What Is the Difference Between Bottle Service and Table Service?
If you've ever been to a nightclub, you’re probably familiar with the term “bottle service;” and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’re probably familiar with the term “table service.” But what exactly is the difference between the two? And as a bar or restaurant owner, why should you care?
These may seem like simple or silly questions, but there is a distinct difference between bottle service and table service. Knowing the nuances of each can help you make better decisions for your business.
What We’ll Cover in This Piece:
What Is Table Service?
In a nutshell, table service simply refers to an experience where a waiter serves a diner at a table. Yes, this all seems pretty self-explanatory, but it’s still good to cover the basics.
Table service includes guests sitting down where a server takes their order, relays it to the kitchen, and physically serves them their food. Not to be confused with “counter service,” where a guest orders up at a counter and serves themselves.
Even more common today is QR code ordering, where one uses a QR code to access a menu and order on their Smartphone.
Table service could be considered a little more old-school, but it’s a tried-and-true service that an establishment provides, running meals, setting and clearing tables, and creating a more personal experience for the diner.
Of course, what table service looks like in any restaurant will vary. Everything from white-glove fine dining to casual sit-down bistros can give table service.
The most important thing is to establish your own table service rules and adequately train your staff to adhere to your approach.
What Is Bottle Service?
Although bottle service can be a term used interchangeably with table service in the bar and nightclub scene, there are differences.
Bottle service usually refers to an exclusive service your bar or nightclub provides to VIPs often in a roped-off area away from the general public. There, an establishment gives a more white-glove experience to clubbers. Anything from giving top-of-the-line service to letting patrons skip the line to furnishing a “bottle person” that exclusively serves your notable guests.
This high-end server pours drinks and shots and just generally keeps the liquor stocked and flowing.
Drink-wise, bottle service typically includes a large top-shelf bottle of liquor such as vodka or tequila along with mixers (club soda, ginger ale, cola, cranberry juice, etc.), and garnishes like limes and lemons. Energy drinks are also a popular offering with bottle service. Some establishments might even get creative by offering unique fresh fruit juices.
Bottle service has become synonymous with exclusivity, luxury, and first-class hospitality.
Historically, establishments that provide bottle service have been on the higher end of the entertainment spectrum. But today, we’re seeing more and more businesses like gastropubs, casual pubs, and even craft beer bars start to dip their toes into bottle service.
Why? Well, there are certain advantages to bottle service.
Three Pros of Bottle Service
Bottle service comes with a certain exclusive tag. Offering this experience will attract a certain high-end clientele looking for that royal night out. The advantages here are twofold. If you’re able to attract a celebrity-like clientele to your nightclub or bar, that will only boost your street cred. Additionally, folks willing to throw down for bottle service are most likely going to spend a little (or a lot) more than the average drinker.
Boost Your Bottom Line
Bottle service in your nightclub, bar, or lounge can work in one of two ways.
Either, the guest commits to a “minimum spend.” In other words, someone who wants bottle service agrees to spend a certain amount on alcohol in order to reserve the table.
Or, a potential patron agrees to purchase a bottle at an inflated price, anywhere from 500% to even 5,000% in some of the hotter club scenes.
A number of factors go into how a business owner determines this minimum spend, such as location, the day, and the time you offer the table. But typically, you’ll find average minimum spend rates somewhere between $500-$1,500 for a group of ten people.
On the opposite end, hot nightlife spots like Vegas, Los Angeles, or Miami can often charge a five-figure minimum spend to reserve bottle service tables on the busy weekends.
Yes, you better make the experience worth the cash. But if you can dial in your bottle service program, you have the opportunity to really boost your bottom line.
Pro Tip: Just remember, if you decide to offer bottle service, it’s good practice to require a deposit up front. You can credit this towards the table’s minimum spend, but you’ll get a financial boost from the start and help ensure that your guest actually shows up to fulfill the reservation.
Imagine this: You’re out dancing the night away to the hottest DJ when all of a sudden you see sparklers explode, exclusive bottles on gold trays snaking their way to a roped-off private area where inside people laugh and appear to be having the night of their life. All of a sudden you realize you’re packed in next to fifty other sweaty people, jostling your way through crowds just to grab a gin and tonic at the bar. Wouldn’t life be grand if you could be over there in that VIP area enjoying bottle service?
Bottle service layouts may be private, but they’re always still visible to the public. It’s like walking through the first class area of the airplane on your way to business class; you always wish your journey ended fifteen rows earlier in the plush comfort of first class.
Providing a one-of-a-kind bottle service area will attract attention and set your club or bar apart. The experience you create is almost like free marketing for yourself. Develop a good program and the word will spread, attract more patrons willing to pay for posh service, and create a nice little exclusive ecosystem for yourself.
Consider bottle service a cultural cache. One that will give your place that “it” factor. Plus, people hanging out in a cool area and drinking are probably twice as likely to snap a photo of it and share it on Instagram. Because if it isn’t posted on social media…it didn’t happen right?
These are great opportunities to give your establishment love on social media and create FOMO for others wanting to enjoy that unique experience.
Pro Tip: Invest in your bottle service area and put it in the best spot of the club, preferably close to the DJ and the action. Deck it out with over-the-top comfy booths or sofas, TVs, crazy art, arcade games, whatever you think will make sense. Just make it look dope and the elite crowds will flock.
Why Your Bar or Nightclub Should Consider Bottle Service
Providing bottle service truly isn’t for every establishment. If you’re a blue collar watering hole, then bottle service might not fit your vibe.
But if you own a new nightclub in Brooklyn trying to make a name for itself, the fantasy and indulgence you create with your bottle service program will set you apart from the competition.
You could become the next hot spot for celebrities, bachelorette parties, and big birthdays.
And bottle service isn’t just for the hottest dance clubs anymore. No one says craft beer bars cannot offer their own bottle service-like experiences.
Honestly, if you're able to dedicate a staff member or two to bottle service, this could be an intriguing option. Deck out a cool spot in your establishment, start with a reasonable minimum spend around $150-$250, and see if folks will bite on your new bottle service.