Honesty Bars

We’ve spoken to three hospitality experts to find out all you need to know about running an honesty bar so you can start your own.

For those of you who want to offer guests a place to relax and enjoy a drink or two but don’t have the time or money to staff an actual bar, we suggest looking into the concept of an honesty bar.

Honesty bars are becoming increasingly popular. They are unattended beverage bars that typically reside in communal areas of hospitality venues such as a hotel lobby or lounge. As it is unattended, payment is left to the guest, hence the term ‘honesty’.

Karen Thorne, founder of the B and B Academy, believes honesty bars are great for b&bs.

“They’re perfect for those pre and post dinner drinks,” said Karen.

Bed and Breakfast Coach, Yvonne Halling, said it’s important to consider whether an honesty bar will work for you.

“It depends. What kind of establishment are you?” said Yvonne.

“If you’re a budget hotel catering largely for one night stays, having an honesty bar might mean you get taken advantage of.

“But in a more upmarket property with lots of detail and a price tag to match, then an honesty bar could help to more trust and goodwill between you and your guests.”

Yvonne added: “It may give them the opportunity to appreciate you more than the bill they pay at the end of their stay.”

Karen pointed out that whether an honesty bar will work depends on your market, but it “might be easier or more successful for the properties that don’t accept children”.

If you’re unsure whether an honesty bar would work, think of your clientele and whether they would appreciate it. If you don’t know, ask them!

Anna Sebastian is the Bar Manager at Artesian, a sophisticated cocktail bar at The Langham Hotel in London. Her experience in the hospitality, food and beverage industries has provided her with a wealth of knowledge.

“The first time I came across an honesty bar was in Sri Lanka years ago,” said Anna.

“It was a huge novelty and I wondered how people remembered exactly how much they actually drank in an evening.”

Since stumbling across her first honesty bar, Anna has visited many hotel bars around the world, done her market research and worked on a number of honesty and mini bar projects.

Anna said: “The best ones are those that make your life easy and you don’t have to wait for an award winning bartender to mix your favourite drink.

“I also found that the better honesty bars surprise and delight you by going off-piste from the usual standard bar items.”

Anna explained that bottled cocktails are dominating the market and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The RTD (Ready to Drink) market is also continuing to boom, with a wide variety of alcoholic cans becoming increasingly available in many supermarkets.

When it comes to stocking your honesty bar, Anna said it’s important to consider the brands you stock.

She said: “A recent report showed that consumers are 71% more likely to choose brands that have good values and ethics.

“You should definitely take that into consideration when compiling any sort of bar or drinks list.”

When deciding what you should stock in your honesty bar, Anna said her favourites were ones that “encapsulated the city or country” she was in.

“Prioritise the local and authentic products that are related to your community,” said Anna.

Karen Thorne added: “I know some b&bs that have had great success offering a range of local gins, whiskies and beers.” Yvonne Halling explained that honesty bars can be lucrative features.

She said: “One of my clients in the USA does extremely well from her honesty bar, making well over $20,000 a year from this idea alone!”

An honesty bar requires less work than a traditional, full service bar, but Karen said you have to keep in mind that you’re relying on the guests to make payments.

“The other option is to provide a stocked minibar in the guests’ bedrooms,” said Karen.

“Then you’ll know exactly what’s been consumed and it can be deducted from their bill automatically.”

If you’re considering setting up an honesty bar, you will need a license.

Talk to your local council about what their requirements are for properties with honesty bars.

6 TOP TIPS

1. Consider the brands that you want to stock. What brands are popular?

2. Are there any local brands that you can stock that encapsulate the local area?

3. Prioritise any local and authentic products that are related to your community

4. You will need a license. Make sure to get the correct paperwork signed

5. Bottled cocktails and ‘ready to drink’ beverages are great for honesty bars

6. Consider whether an honesty bar would suit your business & clientele

POPULAR HONESTY BAR DRINKS (SUGGESTIONS FROM ANNA):

1. Bottled cocktails divided into 2 parts – “apertif” and “nightcap”

2. Gin (Chapel Down | Sipsmith)

3. Vodka (Boatyard Vodka | Chase Vodka)

4. Rum (Diplomatico)

5. Whisky (Michter’s Bourbon | Jameson Irish | Chivas Scotch)

6. Tequila (Patron)

7. Seedlip & Tonic cans

8. Served Raspberry Hard Seltzer

9. All Saints non-alcoholic beer

10. Brew Dog Beer Selection

11. Taittinger Champagne NV

12. Billecart Salmon Rose Champagne

13. London Essence Tonic Water

14. London Essence Soda Water

15. Two Keys Grapefruit Soda

16. Franklin & Sons Pineapple & Almond Tonic

17. Cold Brew Union Coffee

18. CBD Meda Sodas

19. Ginger Shots (Squish Juices)

20. Wines – A good French white like a Bordeaux , A good NZ Sauvignon Blanc, A good Chillean Malbec and a good French Beaujolais