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Looks or Practicality: Which is More Important When Designing a Bar?
With the number of pubs, bars and clubs across the UK most of us will have seen a wide variety of different bar designs. Although we often take the presence of the bar as a given, 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 rest of 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 somewhere that's beautiful and a joy to be in 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 An outdated and ugly bar, for example, will not attract customers and neither will it encourage repeat business. When someone enters your pub or bar you don't 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. 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.


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. 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.


Whilst it has been seen that both functionality and aesthetic appearances are both important there is often conflict between their relative importance, and bar design is all about finding a compromise between the two. It is inevitable that the funkiest looking bars may also be the most impractical ones for barmen to actually use whilst the most functional of bars may be extremely unattractive. Before you begin to panic about getting the right balance however, remember that there are a range of bar design companies out there to help you achieve the right looking bar for you which operates efficiently as well.


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