Business ideas
8 min read

How to Start a Profitable Bartending Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a profitable bartending business with our 11+ step guide. From licensing to marketing, we cover everything you need to know. Keywords: bartending business, profitable, licensing, marketing.

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 05, 2024

image of a bartending business
This page may feature products from our affiliate partners, which could influence the products we discuss due to potential compensation. Despite this, our evaluations are impartial, based solely on our independent analysis. The content here is intended for informational purposes and should not be seen as legal advice. For professional guidance, consulting with a legal expert is recommended.
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1. Perform market analysis.

Starting a bartending business requires a solid understanding of the market landscape to identify opportunities and challenges. A thorough market analysis helps in shaping services that meet customer demand and outperform competitors. Here’s how you can perform an effective market analysis:

  • Identify your target market: Understand who your potential customers are, including demographics, preferences, and spending habits.
  • Analyze competition: Look at existing bartending services in your area. Note their offerings, pricing, marketing strategies, and customer reviews.
  • Assess industry trends: Stay informed about the latest trends in the bartending and broader hospitality industry, such as popular drinks, technology in service delivery, and consumer behavior shifts.
  • Regulatory considerations: Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations affecting the sale and consumption of alcohol, licensing requirements, and health and safety standards.
  • Market demand: Evaluate the demand for bartending services in various settings like events, private parties, or corporate functions.
  • Price sensitivity: Determine how much your potential customers are willing to pay for your services and how price fluctuations might affect demand.
image of a bartending business

Are bartending businesses profitable?

Yes, bartending businesses can be profitable depending on the number of customers served and the cost of materials and services. Additionally, a successful business can have cost-saving strategies to increase profits, such as purchasing drinks and supplies in bulk or offering discounts for repeat customers.

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2. Draft a bartending business plan.

To launch a successful bartending business, crafting a comprehensive business plan is crucial. This document should outline your vision, define your target market, and detail the strategies you'll employ to attract clients and generate revenue. Consider the following key components when drafting your bartending business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Offer a brief overview of your business, including your mission statement, services offered, and fundamental goals.
  • Business Description: Provide a detailed description of your bartending services, the unique selling points (USPs) of your business, and the types of events you plan to cater to.
  • Market Analysis: Research and outline your target market, including potential clients, market size, and competition. Identify trends and customer needs.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Explain how you'll reach your target audience and what marketing channels you will use. Include pricing, sales tactics, and promotional plans.
  • Operations Plan: Detail the logistics of how your business will operate, including staffing, equipment, transportation, and supplier relationships.
  • Financial Plan: Project your startup costs, pricing strategy, revenue forecasts, profit margins, and financial projections for at least the first few years.

How does a bartending business make money?

A bartending business makes money by providing drinks and bar services to a wide variety of customers. They can target weddings, birthday parties, corporate events and a host of other occasions. Additionally, they can offer custom bar packages tailored to the tastes of the customer. For instance, a 11 Steps To Starting a Successful air duct cleaning Business might target homeowners and small business owners who want their air ducts serviced professionally. By capitalizing on their expertise and offering a high-end service, this business can make money through competitive pricing and superior service.

3. Develop a bartending brand.

Developing a strong bartending brand is crucial for setting your business apart in a competitive market. Your brand is more than just a logo; it's the experience, image, and reputation that comes to mind when customers think of your service. Here are some key points to consider when building your bartending brand:

  • Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Identify what makes your bartending service unique. This could be your specialty cocktails, exceptional service, or a niche market you serve.
  • Choose a Memorable Name and Logo: Select a name that reflects your brand's personality and a logo that is easily identifiable. These will be the first impression for potential clients, so make them count.
  • Set Your Brand Tone and Personality: Decide on the voice and personality of your brand. Whether it's sophisticated, fun, or edgy, ensure that it resonates with your target audience and is reflected in all your communications.
  • Develop a Consistent Visual Aesthetic: Use consistent colors, fonts, and styling across your marketing materials, from business cards to your website and social media profiles.
  • Build an Online Presence: Create a professional website and active social media accounts to showcase your services, share customer testimonials, and engage with your audience.
  • Deliver Quality Service Consistently: Your brand's reputation will largely hinge on the quality of service you provide. Strive for excellence in every event to build a loyal customer base.

How to come up with a name for your bartending business?

Choosing a name for your bartending business is an important decision. Research names of existing bars or mixology concepts and think of something that speaks to the atmosphere you hope to create. It’s also important to consider what keywords potential customers might use when searching for a bar, so including words like “cocktails” or “mixology” may be helpful. You should also research if the name is already trademarked, and make sure it is easily remembered and recognizable. Once you have chosen a name, you can use it to start an online presence and create marketing materials for your business.

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4. Formalize your business registration.

Once you've laid the groundwork for your bartending business, it's time to make it official by completing the business registration process. This step will vary depending on your location and the business structure you choose, but certain common tasks will need to be accomplished. Here's a guide to help you formalize your business:

  • Choose a business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation) that best suits your needs and offers the right balance of legal protections and benefits.
  • Register your business name with the appropriate state agency, ensuring it is unique and not already in use.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees.
  • Apply for the necessary licenses and permits, which could include a liquor license, business operation license, and health department permits.
  • Check with your local government for any additional requirements, such as zoning approvals or special endorsements for serving alcohol.
  • Consider registering for state taxes, which may include sales tax, unemployment insurance tax, and others depending on your location.

Resources to help get you started:


5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for bartending.

Starting a bartending business requires compliance with various regulations to ensure legal operations. Acquiring the necessary licenses and permits is a crucial step that varies by location and the specific services offered. Here's a guide to help you navigate this process:

  • Research local regulations: Contact your city or county government to learn about the specific licenses and permits required for bartending services in your area.
  • Alcohol Beverage License: Apply for this license which allows you to legally serve alcohol; this process often includes background checks and a review of your business plan.
  • Food Handler's Permit: If your service includes serving food, you may need a permit that confirms you understand food safety practices.
  • Business License: Register your business with the appropriate state or local authorities to obtain a general business license.
  • Health Department Permit: Depending on your setup, you might need approval from the health department, especially if you operate a mobile bartending service.
  • Special Event Permit: If you plan to offer services at events, check if you need a permit for each event, particularly in public spaces or large gatherings.
  • Liability Insurance: While not a permit or license, having liability insurance is essential to protect your business from potential claims.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a bartending business?

In order to legally operate a bartending business, you must obtain the necessary liquor licenses and permits from the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in the state you are doing business in. Depending on the type of business, a number of other permits may be necessary, such as a food handling permit, license to serve alcohol in public, and occupancy permit. Additionally, bartenders must be certified to serve alcohol in most states.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

Securing your financial infrastructure is a pivotal step in launching your bartending business. A dedicated business bank account will help you manage finances effectively while keeping business and personal expenses separate. Here's how to set up your account and secure the funds to get your venture shaking and stirring.

  • Choose the Right Bank: Research and select a bank that offers business banking services with benefits like low fees, online banking, and good customer service.
  • Prepare Documentation: Gather all necessary documents, which may include your business license, EIN, ownership agreements, and personal identification.
  • Understand Your Needs: Consider what banking services you'll need, such as credit card processing, loans, or merchant services.
  • Explore Funding Options: Look into small business loans, lines of credit, investors, or crowdfunding to raise capital if your savings aren't sufficient to cover startup costs.
  • Build Relationships: Develop a relationship with your bank's business banker—they can be a valuable resource for advice and may help you secure better banking products or services.

7. Set pricing for bartending services.

Setting the right pricing for your bartending services is crucial for your business's success. It should reflect the value you provide while staying competitive in the market. Here are some guidelines to help you determine the best pricing strategy:

  • Research the competition to understand the going rates for bartending services in your area. Adjust your prices to provide a competitive edge without undercutting your value.
  • Consider your costs, including ingredients, transport, equipment, and labor. Ensure your pricing covers these expenses and allows for a reasonable profit margin.
  • Offer tiered pricing packages to cater to different event sizes and requirements. This can include a basic package, a premium package, and a bespoke option.
  • Factor in the type of event, such as weddings, corporate functions, or private parties, as more formal events may warrant higher rates due to additional service expectations.
  • Introduce an hourly rate for smaller events or a flat fee for larger events. This can simplify the booking process for both you and your clients.
  • Provide clear breakdowns of what each service includes to justify your pricing and help clients understand the value they're receiving.
  • Consider offering discounts for repeat customers or for booking multiple services to encourage client loyalty and repeat business.

What does it cost to start a bartending business?

Initiating a bartending business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $$5,800-$20,000 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your bartending business.

8. Acquire bartending equipment and supplies.

Starting a bartending business requires the right tools and materials to efficiently serve your clients and create a professional atmosphere. Here's a checklist of essential bartending equipment and supplies to get you started:

  • Shaker tins – A set of shaker tins is crucial for mixing cocktails.
  • Bar spoons – Long-handled bar spoons are necessary for stirring and layering drinks.
  • Jiggers – Measuring tools, or jiggers, ensure precise pours and balanced cocktails.
  • Strainers – Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers help to achieve smooth, sediment-free drinks.
  • Muddlers – For crushing herbs and fruit, a sturdy muddler is a must-have.
  • Citrus juicers – Freshly squeezed juice requires reliable hand juicers or a press.
  • Peelers and zesters – To garnish drinks with citrus twists or zest.
  • Ice buckets and tongs – Essential for handling and serving ice.
  • Glassware – A variety of glasses such as martini, highball, and rocks glasses.
  • Speed pourers – These attachments help with quick and accurate pouring.
  • Bar mats – To keep the work area clean and spill-free.
  • Cleaning supplies – Hygiene is key; include towels, sanitizers, and brushes.
  • Inventory of spirits, mixers, and garnishes – Stock up on commonly used alcohols, mixers, and fresh garnishes.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a bartending business:

  • Bartender Kit - $20-$100
  • Cocktail shaker - $15
  • Strainer and Jigger - $10-$15
  • Mixing spoons or barspoons - $5
  • Corkscrew, bottle opener and stoppers - $5
  • Liquor bottles and supplies (glasses, napkins etc.) - Approx. $30-$50
  • Ice bucket, tongs and scoopers - $20-$30
  • Blender/electric mixer for frozen drinks- $25-$50
  • Pos System/Cash Register- $200-$400
  • Inventory software – Approx. $20 per month
  • >

9. Obtain business insurance for bartending, if required.

Starting a bartending business involves several key steps, one of which is securing the appropriate insurance. This is crucial as it protects your business against potential liabilities and financial losses. Here is a guide to help you obtain the necessary business insurance for your bartending enterprise:

  • Research the types of insurance coverage required for bartending businesses in your area, as this can vary by location and the specific services you offer.
  • Contact insurance providers or a broker specialized in business insurance to get quotes and understand policy details, including coverage limits and exclusions.
  • Consider general liability insurance to protect against claims of bodily injury or property damage caused by your services.
  • Look into liquor liability insurance, which is particularly important if you're serving alcohol, to cover claims related to the sale, service, or furnishing of alcohol.
  • Assess the need for additional coverage such as commercial property insurance if you own the space or equipment, or workers' compensation if you have employees.
  • Review and compare policy quotes carefully, checking for any state or local insurance requirements for a bartending business.
  • Choose a policy that balances comprehensive coverage with affordable premiums and make sure to keep your insurance up-to-date as your business grows.

10. Begin marketing your bartending services.

Launching a successful bartending business requires effective marketing to attract clients and establish a strong brand presence. The right marketing strategies will help spread the word about your services and set you apart from the competition. Here are some actionable steps you can take:

  • Develop a brand identity: Create a logo, tagline, and a consistent color scheme that reflects your business's personality and appeals to your target audience.
  • Build a professional website: Your website should include your services, pricing, testimonials, and a gallery of past events. Ensure it's optimized for search engines (SEO) to increase visibility.
  • Utilize social media: Create business profiles on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to showcase your work, share customer reviews, and engage with potential clients.
  • Network in your community: Attend local events, join hospitality industry groups, and partner with event planners to build relationships and gain referrals.
  • Offer promotions: Launch your business with special introductory rates or offer a referral discount to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Invest in paid advertising: Consider using targeted ads on social media or Google to reach potential clients actively searching for bartending services.
>> MORE:

What licenses and permits are needed to run a bartending business?

  • Bartender Kit - $20-$100
  • Cocktail shaker - $15
  • Strainer and Jigger - $10-$15
  • Mixing spoons or barspoons - $5
  • Corkscrew, bottle opener and stoppers - $5
  • Liquor bottles and supplies (glasses, napkins etc.) - Approx. $30-$50
  • Ice bucket, tongs and scoopers - $20-$30
  • Blender/electric mixer for frozen drinks- $25-$50
  • Pos System/Cash Register- $200-$400
  • Inventory software – Approx. $20 per month
  • >

11. Expand your bartending business.

Expanding your bartending business is a pivotal step in scaling your services and increasing your market presence. With a strategic approach and careful planning, you can successfully grow your operation and cater to a larger clientele. Consider the following strategies to take your business to the next level:

  • Offer new services such as cocktail classes, mobile bar setups, or catering for corporate events to diversify your revenue streams.
  • Invest in marketing, including social media advertising, search engine optimization, and collaborations with event planners to reach a broader audience.
  • Build a team of skilled bartenders and support staff to handle multiple events simultaneously while maintaining quality service.
  • Network with vendors and venues to create partnership deals that can lead to more business opportunities and referrals.
  • Implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage bookings, follow-ups, and maintain relationships with clients.
  • Explore franchising options or open additional locations if your brand is strong and there's demand in other areas.
  • Continuously gather feedback from clients and adjust your services accordingly to ensure customer satisfaction and repeat business.