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Apr 27, 2012 10:23 AM

Open bar & tipping...

hi all

i work at a catering/banquet hall where we have all sorts of parties ( wedding, bday, retirement, corporate functions, etc...)

when the bar is open, there is 3 choices:

1. cash bar
2. open bar & the bartender doesnt ring up anything in the register
3. open bar & the bartender does ring up every item, but doesnt charge guests but the host gets a extra bill at the end for those drinks rung up.

and let me say when its open bar, sometimes the host requests NO tip jar.

now, im always curious ( and sometimes totally pissed! ) about how the tipping goes.

when there is a cash bar, there is always a tip jar and i always get tipped ( some better than others of course...actually, last night a lady gave me .50 cents on a $7 mixed cocktail. )

when its open bar it goes both ways...and sometimes to the extreme. some people would think with a open bar people are super generous and throw money at you. that happens sometimes...and im very grateful. sometimes there is a open bar and not ONE person all night gives you a dime. its weird.

last week we did a huge funeral-after-party where there were 150 people. it was an open bar and the host said no tip jar because she was going to "tip us out" so last night when i was at work i asked the manager if the people had paid the bill yet and how much did she leave us. my manager told me they did pay the bill, but when the topic of our tip came up, the owner told her not to worry about it.

*^$#@^&( !!!!

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  1. So what dd you say to the owner?

    Is this a job where tips are considered a substantial part of your income?

    Even when there is an open bar, I always tip the bartender. If there isn't a tip jar I lay a buck or two on the bar when I get my drink, maybe once or twice in 30 years someone has told me they can't accept tips.

    Of course when I'm out at a club I tip the bartender even when I order water (free)... I almost always have to drive or walk home, so I drink a lot of water.

    2 Replies
    1. re: svnirvana

      i didnt say anything....he is not the uh....easiest guy to talk to.

      the tips are not a substantial part of my income, we do get a good hourly, but it so interesting to see the difference event by event. i am telling you, alot of open bars people throw money at you. its interesting reading everyones thoughts.

      1. re: niccole

        Is there a certain amount of money you would accept to do this job without tips? If so does the "good" hourly income meet that level?

    2. "funeral-after-party" ... I would not have word it like that! :-)

      In that case, I would not expect to have a tipping jar, it is the not occasion for that, IMO, the person who hired the caterer should pay for the "tip".

      I think that for that kind of service (funeral), the tip should be included in the package price.


      4 Replies
      1. re: Maximilien

        we actually call them "mercy lunches" but i wanted to make sure everyone knew what i was talking about :)

        1. re: Maximilien

          I went to an funeral for a wonderful friend that happened to also be Irish. Believe me, it was a "Funeral-after-party" like you have never seen. What a send off. The bartenders were breaking a sweat keeping up with the patrons. It was open bar, no tip jar, and the people there were tossing cash onto the bar freely. Not sure what the arrangements were with the family of the deceased, but I don't believe there would be any issues with tips.

          1. re: awm922

            As part of a Developmental Psychology assignment a couple of years ago, we had to plan our own funerals and share the information with a loved one. I made sure my wife knew that I wanted an open bar and one of our favorite bands (The Boat Drunks).

          2. re: Maximilien

            I've been to some pretty amazing, wonderful, comforting, fun funeral-after-parties. And tipped.

          3. I work for a catering company that does many large functions. When the bar is fully hosted the (union) bartenders cannot put out a tip jar, they may accept cash but have to do it discretely. Any bartender that has a tip jar/glass/whatever visible on the bar front is told to remove it and if caught again, will be written up. Their tip is guaranteed, not the amount, just the fact that they get a set percentage based on the total consumption. I would assume that some variation of this process would be done in all catering companies but I could be wrong.

            I've been to formal functions (wedding, bar mitzvah) where the bar was fully hosted, and the bartender had a tip jar. I thought that was tacky and that possibly the host didn't know it was inappropriate. One time I did mention it to my BIL (not the host that time) and he didn't care, tipped the guy anyway. But he can afford to be extra generous, which is not a slam at him.

            So my suggestion is, clarify the tip process before you work the function, and you'll know how to proceed from there.

            7 Replies
            1. re: alwayshungrygal

              I would no more tip the bartender at an open bar at a wedding type event than I would tip the waitress who brings my dinner to the table. I consider that the host's duty to take care of And I'm not at these types of events very often, but I've never seen people tip. Maybe they are very discreet.

              1. re: DGresh

                Exactly. Some people don't know what is appropriate and others do, but don't care. I was really ticked to see the glass tip jar and refused to tip. And these weren't small parties, they were both upwards of 150 guests at each one. I'm sure the consumption was pretty good, the bartender never looked bored.

                1. re: DGresh

                  Funny, I always tip the bartender, but not the waiter/ess. I've been told there is a tip added to the bill for the dinner, but not the drinks.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    "I've been told there is a tip added to the bill for the dinner, but not the drinks."

                    I don't know who told you this, but in my experience as both a caterer and the person hiring the caterer/restaurant to host an event it is NOT true. The patron is charged a service (tip, gratuity) charge on the entire bill. And in some states, such as Connecticut even has to pay sales tax on this charge.

                    It is an insult to the host who has to pay this charge for a guest to tip the bartender, and disgusting for a bartender to put out a tip jar or accept a tip.

                    I know I'll raise the ire of bartenders, but I have done this job professionally in the past. When I was in the catering business, our bartenders were instructed that the host was paying the tip and they were NOT allowed to accept a gratuity from a guest under penalty of immediate dismissal. (A bartender at a catered function was paid a party rate, not their usual low hourly wage which is supplemented by tips). If a guest attempted to tip a bartender, the tip was to be refused and the guest told, I'm sorry the host has taken care of us.

                    Simply out, guests don't pay (includes tips) that's what makesd them guests not patrons.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      A private party and a catered affair are not necessarily the same thing. I once held a very large party in my home for a non-profit. The price of admission included food and one drink--after that it was a cash bar. There was no tip jar but I saw lots of people tipping the bartender. Don't understand why that was wrong.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        I (personal opinion/observation) wouldn't call the function you hosted in your home a party. PARTY implies a host who pays and guests who don't. Here you/and the charity sold admission and sold drinks. Where the attendees are paying patrons there is no problem with them tipping the bartender (unless prohibited in the contract woth the caterer).

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Good point, though I noticed people even tipped on the first drink that was included in the price of admission.

              2. I tip a bartender no matter what the situation is. I was raised by a dad who always tipped bartenders, hair stylists, corner newsboys, furniture delivery men, etc. It just feels wrong to me not to tip.

                1. If it's a cash bar, I'll tip. Otherwise, I'm a guest not a customer and I don't expect to tip. I got married recently and we had an open bar... tip jars were banned. It's fine if guests wanted to quietly tip, but having a jar out is just tacky.