How to Set Up a Restaurant Bar

A beer tasting is a great restaurant promotion
••• A beer dinner is a great restaurant promotion. Restaurant Nuovo Antica Roma via Pixabay

For many full-service restaurants. It is where patrons gather to eat and drink, while wait staff picks up their beverages and cocktails. The set-up of a restaurant bar depends on your restaurant’s size, theme, and liquor license. Some bars are service only, meaning it does not serve customers directly; it is just for staff to order drinks. Other full-service bars offer drinks as well as a limited or full menu. Bars may double as a wait station, where servers can pour their fountain drinks, or it may be strictly off limits to staff, except for the bartender.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 6-8 Weeks

Here's How:

Check Your Liquor License

Liquor licenses vary, and one license may cover all alcohol while others only cover wine and beer. If you are only serving beer and wine, a small service bar is more than adequate for your needs. If you plan to offer hard liquor as well as wine and beer and are looking to expand business through bar sales, you should plan for a full-service bar. Also, find out if your staff needs to have any specific liquor seller training before opening. Some states require TIPS or similar certifications, while others don't.

At the least, it never hurts to have your staff trained in responsible beverage serving, as it protects them, the restaurant and the customer. 

Figure Out How Much Space You Have For a Restaurant Bar

Ideally, there should be about two feet of space in between bar stools to accommodate patrons. It means if you want eight seats at the bar, you need an eight-foot bar.

Decide Where To Put The Restaurant Bar

A bar right at the entrance of a restaurant can do double duty as a waiting area. A bar in the center of a restaurant is easier for staff to access during the dinner rush. A bar placed at the back of a restaurant more intimate, away from the hustle and bustle of the front of the house. Decide which place is best for your bar.

Stock Your Restaurant Bar With The Right Equipment

Bars need their own reach in coolers, ice bins, hygiene supplies, paper towel dispenser, liquor wells, glass racks, wine racks and dry storage. Coolers should be big enough to hold bottled beer, white and blush wines, as well as backups of juice, milk and other beverages, used to mix drinks. A restaurant bar also needs a beer tower and a place to keep kegs cold. You may have to run beer lines from the walk-in cooler if your bar doesn’t have enough space for kegs. Bar floors should be covered with rubber floor mats for employee comfort and safety.

Let Your Restaurant Bar Double As a Wait Station

Make your bar as self-sufficient as possible. Outfit it with its own POS system, so that the bartender can take care of customer tabs right on the spot. An integrated POS also lets the bartender send food orders to the kitchen directly from the bar. Be wary of letting staff into the bar area, even if it is to use the POS system during a rush. Bartenders are typically territorial creatures and don’t like wait staff underfoot. You may need to implement a rule that no wait staff is allowed behind the bar during the dinner shift (or whatever times you deem necessary).

Set the Mood With Lighting

Lighting in the bar should be subtle. Not so dark customers can’t read the menu, but not too bright. Recessed lighting and track lighting with dimmer switches allow you to control the light, adjusting it for the time of day.

Take Advantage of Freebies

Your wine and beer salesperson can outfit you with free merchandise, like glasses, decorative mirrors, even those tacky neon lights that hang in windows. Find out what you can get for free before buying decorative items.

A restaurant bar offers easy profits for restaurants if they follow the local laws and have the right insurance and training for staff. Liquor licensing and accompanying insurance varies from state to state, as do rules around responsible beverage training.