Bar Equipment Overview
When you are opening a bar, having the right equipment you need to serve your customers can make or break your business. This guide will cover all of the major types of bar supplies, with information that can help you choose the best fit for your operation. This bar equipment will help you not only exceed your customers' expectations, but will also ensure you are able to meet health codes and regulations to keep your doors open.
Table of Contents
- Ice Makers
- Ice Bins
- Bar Glass Washers
- Bar Sinks
- Wait Service Supplies
- Bartending Supplies
- Liquor Storage
- Bar Matting
Bar refrigeration spans a wide range of products, including bottle coolers, glass chillers, and draft beer systems. These items will keep your drinks properly chilled and allow you to serve popular drafts, so finding the right one is essential to your bar's success.
- Back bar coolers are undercounter refrigerators made for holding bottles or cans. They can have one to three sections and solid or glass doors that swing or slide open. The size will determine how often you will need to restock, but, if your setup allows it, the process of stocking can be made easier with a pass-through option that has doors on both sides. Those can allow for restocking from a walk-in cooler on the other side of a wall in the bar.
- Finding the right draft beer system is essential to many bars. Choose your storage capacity, columns, and taps to determine how many different beers you can serve and how many kegs you can keep close at hand. Some draft systems include a refrigerated section that allows you to store your most popular cans and bottles to keep them nearby for easy serving. Draft systems are also available that pipe in frosty beer from kegs stored in a walk-in cooler.
- Bottle coolers are available with and without refrigeration systems. If you will be serving outdoors or just want mobility, you may be better off with a model that allows you to cool drinks with ice instead of refrigeration. These coolers allow you to store beer by the case and are generally rated by how many bottles they can hold.
- A glass chiller allows you to serve your customers drinks in frosted glasses, keeping their drinks cold for longer. Models are available that open from the top or front. These are generally rated by how many mugs the chiller can hold.
- If wine will be an important part of your bar service, you may also need a wine cooler. Wine coolers hold bottles at optimal temperatures, and most models have glass doors, allowing you to merchandise your options as well. Full size and undercounter options are available with capacities ranging from 20 to 165 bottles.
Ice makers are available in a number of configurations, ensuring you will be able to find the best fit for your needs. The three things you need to consider when purchasing an ice maker are how much ice you need, what shape of ice you need, and how much room you have for an ice machine.
To determine how much ice your bar will require, all you need to know is how many seats it has. Multiply that number by 3.5, an average of how much ice a bar needs for each seat over the course of a day, and you have the number of pounds your ice machine should be able to produce daily. Of course, if you end up with an odd number, you will want to round up; it's far better to have a little too much ice on hand than not enough when a customer places a frozen cocktail order. Ice machine heads and bins can be bought as a pair or purchased separately. Some operators choose to purchase the bin separately if they will use most of the ice at one time because more storage will be required to hold all the ice at once. Alternatively, you may need a higher-production head and a smaller bin if you will be using ice at a steady pace throughout the day. Make sure your ice machine head and bin are compatible if you choose to purchase them separately. In many cases, making that match will require a special kit.
Ice comes in several shapes: full cube, half cube, flake, nugget, crescent, and gourmet. Flake ice is especially popular for blended drinks, since it breaks down so easily, though nugget ice is also noted for the fact that it is popular with some customers thanks to the fact it is chewable and takes on the flavor of the drink it's in. While half, full, and gourmet ice aren't recommended for that use, the first two are still the most popular for cooling soft drinks. Gourmet ice is growing in popularity in bars, particularly in those that want to provide unique presentation of high-liquors, which may also provide higher profit margins with larger ice.
When determining how much space you have for an ice machine, you need to consider both footprint and vertical space. While full-size ice machines usually produce more volume, undercounter machines are available that can provide high volume production. Keep in mind that these machines require clearance for air circulation, with those needs varying by machine. Each model will have a stated clearance requirement, which may be on any or all of the four sides, so be sure you can accommodate that clearance in addition to the size of the machine.
In addition to having an ice maker to produce your ice, in most bars it is helpful to have an ice bin. An ice bin allows you to keep the ice close to hand so you can make drinks as quickly as possible. Ice bins can either be dropped into a countertop or can be a stand-alone model on legs, and can hold as little as 23 pounds of ice or as much as 180 pounds.
While some bins are simple, just a bin with a drain in the bottom, others are built with features that make them especially useful, such as a speed rail on the front, bottle storage on the side, or a blender shelf on the front or side. These bins generally come with covers, which are available on hinges or in a sliding configuration to best suit your needs.
When your customers order a drink, nearly as important as the drink itself is the drinkware it is served in. Because your customers will be touching and holding drinkware, it is important to ensure it will leave a good impression. In some cases, the glass can even enhance the flavor of the drink being served, so having the right kind of glass will make a big difference in how your bar is perceived.
Bar drinkware is available in glass or plastic. Plastic options vary from clear, heavy, glass-like materials to lightweight, colorful cups. Some local regulations restrict the use of glass in bars, especially if customers will be served outdoors, so plastic drinkware is a great option for those locations. Plastic is also a viable option for operators who wish to avoid broken glass.
Glass drinkware is usually clear, though some have a splash of color, such as the Libbey Cobalt Blue and Aruba series. While glass is more fragile than plastic, these glasses are made for commercial use and are very durable. Some manufacturers even offer guarantees against chipping, and will replace the glass if the rim or foot obtains a chip.
It is important to note that many cocktails, liquors, and wines are typically served in a special type of glass, so you may wish to have an idea of your menu before shopping for these items. Some beers can be served in an all-purpose beer glass like a pint, but if you are serving craft beers, you can enhance your customers' experience by providing glasses made to complement each type of beer.
If you will be offering blended cocktails at your bar, you will need a blender to crush the ice and blend the drink. There are two main types of blenders to choose from: bar blenders and spindle mixers. Spindle mixers, used for 'flashing' drinks, are great for putting a froth on sour drinks. Additionally, these mixers are capable of whipping fresh cream if you prefer to make your own whipped cream for liqueur coffees and other sweet cocktails.
Bar blenders come in a wide variety to help you find what you need. The containers vary in size from 32 ounces to 11⁄2 gallons and are available in stainless steel, and clear plastic or glass. While stainless steel is the most durable option, many bartenders prefer to be able to see into the container, as this gives them greater control over the drink. Other features, such as pulse and timer options, can make operation easier, and many bar owners prefer a blender with a sound enclosure, since bar blenders are normally located relatively close to customers.
Bar Glass Washers
Whether you plan to wash your bar glasses in a warewasher or by hand via the three-compartment-sink method, there are glass washers to help you achieve the sparkling clean glasses you need. If you are washing by hand, a glass brush can enable you to reach inside the glasses to be sure you have removed all debris. Most of these models have suction cups, allowing them to stay firmly in place as you clean.
Another option, if you have the room for it, is an undercounter or countertop glass washer. These are electric warewashers specially made for washing glasses. Some of these are rotary-style, where the glasses rotate in one side and out the other, while others have a door that opens from the front that allows you to slide a glass rack in. These are available with high- or low-temperature sanitization, and usually have built-in chemical pumps to make operation simple.
There are a wide variety of bar sinks available to help streamline your workflow and help keep your operation on the right side of health department regulations. Compartment sinks can have anywhere from one to four compartments and often have drainboards on one or both ends. These provide a place for you to wash dishes and, depending on the number of compartments, may have one or two faucets. Most compartment sinks for bars are made at underbar height to fit in seamlessly with your setup.
Hand sinks must be provided by law in most locations. These sinks can be drop-in sinks or stand-alone, with the latter on legs or with storage underneath. Accessories such as built-on speed rails or included towel and soap dispensers make these more convenient and easy to use.
Wait Service Supplies
If your bar will offer table service, wait service supplies will be a necessity. A hostess station can be a nice touch in an upscale bar, providing a place for your hostess to greet customers and store menus. A waitress station is generally a little larger, with more storage for cups, cleaning supplies, and pitchers of drinks for refills.
For transporting food and drinks from the kitchen or bar to your customers, serving trays are indispensable. These are available in a variety of colors and materials to ensure you can find a tray to match your décor. Many trays also feature a non-skid bottom or liner such as cork to make transporting items as easy as possible. Cash carriers and tip trays help make it easy for customers to pay, and allow your servers to provide quick and easy change. Cash carriers and coin holders are especially helpful for outdoor bars or establishments that may hold large events where allowing customers to run tabs is not feasible.
Bartending supplies can help your bartenders make drinks more efficiently and help ensure they are providing your customers with the best-tasting drink possible. Many of these items are small, but most are essential for the operation of a successful bar.
- Liquor pourers help bartenders with portion control, which prevents waste and also ensures drinks taste the way they should. These can also help prevent spills, keeping messes to a minimum.
- For any mixed drink, your bartender will need a quality cocktail shaker, which allows you to mix a drink and chill it, then pour it while straining out the ice. These are available in stainless steel and plastic.
- A bar top dispenser allows you to keep garnishes as well as straws, napkins, and stirrers conveniently close by.
- Even if all the beers you stock have a screw-top, a bottle opener is usually faster when used by a skilled bartender, which can save time and improve the workflow of serving bottled drinks.
- Store and pour units allow you to customize your own storage system for drink mixes and make it easy to convert the bottles from ready-to-serve to ready-to-store.
- Strainers and funnels can make your bartenders' jobs go faster. A strainer allows them to pour just the liquid while straining out ice or herbs, while a funnel helps them direct the pour and prevent messes.
- Bar towels are available in several colors for organization. These are soft, absorbent towels for cleaning up spills and messes on the bar or on tabletops.
- Ranging in size from 1⁄2 an ounce to 2 ounces, a jigger helps your mixologists measure the perfect amount of liquor for each mixed drink they make. While there are one-sided jiggers, most have two ends, with each end measuring a different amount.
- Glass rimmers help your bartenders easily garnish glasses for cocktails like margaritas and daiquiris with salt or sugar. Most rimmers have at least two sections, with one being a sponge to hold lime juice to help the salt or sugar adhere. Many rimmers have as many as three tiers, providing compartments for lime juice, sugar, and salt.
- Bar spoons allow you to easily mix drinks by hand, while muddlers can help add to a drink's flavor by crushing the herbs or fruit included in the recipe. Muddlers are available in wood and stainless steel.
To provide your customers with an ample selection, you will likely need to keep a large number of liquor bottles behind the bar. A liquor display can hold as few as three or as many as 208 bottles of liquor, letting you simultaneously store and merchandise them. Most of these displays are in tiers to best display the bottles, and some are lighted to help draw your customers' eyes to your offerings. A speed rail holds fewer bottles, but can be mounted on the front of the counter to let you keep your most popular liquors within easy reach.
Bar matting includes liners for storage shelves as well as raised bar mats. Bar and shelf liners generally promote drainage, and are available in several colors to aid in organization or match your bar's décor. These are available in varying shapes and sizes, as well as on a roll to be cut to fit whatever surface you may need.
Bar mats are raised mats meant to go on the bar to collect small spills and prevent glasses from skidding. These are available in small drip-tray sizes and in long strips meant to span the length of the bar. Some are also available to go on serving trays to help make the trays slip-free.