Bottle Service 101: A Guide for Venue Owners

Marketing 13 minute read 9th June 2021

You’ve no doubt seen a movie or two where the central characters head to a club, waltz straight into a VIP area past the DJ booth, and chug away on seemingly endless bottles of champagne and vodka all night.

This depiction of what is known as purchasing ‘bottle service’ is pretty accurate. But you never see the bill, do you?

Trust us - it was big. Bottle service can make your venue an awful lot of money if you get it right. And it all starts with this guide.

What Is Bottle Service?

Bottle service is super simple to get your head around. It involves venues such as the hottest club scenes and bars offering guests the opportunity to buy an entire bottle of liquor in exchange for reserved seating.

There’s lots of fancy marketing wrapped around bottle service, of course. Establishments create reserved seating areas to look as ‘VIP’ as possible. As a result, bottle service suits social media marketing and promotion. Venues are likely to enjoy plenty of user-generated content on platforms like Instagram due to offering the service.

Bottle service is usually costly when viewed from the raw purchase price of the bottle. These days, guests can expect minimum spending amounts, and pay anywhere from $500 upwards for a single liquor bottle. But the value lies in the entire experience and the scarcity and exclusivity of the VIP areas where customers consume drinks.

As you might expect, bottle service attracts wealthy clientele, celebrities, influencers, or parties celebrating something extraordinary.

The History of Bottle Service and Table Service

Bottle service, also known as table service, isn’t new. Most try to trace it back to the 1940s. However, it was in 1988 when a Paris nightclub reportedly enabled patrons to reserve a table for a fee and receive a complimentary large bottle of booze. This kick-started the modern era of bottle service.

Fast-forward to 2001, bottle service was becoming a big deal across the United States. In clubs like Bungalow 8 and Lotus, a bottle of Grey Goose could fetch as much as $500 in exchange for an exclusive VIP table.

VIP areas

Bottle service hasn’t changed to this day in terms of the theory behind it, but a growing number of apps are now available to make booking such experiences as easy as possible.

More importantly, from a marketing perspective, bottle service is now ideally suited to influencer marketing. Give an influencer a VIP table for the night, and the potential reach for your venue on social media and platforms like YouTube is astronomical.

The bottle service experience: it’s all about the seating area. You can’t sell a massively overpriced bottle of liquor without providing the right experience to go with it. The people who buy this service might be wealthy, but they’re not foolish.

Starting a bottle service is relatively straightforward if your venue has the right areas to transform it into VIP seating.

The more inviting you make such spaces look, the more likely you are to sell lots of bottle service experiences. The idea is to create a space that makes the guests feel like they’re receiving a service that’s a step above everyone else’s in the venue. Think elite, special, and exclusive, and you’re along the right lines.

Read more: Table Service, 6 Lucrative Upsell Opportunities

4 Examples of Bottle Service VIP Areas That Work Brilliantly:

  • Dais platforms: These raised seating areas provide a great vantage point for your VIP guests and elevate the unique spot for everyone else to see and lust after.

  • Luxury: By adding a touch of luxury to a specific seating area, you can make it the perfect place for bottle service. Higher-quality fabrics, lush lighting, and bold colors should do the trick.

  • Private cabana: If you run a venue with a pool bar or beach, a cabana is a brilliant way to create perceived privacy and exclusivity within a crowded environment.

  • Rope it off: Nothing says “if your name’s not down, you’re not coming in” better than a rope across the entrance to a specific seating area in your club.

Do You Need Extra Servers Alongside Bottle Service Offerings?

There’s an argument that bottle service guests should also receive special treatment from the staff alongside bottle service offerings. One way to do that is to reserve some team members as bottle servers with a designated bartender or two.

Remember that bottle serving is a job in its own right and needs experience and training to make the most of it. For instance, bottle service, by its definition, is set up for some very profitable upselling opportunities, but staff needs to know how to spot them and take advantage.

Bottle servers also need to be well-versed with signs of intoxication and able to deal effectively and calmly with rowdy guests. They’ll need a keen eye for guests in danger of outstaying their welcome and not maximizing their spending while in the VIP area. If bottle service is something you’re only testing out, make sure you spend time with your existing team to train them on what’s required.

If it takes off, consider promoting some of them to bottle servers or bringing in additional staff. Make sure you and your employees are on the same page when it comes to tip pooling and what your bartenders will expect to make with wages and tips.

phones-01 bottle service

How To Get Your Bottle Service Pricing Right

Bottle service isn’t a free ticket to massively marked-up wet sales.

It starts, once again, with the service you’re offering. If you can get that VIP area right and make the complete bottle service experience something that delivers real value for a specific guest, you can begin pricing those bottles.

The nice thing about bottle service is that the pricing works best when it’s simple. This is why most bottle service options quote nothing more than the price of the bottle. There are no add-ons (until you sit down - remember those upsells) or hidden costs; the bottle costs $X, and you get the area for as long as you like.

It’s up to the staff to keep those bottles flowing (which they should if you attract the right clientele).

As for the pricing of your bottles — it depends significantly on your location and what others in your area are charging. Do some research, but remember that you need to throw conventional markup principles for wet sales out of the window.

If you think you can legitimately charge $1,000 for a bottle of vodka and make a 1000% profit based on the experience you’re offering, that’s completely fine.

Some of the biggest clubs in the US have been known to charge up to $7,500 for a bottle.

bottle service 7500-03

Wrapping Up: Is Bottle Service for You?

Bottle service certainly is only for some venues. It suits bars, clubs, and even restaurants, but there are four questions to ask yourself before trying it out:

1. Do you have the space for bottle service areas?

Bar and nightclub operations must provide exclusive real estate in their establishment to offer bottle service. Multiple bottle service sections are possible for larger venues like hotels. Medium-sized businesses and more casual establishments must decide if they can accommodate such an investment to sacrifice common serving areas.

2. Do You Have the Budget?

Besides providing exclusive access to the most desirable tables in your venue, businesses must decide if having bottle service makes financial sense. Premium evenings for the guest experience require extraordinary luxury. True bottle service that guests reserve requires VIP treatment, and inspiring restaurant operators must decide if it’s worth it.

3. Do You Have Enough Staff To Cover Bottle Service?

Bottle service and table service include exclusive treatment. A typical bar menu needs to be enhanced. Businesses need to manage operations to increase headcount to provide the service to match an experience fitting a special occasion, every night.

4. Will Providing Bottle Service Negatively Impact Your Brand Image?

If you offer bottle service, will there be any potential negative consequences for your venue’s brand image? Ordering bottle service includes an air of exclusivity, and business owners need to decide if this matches the brand goals and company vision.

We advise giving bottle service packages a trial run if interested. Expand your bottle service plans if it works, and you can forecast a healthy new line of revenue going forward. If it doesn’t feel right or there’s little take-up, you’ll have lost nothing if you decide to pull back.

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