December 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts November 1998 Current Issue
November 1998
Short Cuts:

You've taken pains designing a theme and choosing the menu and decor. But have you put that kind of creative brainpower into your bar setup? With a little imagination, the bar could become a highlight of a reception or event. It could even be a way to cut costs.

One of the first things to think about, says Steve Schackne, food and beverage director at the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., is the trend in consumption. "People are drinking less but drinking better." Instead of offering one fully stocked bar, Schackne likes specialty drink stations, featuring perhaps martinis or margaritas. He may offer up to 22 kinds of martinis, with condiments like garlic olives or Dutch onions set on an ice sculpture. For a margarita station, Schackne likes to use cactus-stemmed glasses, premium brands and fresh mangoes or bananas for fruity concoctions.

At Chicago's Palmer House Hilton, Edwin Rios offers wine stations with sustenance. "There's no better way to serve wine than with cheese and crackers," says the director of food and beverage. He displays a table of various wines and a cutting board with cheeses, bread and crackers, and bunches of grapes. His champagne station is impressive, too, set on a table with flowers, strawberries and white chocolate fondue.

Meanwhile, the "stretch bar" is taking refreshment to new lengths. Rios sets up 40 feet of bar-height banquet tables and lines it with stools. "It becomes a gathering point for guests," he says. "It loosens up the ambience." For an after-dinner gathering, he may serve premium liqueurs, cappuccino and espresso at the stretch bar.

Some groups may have to stick to call or mid-price brands for liquor, but that doesn't have to be advertised. "If someone wants Absolut, we'll get it," says Pat Ieva, executive catering manager for the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. "We just won't push it." A few premium drinks won't usually end up on the bill, says Ieva. Another beverage cost-cutter: Serving premium beer from a keg is often cheaper than offering domestic bottles, according to Ieva.


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