Starting a business in the drinks industry can be very rewarding. If you like a lively atmosphere and enjoy flitting from location to location, then a portable bar company could be your ticket.
Read this guide here to find out more…
- Why start a portable bar business
- Different types of portable bars
- What do you need to consider
- How can you get started?
- Getting noticed
- How much money can you make?
- Room for expansion
There are a number of great reasons to start a portable bar business. First, you get to be your own boss – now that’s exciting! Second, you get to work exciting events, shows and corporate functions.
We’ve all had the same thought at a festival when paying over the odds for a fizzy drink or hot dog: “I bet they’re making serious money”. Well, guess what? They are! And you can too!
One benefit to running your own bar is the ability to scale your ambitions sensibly. Whether you want a full time business, a part-time venture or a one-man drinks stall, there will be demand – providing you run it correctly of course.
There are a whole host of portable bars on the market from craft beer stalls to Prosecco carts. But before you start thinking about your niche, you need to know what type of bar you’re going to operate.
Below are the main options available…
If you’re looking to target corporate functions, or indoor venues, then you’ll need a bar that can be erected and dismantled easily and quickly.
Portabar allows customers to purchase a fully customisable bar that will meet your requirements of efficiency and speed.
The motorised van is seen by many as the champagne of portable bars. They’re practical, classy and generally impressive. But, they are often the most expensive choice.
If you’re going to purchase one, make sure you have a well thought out business strategy behind you. Read our article on creating a business strategy here.
Trailer bars are slightly less expensive but just as practical as the motorised van. With a trailer, you’ll be able to quickly set up your bar at any event or show.
If you’re imaging this as a part-time project, then a simple stall is most likely your best bet. While you might not set the bar trade ablaze with your drinks stall, you may be able to make a tidy profit. When scouting locations, focus on small festivals or corporate events.
Once you’ve created a foothold, you can always invest some profits into a trailer or a van.
Complying with regulations
If you’re going to sell alcohol, you’ll need a license.
If you’re planning on operating at a relatively small event, you (or the event owner) will need a Temporary Events Notice (TEN). This will let you sell drinks legally. Any large scale events should have already obtained one, but it is always good business to check. Apply for one here.
If you intend to make this a full-time business venture, you’ll have to register as self-employed.
Initial investment costs
You may want to purchase a motorised van or trailer bar, but remember a significant financial investment will be involved.
If you don’t have enough capital to do this outright, then you could think about getting a loan. Going to the bank is one option, but there are others available.
In the UK, you can apply for a loan from the Start Up Loans Company – this is for new business ventures. You can borrow up to £25,000 with a fixed interest of 6%. But, you will have to repay your loan within five years. You will also be paired with an experienced mentor who can help you navigate all this as part of the loan’s scheme.
Usefully, they have a handy collection of free start up guides you can read here to get you started.
Can you make a tasty drink?
Everyone thinks they’re talented when it comes to making a good cocktail, especially if they’ve had a few before getting their hands on a shaker. However, you need to be realistic when it comes to your own talents.
If you’re better skilled behind a desk, it may be worth employing a bartender. Some bartenders will work for free at festivals, in exchange for a ticket to the event. Although, you will be to check each festival individually to see if this is an option.
Expect some challenging times
Like with any start up, you should be prepared for some tricky challenges along the way. Whether you’e struggling to find events or haven’t made much profit, you’ll need to be prepared to grit your teeth.
Create a business plan
No business has ever been successful without a business plan. Make sure you conduct thorough and proper research into the bar trade.
If you need help with creating a business plan, have a look at this useful guide.
Gain some experience
Before you open your bar, get some experience in the trade – if you don’t have any.
If you plan to be manning the bar yourself, if may be worth attending a bartending course. Barschool offer two-day mixology courses that will sufficiently educate you on how to make the best and most popular drinks.
Build a list of contacts
Before you invest any big money, build a key list of business contacts. Don’t have any contacts? Consider volunteering at events and shows just to network. Make sure to pick the brains of events organisers, stall owners and the catering staff while you’re there – their knowledge will be invaluable. Not only will they remember you fondly, you will gain great insight into the industry too.
Think of a Niche
Successful event stalls are stand out. If you have your heart set on a cocktail or smoothie bar, you’ll need to come up with an original twist to make your portable bar unique.
At events, the competition will be fierce. Maybe come up with a catchy memorable name, you just need a a small edge over your competitors to get business booming. So, get creative!
Create an event schedule
The key to good business is to think ahead, create a 12-month plan that has an overview of all your operations. You will have to apply well in advance to get a spot at events, so you need to be organised.
It’s important to set these as realistic and achievable targets – don’t expect to be trading at Glastonbury in 6 months. Start small, and work your way up.
Insurance is important
Insurance is essential for any business.
Liability insurance is a legal requirement for anyone looking to start their own mobile bar business. The cost of liability insurance isn’t extortionate and it will cover you if any accidents ever take place.
Create attractive social media pages
You’ll need to make the most of social media, no matter the size of your business. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook will not only showcase your great bar, but will keep you in constant communication with you customers and potential clients.
Take the time to get high-quality photographs and videos at events. Then, share them on social media – you’ll look attractive to events organisers as well as customers.
Build a website
Create an engaging and popular website. There are plenty of resources available to help you, check out our article on how to build a website for more information.
Create a buzz
Once you’re at an event, make sure to draw in a crowd. You could come up with challenges where punters can win a free drink or meal if they beat the challenge.
These challenges should be fun and one which a large group of people can watch. Something as simple as a hang from a bar for two minutes to win a free drink appeals to people’s competitive side and is likely to draw in a crowd.
If you can record a video to share on social media too that would be a bonus!
The amount of money you can make is dependent on a lot of factors. It will depend on the type of bar you run, the overheads you have and any other fees.
It’s also important to remember that the event will always take a cut of your earnings. This will often varying but is normally between 20-30%.
If you can make a nice profit from catering from your portable bar business, then why not also venture into food catering? You clearly have the talent, then why not make the most of it? Take a look at our guide to sandwich catering to explore this idea further.