Bar Design: Make Your Back Bar Work for You

How

The back bar of Jack Rose Dining Saloon can at once be described as elegant, organized and impressive. And of course it features a library ladder.

How’s your back bar situation? Have you included the area as part of the guest experience, delivering the wow factor and making you money? Or is it an afterthought? Your back bar is going to have a lot of eyes on it, so take care to make it attractive. Not only is it a place to show off your bottles, it can be a conversation piece in and of itself. Whether you choose a simple, elegant, ornate, eclectic, imposing, or awe-inspiring design (or a combination of any of those), your back bar should be a reflection of your concept and a revenue generator. 

Lighting

If you’re still using rope or string lights to light your back bar area, consider the modern alternative. LED lights last longer, continue to drop in price, and consume very little energy. They also tend to be safer than more traditional lighting options as they don’t generate much heat. Multicolor LED systems are capable of creating different moods depending on the color selected at any given time, paired with the music playing inside your venue. Simple-to-use controllers make it possible for you to adjust the mood of your bar in an instant.

Space

One effective way of making a space feel larger is the use of mirrors. Long mirrors, for example, can make a wall look, well, longer. And multiple mirrors placed side-by-side can give the appearance of windows. Either way, mirrors create the illusion of space, even in the most intimate of settings. Grouping several smaller mirrors together can communicate an eclectic vibe while also making your bar look larger. And let’s not overlook the social aspect of mirrors. Placing mirrors on your back bar gives your guests the opportunity to check out who else is seated or standing around the bar, either surreptitiously or overtly.

Shelving

There’s a reason the term “top shelf” exists. Our guests are conditioned to assume that bottles displayed at higher levels are of higher quality and command higher prices. So, are your bottles organized from top to bottom in a way that makes sense, and dollars?

Operators of cocktail bars that run the gamut of spirits should consider organizing their back bar spaces in various ways, whether they choose to group bottles by brand, portfolio, spirits category, or any other way that can be imagined. As long as the bottles climb the shelves according to their prices, things will make sense to most guests.

By contrast, specialty bars can organize the bottles in their back bar areas in different ways. Proud of your whiskey collection? Separate them by style: bourbon, rye, blended, etc. Go even deeper and organize them by region: American, Canadian, Irish, Japanese, French... Do you operate a tiki bar with an impressive library of rums? Consider organizing them on your back bar by where they are produced: Barbados, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Martinique - the list goes on! Gins and vodkas can also be organized in these ways. Not only does organizing your back bar help put your collection on display for your guests, it can make it simpler for bartenders to know the location of your many bottles.

Centerpiece

Your back bar doesn’t necessarily need to be loaded with bottles. Sometimes, less is more. You can place an impressive showpiece such as your logo, custom neon, an eye-catching art piece, or other item or design that works with your concept in the center of your back bar. Your more common bottles can be placed underneath that feature, and your top shelf bottles can flank the showpiece. Depending on the height of your back bar, you can also make one of the coolest pieces of furniture known to man a centerpiece: the library ladder. Unless your clientele is among the most jaded on the planet, people get a kick out of seeing a bartender position and climb a library ladder to reach a high quality bottle. Much like the effect of special VIP bottle delivery on nightclub patrons, some of your guests will want to choose a spirit that requires the bartender to climb the ladder, increasing spend.

You’ve spent a lot of time on your concept, menus, and even logo design – don’t neglect your back bar.