Making the bar and bartenders high production moneymakers requires a well-thoughtout bar equipment layout. Every equipment item needs to be in the optimum location and sized to the bar's production requirements. The key to good bar station design is the one-step rule, which states that a bartender should be able to make 90% of the ordered drinks by taking no more than one step from the central position of his or her station. That means selecting just the right equipment to handle your operation, and then organizing it properly. Some of the types of equipment you may need will be discussed here.
There are five main product considerations for getting a drink made and making a bar station work—glasses, ice, beverage, mixers, garnishes and bar equipment.
The variety of glasses you'll use must be within easy reach. They can be on shelves behind or to the side of the bar or on the drainboard. You may want to limit the types of glassware to make storage easier for the bartenders. Hanging stemmed glasses above the bar is handy, but sometimes not permitted by local health departments.
Cleaning glassware is also very important. If you have a glasswasher in the bar, be sure to have a dump sink for waste on one side and drainboards on both sides. If you put in a glasswasher, at least four feet of bar length needs to be allocated—two feet for the washer and a foot or two for the soiled and clean side. Some health departments are requiring automatic washers and not allowing glasses to be manually washed in sinks, but you can always take glasses to the kitchen dishwasher to be washed.
Bar glasswashers typically are chemical sanitizing machines, which use 120°F hot water as compared to dishwashers that use 180°F water for rinsing. Remember to use a rinse agent if you see spotting on glassware.
A high-quality crystal clear cube is essential to merchandising bar drinks. Most agree a medium-sized cube ice is perfect for a bar. The cube should not be too small or it will melt quickly and water down the drink. It can't be too large or it may not fit in your glasses. Don't take up space with the icemaker in the bar itself, but rather have ample storage there to last through a rush period.
The ice bin or cocktail station is the central component to a bar station. Typically, the ice bin is 24- to 36-inches long and may have bottle wells in it for bottled mixers such as bloody mary or pina colada mix. You can begin to size the appropriate ice bin with the following information. The 24-inch ice bin holds almost 100 pounds of ice and a 36-inch unit almost 150 pounds. Once melted ice is accounted for, you can get about three drinks per pound of ice. If you cool your soda lines with a bin cold plate, you may get even fewer yields from your ice bin.
The important consideration in your bar design is to have beverages readily accessible. Typically a “speed rail” can be mounted on the front of the ice bin right where the bartender needs the most popular house brands or mixers if using an automatic dispensing system.
Other bottles may be stored on underbar liquor display shelves. Typically, the “house brands” are within easy reach, but not necessarily merchandised. The liquor underbar shelves are modular stainless steel units that fit into the underbar unit like ice bins, drainboards, sinks, and other components. The units are typically four levels high and can be from 12 inches to 42 inches long. Typical, planning capacity is 3.5 bottles per foot on each level. For example, a 24-inch-long unit can hold at least 28 bottles.
You will want to highlight “call brands” and liqueurs. These bottles are typically displayed on the backbar directly behind a bartender in a stepped arrangement. The stepped arrangement is best for merchandising as well as ease of access. One of the most often overlooked or under-programmed requirements in a bar are these bottle steps and merchandising area for bottles in use. You may be surprised that a typical full service bar requires about 100 or more different bottles, so your holding and display space is significant.
Beer is also important. Draft beer can be remote or self contained. If your beer sales are relatively small, self-contained may be the way to go since it is cheaper and requires less maintenance. However, you must remember you will need keg storage space directly below the beer tap and you need one keg for each tap. You can't have multiple taps from the same keg, and you'll probably want to have a back up keg ready when one is done. Don't forget that each keg weighs about 150 pounds and can be tough to maneuver and hook up in the middle or a busy period.
You need to allocate 24 inches in storage length for each keg, so if you offer multiple beer brands or multiple taps, consider a remote system. A remote system is more expensive but can be more effective, especially for a highvolume bar. Any system more than 15 feet away requires mechanical refrigeration of the beer lines. As a result, there will be a bundle of plastic tubing required and a refrigeration cabinet to hold the equipment, in addition to refrigerated keg storage.
The most popular mixers are water and soda. They should be extremely easy to access for drinks. Bars usually use soda guns for dispensing sodas and water. These dispensers on flexible hoses are an aid in rapid pouring of cocktail mixers. They put the soda dispensing where the drink is and can save significant bartender time and motion when compared to a typical soda tower. One gun must be positioned at each bartender's station. Other mixers can be in bottles on the speed rail or in bottle wells.
Garnishes can be added by the bartender or the cocktail server, but need to be positioned well for quick and easy access. Keep your garnishes fresh and use them to help merchandise. A tall crisp stalk of celery in a bloody mary is a good merchandiser, while a limp droopy stalk may detract from sales.
Two relatively new pieces of bar equipment are blenders and frozen slush machines for specialty drinks. Blenders are very versatile in that any number of combinations of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients can be combined in different ways to make some unique concoctions sold at premium prices. Bars need to also provide appealing, interesting drinks for non-drinkers and “designated drivers.”
Blenders come in a variety of sizes and styles to serve different needs. Some have stainless steel mixing containers that are durable and recommended for a high volume bar. The typical unit has a base with a motor and mixing hub. Mixing blades are fixed in the one-quart or slightly larger container cup. In an operation that does only the occasional frozen blender drink, a standard blender will do fine. The standard model is a 1/4 to 1/3 horsepower unit with a two-speed motor. These units are reasonably priced at $100-200.
Over 75 blender drinks per day can be considered a significant enough quantity to step up to the medium duty machines. The typical bar machine you'll need is a one horsepower or greater model with a two-speed motor. Costs are typically in the $250-400 range, still not an overly expensive piece of equipment.
Beyond the medium-duty units described, there are heavy-duty models. These may be considered if you intend to have a wide variety of blender drinks and expect them to be large sellers. If you only do a modest volume in blender drinks, you are wasting your money with the high-powered expensive machines. There are also several manufacturers producing an extra quiet mixe,r which has a great application in an intimate bar setting.
Alcohol-free drinks are not the only application for slush drinks, however. Younger drinkers particularly like slushy fruit drinks with alcohol. The sweet flavors sell well to the younger bar patrons.
Frozen beverage dispensers are often seen at bars and they dispense more than just margaritas. These machines operate like ice cream machines but use colorful and variously flavored water-based mixes. Some machines even merchandise the mix to help boost sales. A typical two-flavor machine can be mounted on the bar top and takes up only about 18” of space. The units can be expensive, however, with many models selling for as much as $4,000-5,000. The machines also generally use a 208-volt electrical connection because of all the highdemand refrigeration components. Slush machines are only warranted if you operate a high volume bar.
A majority of equipment on the market will perform dependably in the right operation. How you layout bar equipment is the most important factor in having your bar operate effectively. You need to match your operation to the proper equipment with the help of your equipment supplier or foodservice planner.