Looks or Practicality? Which Should Triumph When Designing a Bar?

There are hundreds of  bars , clubs and pubs out there and each one will be subtly different in its design. Although we might take the presence of the  bar  for granted, great thought goes into its design. This article looks at the different requirements of a good  bar .


 Bars  are undeniably one of the dominant features of a wide range of 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 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. But it’s not just as simple as putting a few bottles behind a  bar . How do you actually go about setting up a  bar ? The age 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. An outdated and ugly  bar , for example, will neither attract customers no encourage repeat business. When someone enters your pub or  bar  you do not 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. It just needs to be 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. We must remember then that the  bar  must fit in as well as look good, so it doesn’t put off people and therefore lose business.


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. 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 and queues will quickly be piling up five deep, which means less money and even less repeat business if people have to queue for a long time to wait to get served and might even end up going somewhere else. Along with thinking about the barman’s requirements it is also necessary to think about how the customer will use the  bar . Is it going to be a sitting  bar , or a serving only  bar ? 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 actually 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.