Beverage functions serve an important purpose: They give guests a way to socialize and network. They offer a chance to visit in a relaxed, leisurely setting. New acquaintances are made and old ones rekindled. Job openings are circulated. Hot tips are exchanged. And the seeds of many successful business dealings are planted.

Given that the point is socializing, don't have the music at an opening reception so loud that guests must shout. Save the loud music for the closing evening event, when everyone is talked out.

And don't forget the food. At the very least, be sure to include a few hors d'oeuvres or dry snacks. With increasing host and host-property liability, it is not wise to book events that offer only alcoholic beverages, which leave you ripe for liability lawsuits should a liquor-related incident occur.

It is important to know about beverage profit margins, particularly with wine. Most hotels have a separate department in charge of ordering, storage, and service of all liquor, beer, wine, and soft drinks. The profit margin on beverages is much higher than the profit margin for food. A $20 bottle of wine may cost an operator $10. Even though the bottle of wine has a 50 percent cost, the operator makes a $10 gross profit. A $50 bottle of wine provides a $25 gross profit.

Bellying Up to the Bar

Bars take up a lot of floor space because you need room to store stock, ice, and coolers to hold beer and some wines. You also need to allocate enough working space for bartenders and, if applicable, cocktail servers. Generally speaking, the smallest portable bar you can use measures approximately six feet by seven feet, or about 42 square feet. However, when you take into account the aisle and other space needed, you will need to allocate at least 150 square feet for the typical portable banquet-bar setup.

If you are setting up portable bars for a large function, you may be able to reduce your space estimates if you can arrange to locate them in pairs. For instance, you may be able to locate two or four portable bars back-to-back in the middle of the function room so that the bars can share a common area where glassware, ice, wines, beers, and so forth are stored. This will eliminate duplicate storage areas and free up extra floor space.

Patti J. Shock, CPCE, is professor and chairwoman, Tourism and Convention Administration Department, Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. To learn more about her, visit tca.unlv.edu/shock.html or send an e-mail to patti.shock@unlv.edu.

Tip: Wine Sites

The Wine Lovers Page shows what types of wine go with a wide variety of food. It also has a wine lexicon and a wine label decoder. www.wine-lovers-page.com

Epicurious has a drink search page, with recipes ranging from almond lattes to zombies: www.epicurious.com/drinking/

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