About this type of business

Mobile bars come in a variety of forms, from a plank resting on beer kegs with a table cloth over, to purpose built portable units and fully equipped trailers capable of pulling thousands of pints of beer an hour.

Many mobile bars are run on a part time basis by people already in the license trade (such as pubs, restaurants, wine bars etc.) but there is potential for you to break into the market, especially with a unique and creative concept. The set up costs can range from a couple of hundred pounds to hundreds of thousands, depending on what you want to do.

The Main Advantages of a Mobile Bar Business:

1) High Demand

In the UK we love a drink, and there is likely to be constant demand at shows and events.

2) It’s a Vocation

People in the bar trade tend to either love it or get out pretty quickly. If you have experience in the industry and enjoy the work, this could be a very rewarding and profitable career decision.

3) Good Potential for Private & Corporate Work

There is significant demand for Mobile Bars at private and corporate functions or events. The popularity of interactive classes such as cocktail making lessons has also increased in recent years. In order to succeed in this field it is essential that you have good marketing material as your customers are likely to look at several different options. They are unlikely to make their decision solely on price, so service, image and presentation will also be key factors in their decision making process.

4) Stand Out from the Crowd

There is good potential to break into the events industry through imaginative offerings. A growing number of quirky bar options have sprung up including cocktail bars, cider bars, tiki bars, wine bars and Champagne or Prosecco bars.

5) Good Profit Margins & Opportunities

Alternatives to beer often have better profit margins, and may provide more opportunities to get into events, as event organisers may be more likely to select your business for their event if it is unique or you have a different take on things. 

6) Sole Rights

You can often buy the sole rights to sell alcohol at an event or show, as long as you can afford them. This gives you a monopoly position on the bar(s), meaning you won’t be competing on price or anything else – if someone wants a drink, they’ll have to come to you.

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The Main Disadvantages of a Mobile Bar Business:

Concession Cost

The cost of alcohol concessions at events can be prohibitive for small businesses, pricing them out of the market or forcing them to take risks which they would rather avoid. For the bigger shows you will require a lot of working capital, as well as the right team of staff behind you to ensure that it all runs smoothly.

Start-Up Costs

Start-up and stock costs can be substantial. Obviously this will depend on the size and type of operation that you are looking to run. Smaller bars for private hire at weddings and parties can be set up reasonably cost effectively, but larger operations will need significant investment. You may also find that your pitch money gets caught up as deposits several months in advance.

Breaking Into the Market

It can be a difficult market to break into for the larger events. It can be a costly and difficult nut to crack, but can be very profitable if you get it right. Your tender will be dependent on the organiser’s own attendance figures, which may be on the optimistic side. If you get the tender wrong you could end up losing money.

Licensing

You have to get a personal alcohol licence if you haven’t got one already and this can take both time and money. Kit can also be taken away from you if you have been considered to have breached the regulations.

Staffing

Staffing can be a constant issue for Mobile Bar operators. You will have to manage large numbers of people who are working hard while everyone around them has fun. Often the staff are casual, and at events and festivals they may go off and have a bit too much fun when they aren’t working. Not to mention the amount of your takings they will be handling. Managing staff and ensuring that your takings are going into your till and staying there can be a real issue for bar operators.

Potential Violence

Anywhere there is alcohol there is always the potential for violence to flair up. It is an unsavoury aspect of the business, but not unexpected. If you are unwilling or unable to deal with such situations then this may not be the career for you.

Selling Alcohol with Food

At the risk of stating the obvious, some types of food work extremely well with alcohol, such as champagne and Oysters, wine and cheese and of course beer and burgers. However, it’s not always an easy thing to offer both alcohol and food at events or markets. This is partly because the alcohol concessions at events tend to be sold separately to the food concessions and often for considerable amounts of money. Organisers may therefore not be keen for you to sell both, as it may cause problems with the other bar operators. Furthermore, they may charge you two pitch fees, one for the food and one for alcohol.

Hard to get work

Many events will already have the bar already sorted, and most mobile bars are run on a part time basis by people already in the licensed trade, such as pubs, restaurants, wine bars etc. The reason being, that they already have the experience, the knowledge and the licence (although they may need to apply for an additional temporary or event licence). Another big advantage is that they have the buying power to get beer, wines and spirits at the right price, as well as somewhere to store them and a way of selling off anything that might be left after the event.

Licensing – Temporary Events Notice

A Temporary Events Notice (TEN) given under the Licensing Act 2003 allows the sale of alcohol, the provision of late night refreshment or the provision of certain public entertainment from a specified premises in England and Wales.

TENs can be used to authorise relatively small-scale, ad hoc events, and allows you to hold a licensable activity at a venue that is not currently licensed, or to hold or extend activities your existing licence does not permit.

Find out more in our Get Legal section

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