• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

Kohai

Bar Layout, Setup, and Design

41 posts in this topic

Every bar I've worked in has been designed by an architect, not a bartender.

That usually means that the finish of the bartop is lovely but maddening layout decisions have been made that hinder the bartender during service. You probably know well the kind of thing I'm referring to: small or distant fridges, foolish use of space, back-breakingly low work surfaces, etc. Once these decisions are made, most of them are permanent. If that ice well is too far away, or if you forgot to leave a space for a trash can, you're going to have to live with that forever.

If you were to design a commercial bar from the ground up, what are some things you would be sure to do? What guidelines should be followed to create a bar that can turn out high-quality drinks quickly and efficiently? What equipment is important and what's a waste of time? Do you have any radical ideas that would change the way we think about bar layout? What would you avoid at all costs?


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Make certain that whatever local Health Department codes that need to be met are taken into consideration. For instance, a dedicated space for the Kleen-Pail with sanitizer and the bar rag. If it's an afterthought, stuff like that ends up sitting on the drain board where it can knocked over into one of the ice wells... :angry:

Shelves that are reachable by folks of almost every height. Nothing like not being able to get to the "top shelf" hooch because the architect was 6'5".

Ice bins that aren't too low, so you don't end up with an excruciating backache.

Refrigeration that's also at a comfortable height for bending over and fetching stuff out.

I'll think of more later...


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Height issues are definitely tricky to resolve, aren't they? Tall folks have to stoop to use low work surfaces, wash sinks (if there's no glasswasher) and, like you mention, ice wells. Shorter bartenders have difficulty with high shelves and backbars. I used to work with a very short bartender who needed a milk crate close at hand to get to the wine glasses and higher bottles. I kept tripping on the damn thing because it was black and almost invisible in the dark.

A colleague of mine suggested a novel non-intrusive solution: space the back fridges about the width of a large shoe, then put a narrow wooden box, or a step of some kind, between them. Then you could just put your foot between the fridges and use it as a stepstool, but it wouldn't be constantly in the way.

I've always wanted a work station like cooks use on the line: a lowboy or two with a narrow cutting board on top, and refrigerated trays behind that for fruit, juices, and anything else that needs to be kept chilled. I hate sinks cluttered with squirt bottles and whatnot.

It seems to me that the place behind a bar where ergonomics are of the most importance is the service well. Ideally the service well would be designed like some kind of cockpit, built for speed. A lot of bars I've worked at have the ice well directly beneath the work area at the service well. I'm not sure that's necessary; keep it to the side so that if the bartender spills it is less likely to drip into the ice well. If the well is built into a corner then the bartender could have ice well and speed rails on one side and the aforementioned work station with juices, garnishes and other condiments directly in front of them.

What about one of those water-swirlers that baristas use? I'm not sure what they're called: those little sinks with a spout that keeps a constant flow of water circulating. It could be used for barspoons, muddlers, knives (OK, maybe not knives).

A boy can dream.......


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Must confess I'm not a bar-keep, just a cook.

My question is, what about ware-washing?

Can you "share" the kitchen's dishwasher to do the bar glass ware?

If not, sufficient space and adequate machine for washing?

Sufficient space for glassware to cool down?

Refigerated storage space for, say, beer mugs?

Walk-in located within reason when changing over tanks?

Ice machine's compressor and other refrigeration compressors located remote so as not to contribute to more heat?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on the number of people who will work at the bar, the width of the working space needs adjusting: one person will appreciate an easy reach from back wall to bar, but two or more people working in such a narrow pass will kill each other within an hour.

Against a wall or as an island? I've seen both work and fail, particularly regarding bottle placement. Having to walk around the island to get a bottle half the time sucks. Ditto for the server station placement.

Drink concept and design will have a major impact on the bar, too. I taught a course recently at a bar built for beer and wine service, and I smashed my knee on the wine chest fridge too many times: right location for them, wrong location for me. Similarly, a cocktail bar dedicated to providing a wide range of drinks with a wide range of ingredients needs a different design than one dedicated to a displaying a wide range of vodka and making a handful of standards out of the well.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This PDX Magazine shot is the only one I could find of the bar at Teardrop Lounge in Portland. If you look past the smiling pates of Evan and Daniel you can see their island set-up, complete with floating teardrops of lucite (?) for bottles. I'm not sure how they feel about the ultimate design, but it seemed very bartender- and customer-friendly to me the nights I spent there.

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What about larger bars designed for use by two or more bartenders? Two immediate questions occur to me: number of ice wells and backbar layout. I guess my initial feeling is that the service well (if there's only one) should have a dedicated ice well. Beyond that, there should be one ice well to every two bartenders.

If possible the backbar should probably be symmetrical (assuming a long bar versus an island setup). There could be ice wells on either side, and the commonly-used bottles would be at the edges, nearest the ice wells. Less-reached-for bottles could live in the middle.

Sliding doors for fridges, where possible, because hinged doors act like a big fan blade sucking cold air out?

No soda gun, but if possible a good still/charged water gun would be nice.

Edited to add:

I'm told there was a Tales speaker this summer who discussed just this subject (Philip Duff?). Did anyone catch this?


Edited by Kohai (log)

Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a rather complicated issue this one. There's certainly no perfect solution, just a series of trade offs to try and get the best result for that particular business. The footprint of the bar will be the first one. A larger bar will give space for more staff and/or stock and/or equipment etc, all of which should help to give an improved customer experience. However it will also reduce the space you have to accommodate paying customers so the right balance needs to be found, which will vary according to style. Of course many operators will not even think about this, and just look at the other consideration - the aesthetic. Or the structural shape of the space may leave no option anyway.

As for design behind the bar, I've always advocated the one step route. That is that the bartenders should be able to reach everything they need regularly within one step, preferably none. This though becomes part of another trade off, that of the backbar.

The backbar layout needs to consider several points:

Ease of use for the bartender - having as many regularly used bottles close to hand for the bartenders

Easy to read for the customer - having all your gins in one place makes it a lot easier for a gin drinker, who will appreciate it.

Marketing - it makes sense to have your higher priced/better margin bottles in more prominent positions

Space - you only have spaces for a certain amount of bottles. How many are you going to duplicate to help the bartenders work faster at the expense of product range? Are you going to give any up for POS display? (the bartender in me says no way, but the manager side says maybe if it will be justified by sales and it's the right product for us, which is rare to be honest)

Another trade off will be glassware. I've always thought it'd be great to have a different glass for each cocktail on the menu but this would require an unfeasibly large amount of space that could be better used.

I definitely agree with having sliding door fridges, although more because open fridge doors can be a pain on a busy bar.

Sufficient storage space for back up stock is important, if I get unexpectedly busy I hate having to run off to the store room. Likewise for cleaning materials.

Budget will always play a huge part. Can you afford to have your undercounter units custom made to your requirements or will you have to compromise and go for standard size 'off the shelf' units.

They were just a few random thoughts that fell through my mind in no particular order, there are plenty more but I'll leave it at that for now.

Cheers,

Matt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sliding doors for back-bar fridges also mean that you don't have the door swinging out into the tight space behind the bar and becoming an obstacle. If your barback is trying to get into the fridge to place glassware for you, he can slide it open and work without disturbing you, but if he has to swing open a door with hinges and corners, then either he can work back there or you can, but not both.

Problem is most fridges with sliding doors have return springs to close the door by itself, which can make it a pain to hold open if you're trying to load it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one thing that I would absolutely recommend is Refrigerated Drawers installed under the bar, not the back bar. Instead of keeping everything in a garnish tray at the back of the ice well, or worse somewhere without ice, these drawers keep everything chilly and fresh. They also save your back because there is less bending, plus they save time because you don't have to turn around to get stuff.

They're usually kitchen equipment, but at the bar they make working so much easier.


Darcy S. O'Neil

Chemist | Bartender | Writer

Website: Art of Drink

Book: Fix the Pumps

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Referencing the OP, I am an architect and have been involved in several bar designs. I would never attempt a bar design without serious input fron the bartender. If this person is not on board during design I consult with a friend who has kitchen and bar expertise in spades. Without this kind of consultation during design I know that I would be responsible for the inevitable miscues.

Something that I insist upon however is some sort of thought of the organzation of the back bar in, for instance, a "U" shaped bar. As a patron the visual aspect of the back of the bar is always there. It is important to somehow minimize the junk.

I always wonder why bars in this country don't have the sort of instant little dishwashers so prevalent in Italian bars. Still wondering.

BTW, when Seagram owned the Seagram Building the revolving whiskey tray in the center of the bar was weighted to place Seven Crown always at the front.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The dishwasher remark reminded me of something - don't ever put a dishwasher near the bar.

Sure, having the bartender do dishes is economical, but I always hated the "white noise" when I'm talking to guests, and they pump of the humidity and they stink, both the chemical smell and that wet dog smell they have.. Also, how many times have bartenders forgotten to change the wash water? I've come in for my shift before and I swear it hadn't been changed since the night before.

The dish pit in the back can easily fit a glass washer.


Darcy S. O'Neil

Chemist | Bartender | Writer

Website: Art of Drink

Book: Fix the Pumps

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A good bar should have it's own glasswasher. Problem with a regular dishwahwer that the kitchen uses is that there's usually some kind of grease or oil in the tank, plates and cutlery come out O.K. but the glassware suffers--badly.

Also when the final rinse of the d/washer exceeds 170 F it start to weaken the glasware, "thermal shock" and more frequent breakage start to appear.

A dedicated glasswasher should be incorporated into the bar design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glasswashers have been much on my mind.

Like many others here, I've used a lot of different types at various bars. I feel the slowest, hottest and cleanest was a little Hobart undercounter steam washer: one bar I worked at used it as their dedicated wineglass washer (really minimal streaks). This was great but only did like one load a minute (two at most) so it wouldn't be good for higher volume... plus the glasses come out so hot they need to be cooled for about five minutes before they're usable.

Then there are those assorted rotary washers. I've had bad and good experiences with these, but really mostly bad. Useful, yes, but they always seem to be breaking down, malfunctioning, or just sending back glasses half-dirty. Not sure if they're worth the hassle + expense.

In the end I keep wondering if maybe the old three-sinks (plus ablebodied barbacks) is the way. I hate the sinks but they're cheap as hell, they don't break down, and they get glasses as clean or cleaner than some malfunctioning rotary washer. Or maybe I've just had bad luck with glasswashers.


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you have had bad luck with glass washers. You do have to take some basic care of them. They need to be drained every single night. They need to be primed and filled every morning. Believe me I'd rather not have to do the glassware when I'm busy either, however if I'm busy, chances are the dining room is full too and I'm likelier to find a clean glass when I need it right in front of me long before I can flag down a busperson or server to go find me a clean tray of glasses when we're slammed.

The 3 section rotary glass washer works just fine. And I know the water is hot enough to sterilize my glassware. I'd scald myself in a three part sink before I'd feel as confident about hand washed glasses. And the hand sinks wreck my hands, trashes my manicure (yes, I keep a neatly groomed short American manicure at all times. Guests see my hands a lot when handing them menus, drinks, food, etc.) and doesn't clean things as well. There are also under the bar models that take a square glass rack if you hate the rotary guys. I've never worked with one, but they seem to function well enough in the places I've seen them.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My point was to actually locate the glass washer in the back, not have the glasses washed with the dishes. If your bartenders are doubling as dishwashers drink quality will inevitably suffer.


Edited by dsoneil (log)

Darcy S. O'Neil

Chemist | Bartender | Writer

Website: Art of Drink

Book: Fix the Pumps

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bringing this back because it's suddenly becoming pertinent for me.

What about citrus juicers? What's the best route, a press-style juicer or an electric juicer whose, um, "juicing part" spins? I always thought those electric juicers were a no-go because they took some of the bitter white pith off as well. But I've been told that the press-style juicer is a huge pain in the ass. What's the best way?


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are we talking about one of these versus one of these? If that's the match-up, I've watched a contest in person. On speed alone, go for the manual press.

I don't have any experience with the more expensive electric juicers like this one. Maybe they're better than the Waring, but they cost a lot more, too.

P.S. The "juicing part" is called a reamer. Glad to see that I'm not the only one blanking out on common terms these days.


Edited by Dave the Cook Added PS. (log)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The electric juicers are the cat's meow for volume juicing, i.e. lots of orange/grapefruit juice. They are also loud, and messy. For a'la carte drinks, the manual juicer makes a lot of sense, they are very fast, make no noise, and take up very little counter space.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are manual juicers good for large citrus like a grapefruit or an orange?

What do places like the Violet Hour, Pegu, etc. use?


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at a bar that used these. I think it made for a good show and was pretty efficient but not quite as fast as premade. At least you know the juice is fresh. You would need three sizes for oranges, lemons, and limes. Don't get the all plastic ones, mine didn't last the first lime.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at a bar that used these. I think it made for a good show and was pretty efficient but not quite as fast as premade. At least you know the juice is fresh. You would need three sizes for oranges, lemons, and limes. Don't get the all plastic ones, mine didn't last the first lime.

We use those. Great for doing the juice on the spot during quieter shifts, we also use them to prep fairly large quantities of lemon and lime at the start of the busy nights - Saturday night's typically 4 cases of limes for instance. They're by far the quickest way I've found, although bloomin' hard work on the hands/arms! Have a tub of halved limes lemons to the left, a container in the middle and a bin on the right. You soon settle into a very fast rhythm of grab-insert-squeeze-flick. The counter top style of press is more time consuming when removing the husk, although it is physically less demanding.

The other advantage is you get a much 'cleaner' juice, there's very little flesh in the juice compared to an electric reamer where it can be a bit time consuming straining the flesh out. Of course that could be considered a disadvantage depending on your application, I like to have the 'bits' in orange juice but lemon and lime needs to be pulp free due to the pourers on the bottles we use.

Cheers,

Matt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, what about service wells? For how many guests can a single service well produce quality (jiggered) drinks without sacrificing speed? Can two service wells handle a room that seats 100? Of course, this depends on the bartender.

It also depends on the layout of the service well. Has anyone used layouts that they thought were particularly well-thought out - or encountered nightmarish layouts to avoid? (Ice should/shouldn't go there, etc.)


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While we're on the service well question, if anyone has any good ideas for how to handle the transfer of ice from -10F freezers in the basement to 31.9F wells at the bar (who, how, when, in what) besides winging it, I'm all ears.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Barbacks/quickly/every hour or as needed/in standard ice buckets?

But this answer is probably not so different from what you're doing now, and therefore not helpful to your question. What is your system now and what problems do you see that you want to fix?


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.