, some guests (maybe the person being “honored” or whatever), will slip you some nice cash.

As you can see, double-dipping is absolutely fantastic. It’s one of the biggest differences between working banquets and regular bars.

Now, let’s take a look at how banquet bars are set up, how tipping works, and the differences and similarities between banquet bartending and traditional bartending.

I’m going to use a 3 or 4-Star Hotel in my examples below.

The Similarities:

Customer Experience. It’s the same with any type of bartending. You’re there behind that bar making the customer feel at home.

You’re making drinks. Even though the selection of liquor, beer, and wine may be smaller than a regular bar – you’re still making the same drinks. You’ll be making 80% – 90% of the same drinks you make in a regular bar.

House Policies. Same as a regular bar. Know them! There will be some minor differences.

ID’s. No difference here. In my experience, you’ll get more people trying to buy drinks for underage kids. Be very careful. The same laws apply – no underage drinking!

Drunks. People get hammered at these functions. Personally, I have cut more people off at a banquet event than I have a regular bar.

Liquor Cost. There is no difference here. The bar/banquet manager and captain’s push for that pouring cost to stay in line.

Cash/Bank. Same as a regular bar. You’ll start with a couple hundred in cash and coins.

The Differences:

Small work area. It’s just a 6 – 8 foot bar. During the “rush,” your customers will be in a single line waiting to order drinks.

Limited products. Generally, you’ll have the well liquors, maybe one premium or call liquor for each type of alcohol. Maybe just “call” liquors. 2 – 4 types of bottled beer, and a red and white wine. Maybe a Rose’ and small bottles of champagne.

POS System. Probably simpler than than what you find in a regular bar. A portable cash register. May be only a few keys. Liquor-beer-wine-soda. That’s it.

Glassware. Minimal. Probably only 4 or 5 types of glasses. Food/Cocktail servers and bussers will take all dirty glasses to the kitchen. And probably supply you with fresh, clean glasses.

Liquor Pouring Amount. This will vary – it depends on whether it’s a cash bar or open bar. Customers may want a heavy pour or a short pour.

Portability. Banquet bars can be “rolled out” to any area. Of course, some places will have permanent built-in bars in their “event” rooms.

Re-Supplying. One of the banquet captains will designate someone to re-supply you with everything. Many times it’s them.

How Hotels are Rated

I want to talk about hotel ratings for a minute. Why? Because the difference between working at a 2-Star hotel and a 4-Star hotel can be hundreds of dollars per week in your pocket. Personally, I have worked in 3, 4, and 5-Star hotels.

I understand that many aspiring bartenders have limited opportunities in their area. You may not have the larger, better hotels nearby. That’s OK. Get your foot in the door anywhere!

Young Bartender Shaking Green Cocktail

How hotels are rated and how ratings may affect your pocketbook:

1-Star Hotel: Basically, no frills. Probably no banquet facilities. Many consider this a “Motel.” Entrance to rooms are usually from the outside. Most likely no bartending opportunities here.

2-Star Hotel: Affordable and comfortable. May have banquet facilities and a bar. Might have a restaurant on the property. An easy place to get your foot in the door. Please don’t discount 2-Stars as a bad place to work. $15 – $25 per hour tip pool in wages and tips for servers and bartenders.

3-Star Hotel: Has some pretty decent amenities. Excellent bartending opportunities. Easier to get your first bartending job here than the 4 and 5-Star properties. Probably banquet facilities as well as a “front bar.” Around $30 per hour tip pool in wages and tips.

4-Star Hotel: Excellent place to work. Banquet facilities as well as other bars on-site. Many have nightclubs. Able to accommodate very large events. Bartenders and servers will start approaching $40 per hour tip pool in wages and tips.

5-Star hotel: Another excellent place to work – but can be a bit “stiff.” Massive banquet facilities, and may have multiple bars. Wages and tips are about the same as a 4-Star Hotel.

Banquet Department Organization

I’ll use a busy 3 or 4-Star hotel for this example. Just like regular bars, banquet bars will be managed in different ways.

The Owners. This could be a huge conglomerate. May be international. Or simply one hotel. Or maybe just a few hotels in that particular area.

Regional Managers. For larger corporations. These people will oversee designated geographical locations.

General Manager. The buck stopes here. In larger hotels, you’ll rarely see this person.

Human Resources. These employees really aren’t your “boss,” but they certainly have a say in the hotel’s hiring decisions. Your banquet manager will be periodically filling you in on new Human Resources policies.

Food & Beverage Director. This person will be in charge of all food and beverage service. Regular bars and restaurants, the banquet department, room service, off-site functions, etc.

Banquet Manager. Overseas all banquet functions. Probably the person that hired you.

Banquet Captain. These are the people that bartenders will deal with the most. Your immediate boss. Many times there are multiple functions going on – with one captain assigned to each function. May be involved in hiring decisions.

Head Food Server. More of a token position. May be involved in hiring decisions.

Head Bartender. Again, more of a token position. May be involved in hiring decisions.

Servers/Bartenders. My favorite position. Show me where to set up, how much to charge – and I’ll take care of the rest.

How a Banquet Bar is Set Up

Generally, bartenders are given an hour to set up and about a half-hour or so to tear down.

The “House Staff” may have already pulled out your portable bar and put it in the designated space of the banquet room. Back-bar tables also. If not, roll it out from the staging area.

The Banquet Captain will supply you with your money bank. Count it!

Supplies. You start from scratch every time. Dry goods and perishables. Most banquet bar set-ups will have a list. Easy. Hit dry storage and the walk-in cooler. Cut some fruit. Many times, the banquet division will have their own liquor room/supply area with everything you need so you stay out of the kitchen. (Hotel chefs are nuts!)

Liquor/Beer/Wine. Banquet Captain will issue the liquor, beer, and wine. You will start with a pre-designated amount of beverages. Normally, all liquor bottles will be full. 8 “Call” liquors and maybe 5 – 10 “Premium” liquors. Bottled beer only – no kegs unless that’s what the guests want. 3 – 4 types of beer brands. Probably only 2 – 3 types of wine.

Side Note: Most banquet events will not use your regular “Well” liquors. They will offer the “Call” liquors as the base. You know – Maker’s Mark, Ketel One, Quervo Gold, etc. They’ll probably have 5 – 10 premiums on the back bar.

Cash Register. Probably a very simple system. Might be “Old School” with only a few buttons. Banquet bar set-ups on this are all over the place.

Back-Bar. Your back-bar is probably going to be a table or two – with tablecloth’s, and has your cash register, bottled beer iced and in tubs, wine, and glassware. Maybe some call liquors.

Portable Front Bar. A simple 6 – 8 foot portable bar on wheels. Can be set up anywhere. Napkins/straws/picks probably tucked away somewhere ready to go as well as canned juices (small, individual portions), and mixers. A very limited supply. May have soda containers pushed by CO2. I preferred canned soda – better quality.

Trays. Food/server trays on stands located right next to the bar. Actually, they’ll be all over the place. Servers will handle dirty glassware as there is usually no running water available. Not cool, but it is what it is.

Inventory. Once the event is over, the Banquet Captain will stop by and inventory all liquor, beer, and wine. They will then “Z” out the cash register and take the receipts. Or, you may be responsible for bagging the receipts in a money pouch and dropping it in a safe somewhere.

Tear-Down. Return and store all perishables as you normally would. Roll the bar back to its designated storage place. Refill (merge/marry) the liquor bottles. Yes, I know this is controversial – but every banquet bar/hotel I have worked at does this. Side Note: NEVER marry liquor bottles in a regular bar!

Different Types of bars Offered

The customer/group (whomever is footing the bill), decides which type of bar to have:

Open Bar By Drink. Whomever hosts the event pays for all drinks. Nice. Bartender rings up every drink/beer/wine/soda/juice at pre-designated price. Tack on the 15% – 20% as a gratuity. Tip jar probably not allowed.

Open Bar By Consumption. Simple. Inventory all beverages before the start of the event. When the event finishes, the Banquet Captain takes an immediate inventory, and then calculates consumption.* Again, tip jar probably not allowed. Bartenders are known for totally abusing this and pouring extremely heavy to jack up that tip money. Follow House Policy!

*Consumption Calculation: Let’s say that liter bottle of Jack Daniels Bourbon is exactly half-empty. The hotel normally charges $9.00 for a shot of Jack Daniels. A liter is roughly 34 ounces, so there’s 17 ounces left – or 17 ounces of consumption. The hotel pours 1 1/2 ounce drinks. That’s roughly 11 drinks. 11 x $9 = $99.00 which is the guest’s cost for the consumption of Jack Daniels.

Of course, hotels are all over the place on how they calculate this. In the above example, they may simply charge by the ounce. So, 17 ounces x $7.00 instead of the original $9.00 per drink. And what about the difference in cost between Jack Daniels and Crown Royal? Do they charge more for the Crown? Maybe.

There are so many different ways that Hotels calculate their liquor consumption that I don’t want to confuse you by going into any more detail. Just know that you won’t have a say in it!

Cash Bar. All guests pay for their own drinks at the pre-designated price. Easy. Tip jars almost always allowed. Nice. Watch your pouring!

Specialty Drink Bar. Only certain types of drinks. It could be Martini’s, Heineken, and Chardonnay. Only. Or, the bride and groom have a favorite drink and that’s the only type of liquor allowed. Maybe it’s margarita’s and shots of tequila only. Things can get pretty strange, believe me. Tip jar probably allowed.

Dry Bar. No alcohol whatsoever. Period. Many times, this would include guests bringing in drinks that they have purchased from the main bar. The event organizer simply wants nothing to do with alcohol of any kind – and many times it’s a legal issue, as companies are tired of being sued by whomever for whatever.

Combination Bar. Open bar for one hour – then pay as you go. Very common, and one of my favorites.

Beer & Wine Only Bar. Yep. Some events don’t want their guests getting too hammered. They would rather have their guests not be “cocktail-focused.” Of course, for those of us in the business, we know how that goes. Soda and juice is allowed, of course.

Non-Alcohol Bar. Just what it implies, but sometimes there more to it. Many guests will have all of these non-alcoholic “mocktails” for you to whip up. Drinks coming in from the main bar may be allowed. Easy, and tips can still be quite good.

How the “House” Gets Paid

For food service, the customer and house agree on a “per plate” charge. Lunches could be $30. Dinners $40. It might be a buffet. The cost is all over the place, and depends on what they decide on for food. Is dessert included? How about one glass of wine? Filet Mignon is more expensive than chicken!

Many hotels are going to want at least half of the costs pre-paid. Many times a deposit is put down over the phone – the sales department handles it.

Most all functions will have a built-in gratuity. 15% – 20% is the usual range, with it creeping higher all the time. The better hotels will usually have a higher built-in gratuity. Nice.

Side Note. The cooks always prepare extra meals. Many times, there’s plenty left over for the staff. Nice. I always ate well working banquets.

The Banquet Bar Tip Pool

Most events/functions will have a built-in tip. As I mentioned before, around 15 – 20%. Almost all hotels will have a tip pool. Here’s how they work – but there can be many variations:

  • Bartenders and servers have separate tip pools
  • Bartenders & servers are in the same tip pool
  • Laws have changed: In some states the bar/hotel owner(s), banquet manager, banquet captains, supervisors, sales personnel – ARE NOT allowed in the tip pools. Nice.
  • In some states, kitchen personnel (and some others), MAY be allowed in the tip pool.
  • Tips may be re-distributed by the event, by hours worked, by the week – and on and on. Banquets are all over the place on how they distribute built-in tip money.
  • For bartenders, cash tips are their own. In most cases. You may have a “mini” cash tip pool between bartenders working the same event. There’s simply one tip jar. Very common.

So there you have it – All About Banquet Bartending. I hope this lesson proves useful to you. Do not discount the benefits of working as a banquet bartender!

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