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How to Start a Mobile Bartending Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Mobile Bartending Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$6,050 - $12,100

Revenue potential

$52,000 - $260,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$47,000 - $104,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Mobile bartending, in which a company brings the drinks, mixers, glasses and bar itself to the client, has exploded in recent years and is forecast for continued growth. The mobile bartender is often the most popular person in the room, so starting a mobile bartending business could make for a fun lifestyle and a nice moneymaker. 

But before you start whipping up those cocktails, you’ll need to learn how to launch and grow a business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide is loaded with all the information you need to get your mobile bartending business off the ground. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a mobile bartending business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Flexibility – Run the business from home
  • Fun Work – Enjoy parties for a living
  • Good Money – Make $$$ at each event

Cons

  • Stringent Regulations – You’ll need a liquor license if you sell alcohol
  • Potential Liability – Over-serving can lead to accidents; insurance is a must

Mobile bartending industry trends

Industry size and growth

There are no statistics for the mobile bartending industry, but it is closely related to the catering industry since the two services tend to go hand in hand.

mobile bartending industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the mobile bartending industry include:

  • People are seeking customized services from mobile bartenders, like unique cocktail options that the host can choose prior to the event.
  • Many mobile bartending businesses have trucks similar to food trucks so they can operate outdoors. 

Challenges in the mobile bartending business:

  • The rising popularity of mobile bartending is making the industry more competitive.
  • It’s difficult to track how much alcohol guests have been served, increasing the potential for over-serving and thus greater chance of liability.  
mobile bartending Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

  • Most popular states The most popular states for bartenders are Hawaii, Arizona, and California.((https://www.zippia.com/bartender-jobs/best-states/))
  • Least popular states The least popular states for bartenders are Utah, Alabama, and Oklahoma. 
mobile bartending industry demand hotspots

What kind of people work in mobile bartending?

  • Gender – 60.3% of bartenders are female, while 39.7% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/bartender-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education The average bartender has a bachelor’s degree.
  • Average age – The average bartender in the US is 34 years old.
mobile bartending demographics

How much does it cost to start a mobile bartending business?

Startup costs for a mobile bartending business range from $6,000 to $12,000. Costs include the mobile bar itself, glassware, and cocktail-making equipment, as well as a vehicle to transport your bar.

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your mobile bartending business, including: 

  • Mobile bar
  • Glassware
  • Cocktail making tools
  • Vehicle to transport bar
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Mobile bar$2,000 - $3,000$2,500
Equipment and supplies$1,000 - $2,000$1,500
Vehicle to transport bar and equipment$1,500 - $3,000$2,250
Total$6,050 - $12,100$9,075

How much can you earn from a mobile bartending business?

Typically for an event, you’ll make about $50 per hour depending on the number of people attending. If you’re selling the alcohol, you’ll also make a markup on the liquor. If it’s an open bar, the host will pay for the alcohol. You’ll also get tips. These calculations will assume that you’ll make $500 per event. Your profit margin should be about 90%. 

In your first year or two, you could do two events per week, bringing in $52,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $47,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. As you get repeat business and referrals, sales could climb to 10 events per week. At this stage, you’d hire staff including other bartenders, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of $260,000, you’d make a handsome profit of $104,000.

mobile bartending business earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a mobile bartending business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The skills required to be an outstanding bartender
  • Competition from caterers and other mobile bartenders

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
How to Start a Mobile Bartending Business

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a mobile bartending business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research mobile bartending businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a mobile bartending service that offers signature cocktails or a mobile draft beer system. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as corporate events or weddings.

What? Determine your products or services

You’ll need to determine if you want to provide the alcohol for your events, or have the hosts provide the alcohol. You could also offer snacks and develop a list of specialty cocktails. 

How much should you charge for mobile bartending?

Typically, a mobile bartender makes about $50 per hour. If it’s a cash bar and you provide the alcohol, you can charge a markup on the alcoholic beverages. You’ll also make tips. Your profit margin should be about 90%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will tend to be more established people and businesses for corporate events. You should market to those people on Facebook and LinkedIn. You could also try to partner with catering businesses to handle bartending for the events they cater. You can find them on Google or Yelp and call them directly. 

Where? Choose a location for your mobile bar

When operating a mobile bartending service, there are two primary scenarios to consider: being hired for a specific event at a predetermined location, or selecting a spot to set up and attract clientele. If you’re hired for an event, the location is provided, allowing you to focus on delivering top-notch service. However, when selecting a location on your own, several factors come into play.

The first step is to identify your primary clientele, such as young adults or corporate events, and focus on areas with a high concentration of this audience. It’s beneficial to be near popular event venues or gathering spots, especially those known for large-scale events like weddings and conventions.

Accessibility is crucial; ensure there’s easy access for your vehicle and equipment, and ample parking if clients need to visit. High foot and vehicle traffic areas offer increased visibility, especially if they’re well-lit for evening functions.

Before settling on a location, it’s essential to investigate local liquor laws, permits, and ensure that your operations comply with local zoning laws. Collaborating with nearby businesses, like food trucks or event planners, can be mutually beneficial and allow you to establish symbiotic relationships.

mobile bartending business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Mobile Bartending Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “mobile bartender” or “mobile bartending”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “The Bar on Wheels” over “Whiskey Wagon”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Mobile Bartending Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: A brief summary of your mobile bartending business plan, highlighting its key points and objectives.
  • Business Overview: An introduction to your mobile bartending business, including its mission, vision, and key goals.
  • Product and Services: Explanation of the bartending services and products you’ll offer, such as cocktail menus, bar setup, and event packages.
  • Market Analysis: An evaluation of the target market for your mobile bartending services, including demographics and trends.
  • Competitive Analysis: Examination of competitors in the mobile bartending industry, their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting your mobile bartending business and attracting customers.
  • Management Team: Information about the key individuals responsible for running the business, including their roles and expertise.
  • Operations Plan: Details on how your mobile bartending business will operate, covering logistics, equipment, and staffing.
  • Financial Plan: Projections for the financial aspects of your business, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and profit margins.
  • Appendix: Supplementary materials and documents, such as resumes, legal agreements, or additional data supporting your business plan.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to mobile bartending businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your mobile bartending business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a mobile bartending business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Business Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a mobile bartending business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments. If you’re providing the alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license. 

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your mobile bartending business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get a Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as HoneyBook, tripleseat, or Planning Pod, to manage your leads, bookings, and invoicing. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Starting a mobile bartending business is an exciting venture, and effective marketing strategies can make all the difference. Beyond creating a website and networking, here are practical tips to boost your mobile bartending business.

  1. Social Media Presence: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to showcase your bartending skills, share engaging content, and run targeted ads to reach potential clients in your local area.
  2. Collaborate with Event Planners: Partner with event planning companies to become their go-to mobile bartending service, expanding your reach and gaining access to a broader client base.
  3. Themed Packages and Promotions: Create themed beverage packages for specific events or seasons, and offer promotions such as discounts for early bookings to incentivize clients.
  4. Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on online platforms. Positive testimonials build credibility and trust among potential clients.
  5. Local Sponsorships: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or community gatherings to increase brand visibility and demonstrate your commitment to the community.
  6. Referral Programs: Implement a referral program that rewards existing clients who refer new business. Word-of-mouth recommendations can be powerful for attracting new customers.
  7. Mobile App Presence: List your services on popular event planning or catering apps to reach a wider audience actively seeking mobile bartending services for their events.
  8. Tasting Events: Host tasting events at local venues or collaborate with restaurants to showcase your mixology skills and allow potential clients to sample your signature drinks.
  9. Professional Photography and Videography: Invest in high-quality visuals of your setups, cocktails, and events to create a visually appealing portfolio for promotional materials and social media.
  10. Educational Workshops: Offer workshops or online classes on mixology and cocktail crafting to position yourself as an expert in your field and attract those interested in learning more about bartending.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your mobile bartending business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your mobile bartending business could be: 

  • Signature cocktails for your next corporate event
  • Keep your guests happy! Lightning-fast bartending for big events 
  • Full bartending, including table service, for your next major event
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a mobile bartending business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in mobile bartending for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in mobile bartending. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a mobile bartending business include:

  • Bartenders – bartend at events
  • General Manager – scheduling, ordering, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Mobile Bartending Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Events are back on after the pandemic, and people love cocktails. Mobile bartending is becoming increasingly popular and potentially very lucrative. If you have bartending skills, you could build a seriously successful mobile bartending operation.

You’ve learned the business side of things now, so it’s time to shake it up and launch your mobile bartending business. 

Mobile Bartending Business FAQs

Can a mobile bartending business be profitable?

Yes, a mobile bartending business can be very profitable. You’ll make about $50 per hour plus tips, and a markup on drinks if you supply the alcohol for a cash bar.

How can I learn bartending skills?

If you need to learn bartending skills, you can find a bartending school in your local area, or you can take courses online on a site like Udemy.

What is the difference between mixology and bartending?

The difference between mixology and bartending lies in their focus and skill sets. Bartending primarily involves serving and mixing drinks efficiently while maintaining customer service standards. Mixology, on the other hand, focuses on the art and science of crafting cocktails, emphasizing creativity, knowledge of ingredients, flavor profiles, and techniques to create unique and well-balanced drinks.

How can I differentiate my mobile bartending business from competitors in the market?

To differentiate your mobile bartending business from competitors, you can consider offering a diverse and curated drink menu, specializing in craft or signature cocktails, providing exceptional customer service and personalized experiences, employing skilled and knowledgeable mixologists, utilizing high-quality ingredients, and creating visually appealing drink presentations.

What types of events and occasions can a mobile bartending business cater to?

A mobile bartending business can cater to various events and occasions, including weddings, private parties, corporate events, fundraisers, festivals, and cocktail parties. Additionally, they can provide services for special themes such as mixology workshops, cocktail pairing dinners, and customized drink menus for specific celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries.

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How to Start a Mobile Bartending Business