Bar Design 101: The beginner's guide to creating a functional bar.

Posted by E3 Commercial Kitchen Solutions on Dec 10, 2018 11:59:18 AM

Preparation is key. When it comes to foodservice, the entire staff does their part in preparing for whatever the day has in store. The goal everyone is working towards is making sure everything runs like clockwork during those peak hours of business. But, that preparation is accomplished solely by those people. It starts with giving those people who are working hard to make sure things run accordingly the proper blueprint to do so. This month, we're going to be talking bar design and what it takes to create a functional, and profitable, bar.

Form follows function: a phrase made popular during the modern architecture era. Many modern architects believed it to be the most important element in designing buildings. And the same should be true when talking about bar design. To put it in Layman’s terms:

Increased Efficiency = Increases Sales = Increases Profits

So, let’s dive into what it takes to make your bar functional!

Phase 1: Getting your ducks in a row.

Every bar must be equipped with the proper tools in order to be functional. I've broken down into 9 must-have's in your bar. Make sure you've checked off these items from your list before we move to the next phase:

 Bar Checklist_Graphic_E3

These items are crucial to each and every bar. Without them a bar can’t function. If a bar can’t function, it can’t make money. However, we’re not just concerned with your bar hitting the bottom line of functionality. We want to make sure your bar is functioning to its utmost potential, in turn, making your customers (and your pockets) happy.

Phase 2: The Blueprint.

Now that you have all of the necessary bar equipment, it's time to start creating. Keep in mind, while this is a major step in the right direction you're not in the clear yet. The design of the bar is the key to unlocking functionality. If your bar layout is bad, so is its functionality.

The best way to escape poor design is to know what not to do. So, I've created an example of both bad bar design and good bar design below to help visualize the do's and don'ts.

I'll start by taking a look what went wrong in the Bad Bar Design and provide a solution to avoid this problem in the future.


Bad Bar Graphic_E3_zoom-GLASS-1

Although this glass washing station has wet and dry waste areas, as well as clean glass storage, it’s lacking an area for dirty glasses. Adding a drainboard on left side of glass washer would make this area more functional. This will eliminate dirty glasses being put on bar top visible to guests. Going back to that factory assembly line metaphor, try to emulate an assembly line behind the bar: everything should flow from left to right.

Dirty glasses ⇒ Glass Washer ⇒ Clean glasses

Bad Bar Graphic_E3_zoom-LIQUOR

Most bartenders are right-handed (sorry lefties), so they tend to pour liquor with strong hand. If the liquor steps are on right side of ice chest, bartender can grab liquor with strong hand without wasting time repositioning liquor bottle between hands. Pretty straightforward, right? Although this might seem very minuscule in grand scheme of things, but every second saved is more money in your pocket.

Bad Bar Graphic_E3_zoom-SODA

[Reference point made with liquor steps above] Most bartenders are right-handed and will pour liquor bottle with strong hand. If the soda gun is on left side, the bartender can pour liquor and use the soda gun simultaneously, wasting no time.

Bad Bar Graphic_E3_zoom-SPEEDDouble-speed-rail-ergonomics

AVOID USING DOUBLE SPEED RAILS! These are backbreakers from an ergonomic standpoint. A standard double speed rail is 11" deep. This makes a bartender lean forward an extra 10° to reach the bar top. This will contribute to back strain and lower efficiency. Manufacturers spend money and time ensuring that their lines are ergonomic for their users, thus resulting in fewer work-related injuries while increasing the worker's output. This is how your bar should run!

Finally, neither cocktail station is equipped with a dump sink. Bartenders have nowhere to discard spent ice from cocktail making. This is often a forgotten piece that is a major component to efficiency behind the bar.


Now that you know what not to do from our Bad Bar Design example, let's see it done right in the Good Bar Design!


From top to bottom (or left to right in the bartender's perspective): this glass washing station has a designated area for dirty glasses and clean glasses that flows from left to right (assembly line, remember?). It also includes wet waste and dry waste receptacles. A bonus feature of this layout, although not necessary, is a hand washing station to the left of the designated dirty and clean glass area, which is nearby for staff to wash hands after touching dirty glassware. Everything you need in terms of glass washing tools in one fluid layout.


This particular cocktail station is equipped with the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station from Perlick. Here, the liquor step is located on the right side of the ice bin allowing the bartender to grab a bottle with their strong hand. To the left of the ice bin is a soda gun manifold, so the bartender can simultaneously use the soda gun and pour liquor with their strong hand. 


The speed rail is designed as an ergonomic bartender “cockpit.” It brings the bartender closer to the bar top for comfort and to increase efficiency. This station is equipped with a dump sink and rinser allowing bartenders to discard spent ice (ice used cocktail shaker to dilute the cocktail), and rinse shakers and/or mixing glasses to avoid cross-contamination between cocktails. 


Perlick and Tobin Ellis knocked this one out of the park in creating the only NSF approved refrigerated drawers on the market. Not only are you able to properly store your fresh garnishes and ingredients, but it's also eliminating constantly having to turn around and bend down to get to those refrigerated ingredients.

What's even better is that this refrigerated drawer system comes with a drainboard top designated for glassware storage. And, are you ready for the cherry on top? It comes equipped with a secured cutting board accessory right on top alleviating the risk of injury you face when your cutting board slides all over the place. Your bartender's can cut and store their ingredients right at hand's reach. Everything a bartender needs is right there. This is truly zero-step bartending.


In any aspect of the foodservice industry, space limitations can be a huge concern; in the back of the house and the front. Capitalizing on the limited space you may have can be a daunting task. In the past, we've discussed creating a fully-functional kitchen out of a space lacking ventilation hoods and water line connections utilizing ventless cooking solutions.

When it comes to behind the bar, designing for a small footprint is usually at the top of the list of problems to solve. As you're laying out your bar space to meet your potential bar program's requirements keep in mind that there are vertical solutions for your horizontal problems.

The Perlick Wine Column helps with the challenges that come with storing wine, such as temperature, light and space. Holding up to 99 bottles in two temperature-controlled zones for both red and white wine storage saves tons of space by expanding your wine collection up! Precise climate control, convertible shelving to protect from any vibrations and vibrant blue and white LED make this a top-notch solution for space-saving wine storage. 

All of the components in our Good Bar Design drawing create a highly functional bar from start to finish. But, first thing's first: make sure you've checking off all of the items in our Bar Checklist above. Creating a functional bar is only possible when all of the necessary pieces are in place. Put yourself in the bartender's shoes!

Ready to take charge on your bar layout? Stick with us the rest of the month for great insight into how you can greatly improve your bar design and streamline your profits!



Join us Friday, December 14 for a live broadcast event #FromBehindTheBar featuring the Tobin Ellis Signature Line from Perlick! We're parlaying this month's Bar Design topic with a fun, interactive event discussing how you can increase efficiencies and comfort behind the bar all from the comfort of your own desk (or couch). Register below!

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