Mobile bartending is quickly becoming a must-have service at parties, celebrations, and events of all kinds. These services are often flexible in what they offer, allowing them to cater to everyone’s individual desires while enabling professional bartenders to take the show on the road. Owning and operating a mobile bartending service might sound like a dream gig: be your own boss, set your own hours, flex your creative muscles, etc. But these bars on wheels pack a lot more under the hood than we realize. Here, we’re going to show you how creative you can be with mobile bars and explain what it takes to start a mobile bartending business.
The rising popularity of mobile bartending services
As the demand for mobile bartending services rises, the supply of mobile bars is increasing proportionately. Event planners are shifting budgets toward non-traditional spaces (think fields, parks, barns, etc.) for parties, celebrations, and private events.
In addition to the demand for more authentic and interesting venues, people are seeking high-quality, craft beverages; opposed to buckets of beer, cheap wine or whatever the rental location has on-hand. Mobile bars can go anywhere, and because they’re not tied down to a specific draft system or spirit lineup, the guest experience is highly customizable. The owners of these services are usually accomplished bartenders who can produce unique cocktails for any occasion.
The challenges of owning and operating a mobile bartending service
The owner of a mobile bartending service often wears all of the hats; from promoter to bartender, from repairman to procurement manager. If you think you’re up to this, then the next (and probably largest) hurdle is the logistics of the business: i.e. paperwork, licenses, inspections, etc. Depending on your location, the legalities and requirements for mobile bartending service can vary drastically (as can the associated costs).
The other major challenge of a mobile bartending service is establishing a reputation. If you've built a great reputation as a bartender in your locality, then you're off to a great start! But owning a mobile bar means that you have to work extra hard to cultivate and maintain relationships in the events industry that you’ve just entered. It can take years for an events service provider to build up a steady stream of clients — and even then they’ve got to continue to advertise to find new customers.
3 Inspirational Mobile Bartending Services
1) The Bug Bar
Located in the UK, The Bug Bar company has been around since 2013 and now has a full fleet of Bug Bars and DiscoBugs! They cater to all types of events and will gladly help you out with any special requests if they can. If you haven’t guessed it already, their bars and DJ booths are built into retro VW Bugs! These bugs are actually fiberglass replicas built by Dub Box USA in Oregon, and retrofitted by The Bug Bar.
The Maverick Bar Company was founded in 2019 after a trip to the races. The same old warm drinks were being served out of an oh-so dull tent. They thought there must be a better way to serve the latest on-trend drinks at outdoor events.
The Maverick Bar Company is a 1967 French Citroen H van lovingly restored and professionally converted into a mobile bar. They work with award-winning craft producers to serve a variety of great quality drinks with great service.
The bar has two gas lines, an onboard fridge, ice machine, ice well and speed rails which means that their trained mixologists serve great-tasting drinks at speed.
No matter what event, they work with the client to develop the perfect menu and combination of drinks to make sure the offering is truly unique.
Located in Tampa Bay, Florida, The Tipsy Trotter is owned and operated by an accomplished hospitality professional: Krysten Strauser. “Willow” is the Trotters’ first mobile bar, built inside a refurbished horsebox. Willow's farmhouse chic design makes it quite the charmer and The Tipsy Trotter is able to tailor their offerings to meet their clients’ specific needs. They even offer a vast array of yard games.
What more could you ask for?
The future of mobile bartending
Though mobile bartending has been around for a while, the market is far from saturated. With more people looking for unique, inexpensive venues for events, parties, and celebrations, the demand for mobile bartending is definitely growing. There is little diversity in the options currently available and plenty of room for new entrants.
Considerations for starting a mobile bartending service
Much like opening a brick-and-mortar location, there's lots to consider when starting a mobile bartending service. Here’s a run-down of some important considerations when looking to start a mobile bar service:
- Regulatory: Each state and county is going to have different rules and regulations regarding liquor laws, food and beverage trucks, and a multitude of other factors that could affect your new business.
- Competition: What does the mobile bar market look like around you? Is it sparsely populated? If so, why? How can you differentiate your service from the rest of the pack?
- Cost: A working van or truck is going to cost you money. Often these bars are retrofitted into vintage, refurbished vehicles (that’s what looks coolest, right?!). However, the cost of buying, refurbishing and then retrofitting such a vehicle needs to be carefully planned. Bar fixtures are expensive, and if you’re looking for equipment to fit a compact space efficiently, the costs can pile up quickly.
- Storage: Where are you going to put your mobile bar when you’re not using it? Also, where are you going to store any stock you’ve got either before or after you do an event? You'll need access to refrigerated storage space for cans, bottles and potentially kegs.
Finding and converting the perfect setup
Ready to go all-in? Take a page out of the Get Cozy book and consider a vintage vehicle like their Piaggio Ape’s that have been converted into mobile prosecco vans and craft beer bars. Small enough to drive through a set of double doors, this bar is just as comfortable inside or out. They have up to seven taps to pour perfectly chilled prosecco, craft beer, cocktails, and non-alcoholic selections at a special event.
Dustin Van Ells, founder of the Van Plan has more than 100 van builds and updates under his toolbelt. He recommends the following considerations for the conversion itself:
- Electricity: Where you’re going may not have an electrical outlet, and the guests may not be into the fumes from a gas generator. A fully off-the-grid solar set up could solve both of these problems. Run the lights, pump the bubbly, and keep the ice icey without missing a beat.
- Water: Every fully staffed bar needs a place for handwashing. A simple bar sink keeps everyone clean, and a well-placed one keeps everyone safe. You don’t want to position the sink anywhere near the power source.
- Exterior: Do the build for the Gram. It's inevitable that when you roll up a vintage camper that's been reimagined into an elegant bar on wheels, people are going to talk ... and take pictures. Your bar will be the first thing your guests visit and where you will find them all at the end of the event—and in the background of every picture they post.