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Behind the Bar

Operational efficiency is critical to ensuring a seamless experience in the hospitality industry. Our design team decided to get "behind the bar" with several sought-after libation destinations serving Boston's Seaport community to get a design perspective from the people integral to facilitating world-class restaurant experiences.
2022 Behind the Bar Web

At Bergmeyer, we’ve designed bar concepts in various industry sectors such as multi-family residences, restaurants, mixed-use commercial spaces, workplaces, breweries, and distilleries – each designed uniquely to function and fit the needs of its respective user(s). Just as critical to the overall design, if not more, bartenders and employees need operational efficiency to ensure service runs smoothly to keep clients happy and wanting to come back again and again.

We approach each project with a hunger for curiosity to explore the “what if” vs. the “what should” – all starting with understanding the customer’s perspective first and foremost. Bar design should be felt viscerally, and as designers, we can't help but get excited about creating experiences from the customer's perspective (don't you love walking into a moody bar and seeing that back bar glow?).

Evocative lighting is designed to create a mood that connects its users and the space effortlessly. Carefully curated furniture, finishes, and ergonomics customized to complement the experience of each space while enhancing the client's overall food and beverage vision.

Yet, as important as it is to design for the user’s experience, our design must also function to serve the operational needs of its staff – a point of view we recently went behind the bar to hear about from the sources practically impacted by the design of the space.

Q&A with Michael & Josie from Empire

What's the best part of your job?

  • My team and the management here, the chemistry of drinks, and meeting so many people in the seaport traveling for business or vacation

What makes your job the most efficient?

  • When each well is set up the same, and draft beers selection and order are the same, it's all about muscle memory!
  • There is additional storage for pre-made drinks.
  • Ample circulation behind the bar.
  • Work bottles are at the front bar, not the back bar. The goal is to serve the customer right in front of them to get a drink quickly to them.

Are there any flaws?

  • Not in the bar but in some of the bottle designs - The St. Germain bottle is larger than typical bottles; it's top-heavy and falls over. Running around, you can accidentally hit your shins on the wells.
  • The bar back circular design elements lend themselves to the organization of liquor style (vodka/sake, tequila, whiskey/bourbon).

Seasonal cocktail?

  • Red berry and Winter in Osaka

Busy season?

  • Yes, four bartenders on Friday and five bartenders on Saturday. We're all dancing behind the bar ;-).

Side note: Michael has been with the Empire for almost three years, and this bar is the biggest bar he has ever worked.

What's the best part of the bar layout from the guest's perspective?

  • Our bar is one of the largest bars in town, offering different types of intimacy and privacy. If I'd like to sit quietly at the bar and not socialize, I would sit in the back corner.

The bar at Empire

Q&A with Donovan from Snowport's Tuscan Kitchen Pop-Up

What is the most important goal for your pop-up?

  • To move the line as quickly as possible. Queuing will inevitably get long on weekends. If a customer knows it will move quickly and only takes a few minutes, especially for the first order, that's important to keep guests coming back.

Do you have any tips to make a pop-up move quickly?

  • Separate the bartender and cashier. Unlike restaurants, social interactions come secondary to moving the line, so having a customer-facing cashier while a bartender focuses on moving drinks along is ideal.
  • The bar menu design should be clear as possible for the customer - It helps avoid the cashier being asked the same question, which causes delays.

What did you improve upon in your flow and design from last year?

  • Larger volume tanks, so there is no pause in operation to warm up more beverages.
  • We added additional storage for prepped and premade drinks.

What are some additional planning needs?

  • Power is critical. A separate 240-volt power supply source needs to be considered for special equipment, such as drink warmers.

What's the best part of your job?

  • I've never got the same day behind the bar. Like today, I've never had an interview with an interior designer about bar design.

What makes a great bar?

  • Consistency. People go to the same bar over and over because guests expect consistency in vibes, moods, foods, and drinks.

What is your signature cocktail? Any drink tips?

  • Donnybrook. There are no secret tips, but just keep it simple.

What is the nicest design feature of the bar?

  • It looks appealing.

Are there any flaws?

  • The bar is really long with the floating counter in the middle, so it creates a long journey to get what the bartender needs.

What makes your job the most efficient?

  • Again, consistency. When I work, I don't have to think about what I am doing or look at it when I pick up the bottles. When everything is in the right position, the workflow behind the bar will move smoothly.

What's the best part of the bar from the guest's perspective?

  • Vibes. We are the best sports bar in Boston, so we have lots of consistent guests coming.

Kristyn and June's Takeaways

This exercise proved not only fun but also very informative. We enjoyed several outings to the Seaport and made new acquaintances. It was enlightening to gain design insight from the bartenders at these establishments. We can’t help but take this feedback to heart as we move forward with our future design work. Below are some of the takeaways from this experience.

Leave your computer behind and get out there to see what's really working (or not) through local case studies. Even if you consider yourself an expert, the design landscape and its users are constantly changing, and something that may have worked on the last few projects may have room for improvement. This outing was a good reminder for me to put the data and dimensions I've come to memorize on the back burner and challenge it by having conversations with the real experts - the end users!

When we design a bar, we tend to focus on the guest and how to create an unforgettable experience that will bring in repeat business. From a guest’s perspective, an eye-catching bar design encourages guests to stay, and the vibe of the space sets the tone for the guest experience. On the other hand, from the back-of-house perspective, a well-planned bar supports the bartender’s service execution, helping the staff to efficiently work at a maximum speed, getting drinks and menu items in as many hands as possible.

Designing a bar is about more than just the aesthetics and ambiance of the space; function, workflow, and meeting codes from a legal perspective are also necessary. The best-designed bar should be able to escalate both the guest and bartender experience. Bottoms up!

To learn more about Bergmeyer’s restaurant and hospitality experience or to ask for assistance with your design needs, please reach out to us and say hello!

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