While there’s no such thing as the perfectly designed bar, some are much easier to work than others. Every misplaced step a bartender takes costs the bar money in lost productivity. Serious beverage operators are passionate about the logistics of drink production: how workstations are configured, where equipment is placed relative to a workstation and how inventory is merchandised. After all, beverage operators are responsible for ensuring that a facility is designed to operate at peak efficiency; anything less negatively impacts revenue and service.
“I think one explanation for poorly designed bars is that operators are often forced to make compromises between concept and function,” suggests Steve Goumas, owner of the Rula Bula Irish Pub in Tempe, Ariz. “While such concessions are unavoidable, the result is often a great-looking bar that nightly operates in chaos. Those design changes might work on paper, but the impact they have on bartender productivity may result in lost sales for the life of the business.”
Bartender workstations are an establishment’s operational hubs; workstations should face the bar top so the bartenders can see what’s going on in the room. When designing a bar, the objective is to position nearly everything a bartender needs to prepare any drink within a 6-foot radius.
The focal point of any workstation is the ice bin, preferably constructed of stainless steel with a rigid frame. For drink orders to be made with a minimum of wasted motion, which negatively impacts speed of service, equipment and supplies should be positioned around the station to create an effective use of space.
Because most bartenders are right-handed, equipment and supplies should be positioned so a minimum of cross-handed operations are required when making drinks, explains David Commer of Commer Beverage Consulting and former T.G.I. Friday’s beverage director.
“For example, right-handed bartenders naturally pick up bottles with their right hands and glasses with their left,” he says. “To maximize efficiency, glasses should be stored to the left of a workstation, allowing the bartender to pick up the glasses with their left hand and add the ice using the scoop in the right hand. Likewise, a hand sink is ideally positioned to the right of the workstation, allowing the bartender to dump the excess ice and fluid from his mixing equipment, blender or returned glasses with a minimum of movement.”
Well liquors should be positioned in a speed rack mounted to the front of the workstation for immediate access. A speed rack is a stainless-steel-enclosed shelf designed specifically to hold liquor bottles. Two-tiered (double) speed racks also are available. Call brand liquors and liqueurs can be placed in speed racks to the left and right of the workstation. Speed racks frequently are mounted on the sides of top-loading beer boxes or four-compartment sinks.
Premium, super-premium and top-shelf liquors and liqueurs should be merchandised in display cases optimally located directly behind the workstation, about 42 inches above the backbar. This allows bar guests to see the products easily — helpful for the sale of these higher-priced liquids — and prevent bartenders from having to stoop to retrieve them. To save on storage space behind the bar, design the display case’s shelves to accommodate bottles two deep (approximately 12 to 16 inches), allowing bartenders to shelve a backup of each brand — with few exceptions — and eliminate some of the need for under-counter liquor storage.
Stations and Peak Productivity
A draft-beer system and refrigeration equipment, such as the reach-in cooler and top-loading beer box, should be located near bartenders’ workstations. Reach-in doors should be hinged to open toward workstations for easy access. Shared equipment, such as an automatic glass washer, a three- (or four-) compartment sink unit and glassware drain boards should be equidistant among workstations, thereby reducing the amount of cross-traffic among bartenders.
Bartenders need adequate lighting behind the bar for drink making. Florescent lighting mounted underneath the bar top and abutting the bar usually is sufficient; track lighting behind the bar also may be effective.
The bar area directly in front of bartenders’ workstations serves several functions. The garnish tray and frequently used single-service items, such as straws, sip sticks, sword picks and cocktail napkins or drink coasters are placed on the bar top in front of the station for easy access. From this spot, servers can pick up drink orders or return dirty glassware. The surface area for beverage pickup must be large enough to hold several drink orders and a cocktail tray. Speed of service is impeded and a backlog can occur if sufficient surface area is not allocated for staging finished drink orders. Brass rails normally are used to delineate this section of the bar top as a service area.
The area adjacent to a workstation should be used for sundry smallwares and mixing equipment. The area is ideal for storing mixing tins/glasses, bar spoons, spring strainers, bottle openers, wine openers, cutting boards and paring knives. Its surface should be covered with glassware netting to allow wet-mixing equipment to air-dry.
“The physical layout of the bar largely determines the placement of equipment, liquor displays and workstations, which in turn, dictates the speed at which bartenders can make drinks and provide hospitable service,” says Jean-Pierre Etcheberrigaray, vice president of food and beverage for Intercontinental Hotels. “A difference of 3 feet one way or another may not seem like much when you’re deciding where to position a glasswasher, but it can add up to hundreds or even thousands of extra steps for bartenders a week. That’s a lot of wasted time.”
And after all, time is money. NCB