When you approach venues for the first time, it can be confusing to figure out the different packages available and various bar requirements unique to each venue.

You will often come across bar packages and sometimes you will come across the system of drinks on consumption or minimum bar spend requirements. To give you a better understanding of what these systems are I’ve outlined how they work and the pros and cons of each system. By understanding how they work and asking yourself a few simple questions, you can decide on the right choice for your function.


  1. Can you afford to go over your budget for beverages?
  2. Are your friends and family fussy drinkers?
  3. What is more important to you? Having complete control over your bar tab or having a tab with more flexibility?
  4. Are your friends likely to drink heavily or just have a few?
  5. Do you want everything to be organised prior to the event rather than deal with it on the night?
  6. Do you only want to supply limited beverages on the night?
  7. What is the occasion? This might sound simple however at a 21st, people tend to expect a bar tab, however if you are having a 30th birthday party or even a 40th Birthday or 50th Birthday Party people don’t always expect too many free drinks

The advantage of a beverage package:

The advantage to buying a beverage package is, knowing that all of your guests will receive unlimited alcohol within a fixed time frame and for a fixed price. This can be a good motivator to get your guests there on time. It is also a good way to stop guests from taking advantage of a free bar tab. Packages usually consist of beer, wine, champagne, juice and soft drinks. The quality of the wines and beer will vary depending on the type of package you choose. The deluxe or premium packages will sometimes offer basic spirits as well. It’s always good to look at a variety of drink packages to compare their value. Packages are usually offered for 2, 3 and 4 hours and prices will vary per person for additional hours of consumption.

Beverage packages can also be a good choice if you only want the function to run for a limited time. Packages generally suit corporate functions as these are usually for business purposes and excessive drinking is not encouraged. It also allows organisers to stay within a set budget and have some control over what’s being served to guests.

Disadvantages of a beverage package:

The disadvantages of buying a beverage package are that you must pay a set amount of money per guest when booking the function. Venues usually request a confirmation of numbers two weeks prior to an event and have a minimum requirement of guests. If guests don’t show up on the night, you are still obligated to pay the venue for those guests. This means that you may end up paying for drinks that were never consumed. This can be costly if you’re organising large birthday events and I would recommend letting guests know that once they have RSVP’d, they have been paid for.

The other disadvantage of buying a beverage package is that guests are restricted by what they can drink therefore they may not like the alcohol on offer. This can be a problem for non -beer or wine drinker’s as most starter packages don’t include spirits or premixed drinks.

Sometimes, having unlimited drinks for a limited time can encourage binge drinking, especially with 18th and 21st birthdays. Most venues will monitor the excessive drinking of guests however free drinks will usually motivate people to drink more than they would with a bar tab with no time limit.

Pros of drink packages:

  • Allows complete control over your budget.
  • Allows unlimited drinks to all guests within a set time frame.
  • Allows control over how long the tab will last.
  • Takes the worry out of monitoring bar tabs throughout the evening.

Cons of drink packages:

  • You are obligated to pay the venue a set amount per head, regardless whether guests show up or not.
  • You are restricted by your choice of alcohol.
  • Packages can encourage excessive drinking in young adults.


Some venues prefer to set a minimum bar spend requirement. This amount is the minimum amount that a client must reach on the bar during their function. This system of purchasing drinks is called – drinks on consumption.

  1. This can be arranged by the venue in two ways: You can put down a bar tab of a desired amount (this doesn’t need to be the same amount as the minimum bar spend requirement). Some guests will organise with the venue to customise their drinks on the tab and restrict drink purchases to beer, wine and champagne. Some will simply put down an amount and when it runs out, guests must purchase their own drinks.
  2. The other option is to leave the responsibility up to your guests to pay the minimum bar spend. i.e.; people purchase their own drinks. Please note, this is generally only a good option when you are uncertain of how many guests will show. If you are certain, then a safe way to ensure you’ll make your minimum spend requirement is to follow the following rule:
  3. Take the minimum bar spend, say $1,500 and tally up the number of expected guests, (take away 20% for cancellations and no shows). Divide the bar -spend by this number and you will end up with your price per person. Keep in mind, basic bar prices are around $7.50 to $8.00 so you can then work out how many drinks guests will need to purchase in order to meet your bar spend.

Its safe to say that most people will purchase 2 – 3 drinks on average throughout the night, but you really need to know the drinking habits of your guests before you can make these assumptions.

Advantages of purchasing drinks on consumption

The most obvious advantage is that you will only pay for what your guests drink, so if there are; no shows at your function you wouldn’t have lost money on them.
With bar tabs, there isn’t any set time limit on free drinks for your guests but by not monitoring this, you can end up with a huge bar tab at the end of the night. You can check the bar amount at different times throughout the night but this might prevent you from relaxing so its a good idea to give the bar a maximum figure and ask them to let you know when it reaches this amount. You can always extend the tab if you want to later. To make a tab last longer; restrict your drinks to basic beverages or to just beer and wine. People can always purchase their own drinks if they want to and all drinks sold are included on your bar spend.
With drinks on consumption, you might just want to put a small tab on and restrict what people can drink on this tab. When this runs out, people must buy their own drinks. This is usually O.K with the venue, just as long as you meet your minimum bar spend requirement. If you know your friends drink steadily then this system usually works fine. You pay what you can afford and you still meet your minimum bar spend.


There are some note worthy disadvantages to purchasing drinks on consumption. Most importantly, if functions don’t reach their expected number of guests, the host is still responsible to pay the minimum bar spend, so if your guests drink $1,000 worth of drinks and your minimum spend is $1,500 then you are obliged to pay the extra $500 to the venue.
If you’re unsure about the reliability of your guests or if you know they’re not big drinkers then I wouldn’t recommend drinks on consumption. With packages you pay upfront and with this, comes more obligation from your guests to show up.
Lastly, when you purchase drinks on consumption, you may not enjoy the same peace of mind that a beverage package can provide. The knowledge that your tab has been paid for and that your guests are all guaranteed to have drinks throughout the evening allows you to just enjoy the function.

Pros of drinks on consumption:

  • You pay only for what your guests drink.
  • You can customize your own drinks menu.
  • Guests can purchase their own drinks to help meet the minimum bar spend.

Cons of drinks on consumption:

  • Risk of not meeting the minimum bar spends and paying the venue for drinks unsold.
  • The chance of guests not showing up.
  • Worrying and not enjoying your function

Now that you’re armed with this information and have both the pros and cons of both drink options, you should be able to work out which option is going to work best for your event.