How much does a cocktail consultant cost?

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How much does a cocktail consultant cost? Is it worth it? As a bar owner you might assume that a food and beverage consultant is a luxury you can’t afford. You may be surprised to learn that there are cost-effective consultants out there that can bring a quick return on your investment. If you want to know how much cocktail consultants charge and how to get the most out of your investment, this article is written for you.

While rates vary greatly depending on experience and location, you should expect to pay $250 – $1000 per day or $40 – $120 per hour for on-site consulting. According to the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, the going rate for a beverage program alone ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. Other factors could increase these rates even more. 

These costs are substantial. However, I’ll provide you with some real life examples of where a cocktail consultant paid their own fee many times over. I’ll also share some areas where you might be able to stretch your consulting budget.

Fee Structures

Hourly, daily, and goal-oriented; While every job is different, fee structures will fall into one of these three categories or a hybrid of them. Hourly or Daily pay structures will be more appropriate for smaller projects like staff training or product photography. For larger projects like restaurant launches or full beverage programs, it’s usually best to steer towards goal-oriented pay structures.

When we’re writing contracts for larger projects at Express & Discard Consulting, we prefer goal-oriented contracts that break the project into different milestones. Partial payment is agreed upon at different phases of the project at predefined “milestones”. The client has the opportunity to change directions if they aren’t satisfied with the work they’ve seen at each milestone.

Job Complexity

Jobs that require more than one person, such as product photography, website design, and most launches will necessitate a higher fee from your cocktail consultant. Consultants frequently sub-contract with other consultants or contractors to deliver the best final product to their clients, which also increases rates drastically. The particular beverage program you’re working with can also have a dramatic effect on consultant fees based simply on size and complexity as these will necessitate additional time on the consultant’s end.

Location

Certain markets like New York City, San Fransisco, Chicago, or Miami are simply more expensive than the rest of the United States. As there are more bar and club owners with substantial financial means looking to hire consultants in these locations, these consultants are able to command a higher rate for their services. If you find yourself in one of these areas the good news is that you can generally count on a higher caliber consultant as these cities have some of the most advanced food and beverage scenes in the country as well.

Company Size

At Express & Discard Consulting, we take the size of your business into account when negotiating our rates.  Many other small to medium sized food and beverage consultants will be willing to as well.

Experience

Talent produces good ideas. Experience takes good ideas and turns them into profits.  Experience is the most important factor in determining how much a bar consultant costs and for good reason.  If a consultant’s rate seems low, make sure they have experience in environments similar to your bar or restaurant before you bring them in.

Case Studies

Bar consultants cost way less than they save

A Queens gastropub brought in a consultant to elevate their beverage program. While working with the staff, the consultant noticed a bad taste coming from the soda water. Upon investigation, the ice machine was found to never have been cleaned in the restaurant’s two years of operation. The food and beverage consultant was able to identify several other potential health department fines. Later that week, a Department of Health inspection occurred and the inspector did indeed look inside of the ice machine. The owner credited consultant with saving him as much as $4000 in fines.

Bar consultant costs can be offset by increased profits

A struggling Brooklyn cafe was seeing a large number of mothers coming in for wine during the next door dance studio’s rehearsals. To cater to the moms they set up a wine special– 50% off all wine pours. In addition to the discount, the staff was pouring nearly 11 ounces of wine into the over-sized wine glasses.

This effectively meant that they were giving the wine away at cost! After one month of pouring at the proper levels and reducing the discount to reasonable rates, the cafe saved over $2000/month in lost wine profit.

Reduced money in fines can offset bar consultant costs.

A struggling cocktail-forward restaurant in Brooklyn wasn’t seeing enough sales to cover labor and product costs. The company brought in a consultant full-time to completely revamp the food and beverage program and replace the staffing. Within four months sales were up 85% while labor and product costs had fallen in line with industry averages. The restaurant experienced their first profitable month only two months later.

How to save on consulting fees

Ask for a lower rate

Don’t be afraid to ask if your consultant has any wiggle room on rates. Consultants might be able to offer flexibility in their rates or payment schedule if they’re excited about your project. Most cocktail consultants will be more willing to accept lower rates if they don’t have another project lined up as well. Be aware that consulting is a time-intensive activity and the consultant will have only so much flexibility in their pricing.

Address fundamentals before bringing in a bar consultant

I would never discourage anyone from bringing in a consultant. That said, there are things you can do on your own, before the consultant is brought in to save yourself some money. If your restaurant isn’t running well, there’s a good chance you already know where some of the problems lie.

Fix obvious problems you’re capable of handling yourself before you start paying a consultant. Rude staff? Replace them. Dirty kitchen? Clean it. Need a cost analysis? Write your recipes down and gather an entire order cycles worth of invoices. Don’t force the consultant to spend time on these basics before moving to more substantial matters. You don’t need to pay someone to $75/hour to tell you to clean your restaurant.

Incentive-based fee structures

Consultants will sometimes accept lower initial payments in exchange for bonuses upon certain sales or profit goals. In extraordinary circumstances, food and beverage consultants have even accepted percentage of future profits in lieu of initial payment. This is an attractive option for many business owners as there’s little risk involved. Few consultants will enter into such arrangements where the business isn’t established and otherwise profitable however.

Need a cocktail consultant?

We offer free initial consultations to help you assess your needs at no cost and no obligation. Let’s have a conversation about how Express & Discard can help your business succeed.