close popup
Skip to main content
Skip to footer
quill points image
Earn QPoints + $17.99 5-Ream Paper. $14.99 First-Year Membership

Restaurant Resource Center


Maximize Efficiency with Smart Bar Set-Up

The only time you want someone saying “slow” in your bar is in relation to a slow gin fizz. Prompt service is crucial, and how you arrange bar supplies, liquor, drinkware and bartending equipment behind the bar has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and bartender productivity.

Optimize Equipment Placement

Carefully consider placement of large bartending equipment like coolers, taps, ice bins and sinks. It's also important to create a place for storing dirty glasses separate from the prep area. Test drive different locations for efficiency and relationship to customers before making final decisions.

“The bartender should always be facing guests, even when washing dishes,” says Jean Pierre Leroux, general manager of Waterleaf Restaurant in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Avoid Personalization

The most efficient way to set up bar caddies, drinkware and other bar supplies should not be however the bartender wants.

Alignment is key in a busy, multi-shift bar. “A lot of bartenders will come in and set up the bar the way they like it for speed; however, we lose out on efficiency when the next shift's bartender or bar back has to try and find something,” says Mattson Davis, president of Kona Brewing Company, based in Kailua-Kona, HI. “Our policy is that our bar staff keeps everything the way it is: one set-up for consistency.”

Group Like Items

Improve efficiency by putting the most popular liquors in the well and displaying more exclusive names on back bar shelves. “Group your inventory in an orderly way, i.e. premium vodkas grouped together, single malt scotches, tequila families properly lined up,” suggests Jennifer Benedict, assistant general manager of Sip Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge in Greenville, SC. This reduces time spent hunting for particular call brands.

Rethink Storage

“Space is always limited,” says Leroux. “You have to optimize storage for liquor and bar stock.” Many bars use overhead and below-the-counter shelves and cabinets. But think carefully about what you put where.

“With bartenders, turnover can be high sometimes,” Leroux says. “If today you have a 6'4" bartender and next month you have a 5'3" bartender, well, you can see how that could be a problem for overhead storage,” he says. You really don't want staff having to stand on a step-stool to retrieve a bottle or special glass during a shift.

And be careful about below-decks storage of bar supplies if you've got back bar mirrors. “Most bars store things under the sink or bar hoping no one will see, but the mirror sees everything,” Leroux laughs. Avoid embarrassment by sitting and standing at the bar to see what's visible from every angle.

A successful bar is one organized to maximize display and speed. “Without an efficiently designed bar, a bar will never reach its full potential in profit,” Benedict warns. “If bartenders can make a drink from the well area with their eyes closed, then you know the bar is designed well.”

Carrboro, NC-based Margot Carmichael Lester grew up in a gourmet grocery and parlayed that into a career writing about food, drinks and business for a variety of outlets, including in-flight magazines, consumer titles and Web sites. She has owned her own business, The Word Factory, for two decades. A devotee of dining at the bar, she favors sparkling wines and anything with bacon.