Restaurant bars come in all shapes, sizes, and themes. You can feature a full service where customers can sit and even enjoy a meal along with a cocktail, or you might settle on a limited service bar where servers make their own drinks and deliver them to tables.
There’s no direct customer service between a bartender and your guests.
You’ll have to invest in outfitting the bar whichever route you choose, at least if you plan on serving any alcohol other than wine and beer. This can mean an investment of a few thousand dollars or more depending on how top-shelf you want to go. Some liquor, refrigeration, and other equipment needs are must-haves.
Basic Liquor Needs
First, the liquor. Keep in mind that liquors come in three distinct qualities and you’ll probably want to keep all three in stock for each liquor you serve:
Top Shelf (expensive)
These are the most common hard liquors you’ll find in nearly every restaurant bar:
Coolers and Refrigeration
Look for refrigerators and coolers that have the Energy Star efficiency seal. These models use up to 45 percent less energy than most other models so they’ll save you some money on your utility bill.
A reach-in cooler
A lot of smaller equipment for the bar can be purchased in used condition with little or no worries, including:
Frozen drink machine
Cocktail shakers and strainers
Garnish bins for lemons, limes, orange slices, cherries, olives, or other items to dress up cocktails
Ice buckets marked for “Ice Only”
Paper towel dispenser
Rubber floor mats
Ask your beverage sales rep about free glasses. Many distributors give them and other bar supplies for free as promotional gifts. This can go a long way when you’re just getting started.
The Bottom Line
A well-stocked bar is a great way to increase profits. There’s little overhead involved in mixing drinks and alcohol has a very long shelf life. Alcohol sales can help offset your margin on higher priced menu items like fresh seafood or expensive cuts of beef.
And keep in mind that not everyone is cut out to be a bartender. Be sure to check references and choose the best person possible when you’re hiring. Otherwise, it won’t matter how well-stocked your bar is.