Every bar is different with regards to its layout – some designing and constructing the entire space around a central bar, while others set the bar to one side and optimise the number of tables available with both booths and standing tables for all sorts of guests to use.
When you step into a bar for the first time, the layout can feel quite random, as you settle into the experience you will notice that in the very best and most refined establishments, your experience is never interrupted by the noise of cocktail shakers, and that the bar staff always seem to have everything they need to hand within seconds.
All of this and more is thanks to the science of bar layout and design. And in this article we will introduce just a handful of key components that can help to create an efficient bar space.
Bar layout and floor plan
There are two different areas of the bar that require the most consideration. The first is the bar itself, which needs to be well organised and laid out in a series of zones which all provide quick and easy access to the most-used tools in the bar industry. A common approach is to separate the bar into zones, with designated areas for different tasks.
Not only does this make it easier for the bar staff to find the tools and ingredients they need when they need them, but it also helps to maintain a safer and cleaner environment behind the bar during even the busiest periods.
The second is the guest space. One way to approach this is to mix and match tables and chairs at different heights in order to create levels within the bar and really maximise the number of guests that can visit at any one time. Ideally, you want to offer larger spaces for big groups and a selection of private tables for date nights and intimate catch ups.
Optimise movement and navigation
A big part of the science behind bar design lies in the placement of both the big stuff and the small stuff – that is, where the shakers are located within the bar, as well as where the bar itself sits in relation to the wider space.
Consider whether you want to offer table service or bar service and use this to form the base of your navigation and movement plan. Many bars choose to optimise staff movement by placing the bar centrally, within an equal distance of most seating areas – while also maximising customer engagement with and visibility of the bar itself as part of their experience.
Storage and inventory
This particular component of bar design can be summed up in a couple of questions: namely where drinks are refrigerated prior to service, and whether the bar team have access to enough clean glasses throughout service time.
Small decisions like these matter if you want to truly maximise the efficiency and flow of your operation.
Lighting and atmosphere
This is an area of bar design that many people consider purely from a customer perspective; however, the lighting in and around a bar has a huge impact on the ability of bar staff to complete tasks quickly and with ease. So, bar design needs to encompass both functional lighting for bar and service areas, and ambient lighting to reflect the guest experience.
Materials and furnishings
When it comes to maximising the flow and efficiency of a bar, you need to make choices which streamline the turnaround for staff – allowing them to quickly and easily prepare a table for a new customer within minutes of the previous guest leaving. At the same time, you need to make choices which compliment your brand.
In order to achieve all this, attention must be paid to the materials and furnishings within your bar space, ensuring that they are durable and easy to clean and maintain, built for high-traffic and turnaround, and with an eye to aesthetic presentation and style.
Accessibility and safety
Last but not least, every business regardless of its industry needs to pay attention to the importance of accessibility and safety – creating clear pathways through the space, maximising the visibility of emergency exits, and ensuring that all users within the space have access to safety features if and when required.
If you’re designing a bar, the integration of different levelled seating can make accessibility easier – offering adjustable tables which can be used by those in a wheelchair. Similarly, enabling both bar and table service will make the setting and your business more accessible from an experiential point of view.
Is it possible to create a bar which is experiential and efficient?
Designing a bar requires a balance between those scientific touch points and decisions which optimise flow and efficiency, and the more detailed decisions which impact the experience that you as a business want to deliver to your guests.
As a bar owner, you need to make decisions which bridge the gap between function and aesthetics, creating a space which embraces accessibility and other functional features in an effortless but purposeful way.