Designing a Restaurant Bar
Opening a new restaurant and looking for best practices on your Restaurant Bar Design? Hopefully these simple ideas will help.
We have been designing decorative panels and bar tops made from wood, copper, hammered metal, and anodized aluminum (and combinations thereof) for restaurant bars for nearly 20 years. Once the restaurant concept is established, the bar is a major element of design and can help define it. Rather than installing a huge piece of furniture, consider a much more simple, cost effective, and visually attractive solution: a Panelized Bar Front. The panels, combined with the bar top, will provide a highly functional and comfortable solution, as it will incorporate all your equipment.
Key Elements to Designing a Restaurant Bar
- Functionality: As form follows function, you need to consider what equipment you will need behind the bar. Get spec sheets, check codes on required sinks, dishwashers, chip warmers, ice bins, etc. Develop a layout for the configuration. Use best practices from bars you visit. Think of the flow of activity needed during rush periods. Make a 3D sketch of the bar. We usually do this as a complimentary service for customers who are going to buy from us.
- Existing walls are a a constraint–especially if they are not perpendicular or exactly vertical. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is especially true for remodels. Once the bar top is cut, it is basically impossible to turn back to compensate for a wrong measurement.
- Remodels: In this case, it is often possible (or necessary to save money) to cover an existing bar with a new one. The panels are an excellent way to do this. We are working with a restaurateur to convert an American concept to a Mexican Restaurant. At this location, there is also a soffit above the bar, in this case rectangular, which would make for a costly demolition and complete rebuild. Instead, we are making coordinating panels for both the bar front and soffit.
- Electricity: If there are existing electrical outlets or feeds, it is usually advantageous to use them. The outlets in the bar can be fed from existing sources if there is sufficient power for all the equipment. On the customer side of the bar, you may want to make accommodations for cell phone chargers and plug outlets, for laptops, for more casual bars such as coffee shops.
- Standard Design Considerations: Back bar, measurements, distance from front bar, and bar height are all very important to take into consideration. There are standards, but you have to think about your specific work flow. The back bar typically is used to sell your premium brands and should be functional. Use the design to echo your theme or concept (sleek, modern, rustic).
- Standard Bar Chair Height: 12″ between the bar top to the seat of the bar chair
- Bar Height: 42″ is the standard
- Standard Distance from back bar to front bar must be adequate for equipment and work space for bar staff, minimally 36″
- Bar Aesthetics; The good news is that a panelized system enables flexibility in the overall aesthetics. Combinations of materials (wood, hammered steel, copper, anodized aluminum) make notable attention to detail for your concept. An icon, theme, or restaurant name can be customized into your bar.
- Lighting: New LED lighting for back bar and bar front are available on sites like superbrightleds.com.
Designing Your Unique Look
Now that your bar is sketched and dimensioned with all the equipment you want to install, you need to work with someone who can provide the visual look and feel you want for your theme. Our panelized system is basically “visual clothing” for the structure that your contractor provides. The contractor would start by pouring a concrete curb approximately 6-8″ high (you can also use cinder block). The curb is used to raise the wooden panels from the floor so that mopping and floor cleaning is made easy. It’s best to pour each cinder block channel (for structure and to keep unwanted hiding places for pests) and have rebar to provide a good foundation. Also, anchors should be placed in the concrete to facilitate the next step of installing a framed section, using 2×6 (horizontal) and 2×4 (verticals) on top of the cinder block (or concrete curb) base.
Electrical Considerations While Designing a Restaurant Bar
From the electrical source sufficient to power the equipment selected, route the electrical cables thru holes drilled in the vertical members and place electrical boxes in the areas conveniently accessed by the equipment. You may want to consider a few outlets on the patron side for their convenience. In addition, consider LED lighting to flood the bar front decoration and on the back side for the bartender.
The Panel Bar Design
The panel bar design can take on different aesthetics to play off your restaurant theme. We typically focus on the rustic concepts using wood and combine with copper, hammered metal, or anodized aluminum. As we produce custom bars, we can custom produce many design ideas with the restauranteur, architect, or designer. The bar top can be made from the above material combinations in addition to marble, travertine, or onyx. The seam where the panels butt together is covered by a hand forged element that is used to support the top and also serves as a support for the foot rail.
Back Bar Design
Once the front bar is designed and functional, we can design the back bar using coordinating elements. Mixing shelving, mirrors, and cabinets adds functionality and visual interest.
Designing a Restaurant Bar’s Lighting
Typically, we design pendant lights for restaurant bars from material combinations such as tin, blown glass, wrought iron, and onyx. A good distance between pendant lights is about three feet for a comfortable guest experience. A functional work of art, the pendants cast soft pools of light on the bar’s surface.
The bar tables and chairs will further define your concept. There is no right or wrong answer, just what you desire. We recently designed high top bar tables made from wood and copper plated steel. We used the traditional “equipal chair”, as they are authentic, inexpensive, and comfortable. From a designer’s perspective, it is always good to have photos and a discussion with the owner for direction here.
Speaking from Experience
Many times, we use our own restaurant, No Mas! Cantina in Atlanta, GA, as a testing ground for our restaurant design concepts (and furniture abuse testing!). We are always looking for better ways to provide ideas, design tips, and bring value by using our experience with our own restaurant and clients we work with. We believe this provides a unique perspective that can bring value to new restaurant clients looking for help with custom restaurant architecture and design. Our production in Mexico started in 1996; we currently work with over 350 artisans who will help us realize your concept. If you are ever in the Atlanta area, please stop by with your plans–or inquire online. We’ve helped many clients “remotely” through phone calls and email, sending designs and photos. Our design advice is free, providing you purchase from us. We sell wholesale to the restaurant at prices that are sometimes even lower than if you go to Mexico yourself! Why? Because of our experience, established relationships with the artisans in Mexico, and the volume we bring to the businesses and artisans we work with. We minimize costs, including shipping, by maximizing volume. You are working with an American Company with deep roots in Mexico, and a proven track record.
Casa Grande, Hiram, GA (remodel from Stellas Restaurant-In Process)
Guacamole Joes, Atlanta, GA (formerly La Paz)
Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, Roswell, GA
Ten Bistro, Norcross, GA
Tortuga Cantina, Dubai UAE
No Mas! Cantina, Atlanta, GA
Poco Mas, Atlanta, GA