There are hundreds of bars, clubs and pubs out there and each one will be subtly different in its design. Although we take the presence of the
bar as a given, great thought goes into its design. This article looks at the different requirements of a good bar.
Bars are an integral component to an enormous amount of events and places. Temporary bars are required for marquee parties, for weddings and even for village fetes, whilst more permanent fixtures are required for bars pubs and clubs across the UK and actually the world. Whilst many of us take the presence of a bar in any one of these locations for granted, the reality is that a lot of thought and effort goes into bar design in order to ensure it does a great job. Whilst it can be agreed that a good bar means more business, what exactly is a good bar and what are the factors which need to be considered? The old conflict between those who pine for the most beautiful aesthetics and design and those who seek to maximise bar productivity and operations rears its head. This article takes account of both of these requirements i.e. that a bar must look good as well as function efficiently, to determine what kind of things we should be looking for in a good bar.
One of the most important aspects of bar design is the aesthetics of the bar i.e. how it looks. In some places design is obvious; clubs in high competition sites such as London, New York and Paris have to create some particularly outre "wow!" factor in order to win consumers. That's how you end up with fish tanks under the floor and a tree in the middle of the place. Whilst great looking bars in clubs often make it into our papers and magazines, a good looking bar is equally important in other contexts too. A seedy old pub with worn, stained carpet, for example, will not attract customers and neither will it encourage repeat business. When someone enters your pub or bar you don't want them to immediately comment on how unattractive it is. Whilst how the bar looks is important this does not mean it needs to be anything wildly out of the ordinary. All it needs to be is clean and contextually attractive. By this I mean that the bar must fit its character and environment. If it is an old pub the bar should look traditional and wooden, for example, whilst in a modern champagne bar this would look rather odd. In this environment perhaps a stainless steel bar may look more attractive. For every person who argues visual appearance should be a design team’s dominant concern, there is another who would argue its functionality should have more significance.
Whilst the bar must look appealing it is equally important for the bar to be functional. The barman’s tools, the drinks and the glasses all need to be within easy reach of the user in order to operate as efficiently as possible. Get this wrong and over the course of an evening fewer people could end up getting served as a result, which means less money and even less repeat business if people have to queue for a long time to wait to get served. Along with thinking about the barman’s requirements it is also necessary to think about how the customer will use the bar. Are you going to have seats so people can be comfortable, or have it clear so people can be served more quickly? If it is the latter then great thought needs to be put into where the taps, pumps and service stations will go in order to allow customers to order their drink at as many points as possible. Ideally the bar will draw them to an order point rather than have people waiting in a horizontal line which is always problematic for the barman. Finally, a useful piece of bar design which is very functional indeed is a mirror. It not only allows the barman to see what is going on behind him when he is preparing the drinks, such as the arrival of new customers, but it also allows those ordering their drinks to see what is going on in the rest of the room and therefore not have their back to the bar which makes it difficult for the barman.
Ideally therefore a great bar would look good and operate well. This is often achieved by bars and clubs who employ competent bar design teams. Often you will see pictures of great looking bars with wonderful colouring and shapes yet with plenty of shelving for glasses and an abundance of display and access points for the various bottles of spirits. In this way the bar looks great, the drinks on display look great, the barman can get to the drinks easily, and therefore the whole operation runs more smoothly and will generate more business.