How do you build a more profitable bar? How can you create a bar and beverage setup that is more efficient, more appealing to customers, and easier on the staff? What do operators need to think about before they design their bars or before renovating them?
Perlick partner and owner of BarMagic, Tobin Ellis, gave some insight on these questions and more at the recent Foodservice Equipment & Design Global Thought Leadership Summit, which was sponsored by Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine and was held in Chicago back in September.
If you were to summarize Ellis’s message in a single sentence, what would it be?
Work collaboratively, he said.
The crux of his talk was that bartenders and bar managers need to be consulted during the design and planning process of bar creation. The reason is simple.
“Programming should always come before design,” Ellis said.
Since bartenders and managers are the ones doing the programming, he argues, they should be at the forefront of the design, as well. This is important when complex cocktail menus and workflows demand additional square footage, more workstations, and more customization. Another suggestion he had to help alleviate some of these operational bottlenecks is to consider back-of-the-house service bars to increase efficiency and decrease wait times.
What we’re trying to get rid of, Ellis said, are old-school, plan-view approaches to bar design that restrict a bartenders’ ability to engage with guests while increasing the amount of time those guests have to wait. It creates a double-edged sword. On one hand, customers will wait longer for their beverages. On the other hand, the bartender cannot engage them while they’re waiting.
“You’ll never find a bartender who says, ‘I’m so glad this bar was designed all in-line and symmetrical,'” Ellis said.
The alternative is immersion, and it’s not created by design, Ellis says. While it does require design, there’s no such thing as immersion without service and hospitality, and he encouraged attendees at the event to design with immersion in mind.