Sell More Products Through Back Bar Design

Bar Rescue InsiderEditor's Note: The following is one in a series of blogs provided by the experts who have worked incredibly hard to make Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" reality program, starring Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer, such a success. The Bar Rescue Insider blog series will deliver tried-and-true tips and tricks to help bar owners, operators and managers solve common problems and increase their bottom line. Tune in to every Wednesday for the next edition of Bar Rescue Insider!


What does a customer see first when he/she walks through your front door?  If the brightest and most interesting items are refrigeration coolers and video games then you are missing an opportunity to advertise your most important products – beverages.

On Swanky Bubbles, Season 1 of Bar Rescue the back bar missed the mark on this opportunity with its amusement park ride design.  There was very little product lighting (only candle light which had left burn marks on the sculpted overhang), a very narrow work area for bartenders, poor to average cleanliness and a very dated design. 

When I look at a bar for the first time I always assess the back bar layout and product display. The back bar has to be #1 functional to your bartender, #2 clean,  #3 attractive, and #4 carefully composed to inspire your customers to buy your products.  If you have established your theme or style then it is important to carry this into the back bar and use it for advertising. 

Using these simple rules on location at Swanky Bubbles, we decided to remove all the foam sculpture to widen the work area and left the owners with a space that was functional and easy to clean.  By building a beautiful walnut cabinet we created shelving for bottle displays and the new name. By adding spot lights and some customized overhead fixtures we drew attention to where the bar needed it – on the products being sold.

Jon and I have seen many back bars that don’t achieve these four essential goals, on Bar Rescue.  Discussing with your bartenders the function and cleanliness of the bar itself should be an ongoing conversation.  Is there enough room for the bartenders to work efficiently?  Are the service stations properly equipped and fully functioning?  Is there enough time at the end of the night to thoroughly clean and sanitize the back bar?  An observant bartender can also provide important feedback from your customers.  Are your customer’s preferred spirits, beer, and wine preferences available and stocked regularly?  Do you have a drink menu? Finally, you need to ask, is the back bar attractive from the floor.  Are all the back of the house items properly stowed out of view? Are there reminder notes taped the POS machine?  Is the liquor display kept dust free and clear of clutter?  Is your liquor display properly highlighted so you can see what is available? 

The best way to display your products involves proper lighting, stepped displays if you have limited space, and attention to detail.  Often bottles are lit from below through glass risers.  Spot lighting is very effective for taps and top shelf items.  Keep in mind the site line of customers standing or sitting at the bar but don’t forget to display some items high enough for the entire room to see. 

It is also important somewhere in your back bar display your bar’s name.  By incorporating your brand with the products you sell you can send a subtle message to your customers.  They may not consciously make the association but sub consciously they will, so be sure the service experience is excellent and you will win more loyal customers.


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