A night on the town is a pricey affair for cocktail lovers, who can anticipate paying from $10 to upward of $20 for a mixed drink. (A simple Manhattan at The Rye Bar in Georgetown, for example, is $22, and a $40 cocktail called Grand Cru Punch at Chicago’s The Terrace at Trump will require a trip to the ATM.) In the corporate planning world, a little liquid courage is often key to productive mingling, but unfortunately for planners, steep pricing is nearly inescapable and can quickly blow a budget. The good news: You have options. Collaborate’s Hayley Jones spoke with Casey Hiner, meeting architect for global meeting management firm Kinsley, on beverage alternatives, the growing role of sponsors and the future of bars at events.
How do you tackle excessive drink prices when planning your meetings?
Alternative ideas we integrate into many events are signature drinks, sponsored beverages that companies promote from their booths or a branded bar that allows attendees to get a cocktail, but limits their options. The typical solution is to have beer and wine only and add a cash bar for cocktails.
As beverage costs continue to rise, how do you think the landscape will change for meetings?
Event managers will have to get more creative to integrate bars into their event budgets. Unfortunately, the first thing I’m seeing cut is bars, especially those with cocktails. It is hard to see these disappear completely from events though. Alcohol will always be part of conferences because the main point is to network… and alcohol and networking go hand in hand.
What’s a typical signature drink?
Usually something with vodka or rum will be popular with a general crowd. If you have more female attendees, something sweet or fruity will appeal to most. However, with more male guests, whiskey might be more appealing. It’s fun to have the drink go with the sponsor’s product or the event’s theme.
How do you control beverage costs?
Drink tickets are the best solution. Once people use their tickets, there is an option to go to a cash bar so they can keep enjoying the reception. The need for sponsorships has become more prominent. Some events will not even host cocktail hours without sponsorship dollars helping to offset costs.
What advice do you have for planners on a tight budget?
I would reach out to sponsors as much as possible, even ones that are not directly in the industry your event is in. For example, a service that all people use such as a bank or airline is a great supporter to get involved.
Photo Credit: Marnie Joyce/Flickr