When organising a new bar there are many considerations for the budding restaurateur, including every minute details. Disregarding those details for a second - although their importance is never to be understated - we’re here to look at the biggest systems and pieces of equipment you’re going to need to purchase for your bar and what you’re going to be considering when making your final decisions on these items.
Soda Gun System
There’re really only two worldwide brands which provide these systems and the products they dispense; your main decision will be choosing which brand you wish to use as you’ll be committed to pouring just their products from your equipment. Often both of these brands will offer incentives to have you dispensing their products. They will often offer free equipment installation or maintenance as a primary incentive - sometimes they offer both - and with free equipment leasing frequently thrown in to sweeten the deal. Without a soda gun system your bartenders are going to be pouring bottled carbonated mixers and whilst this may be better for high-end locations it is not possible in moderate to high volume environments.
Kegerator or Keg Room and Draft System
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a natural cellar to serve your draft beer from then you’re going to need either of these. Size, and therefore cost, will depend upon how many drafts you plan on serving. Kegerators range in size from a single tap working from a 1/6 barrel sized keg up to a four tap system connected to 1/2 sized barrels and are good if you are operating out of a very small location. A keg room will need to be insulated and have a cooling system, unless you want your beer to go bad in about 2 weeks, and if you’re choosing a keg room over a kegerator then you’re also going to want a glycol system. This system will ensure that your beer is served ice cold, with minimal foam and, therefore, minimal wastage.
Yes, these units will differ in their dimensions, and the space you have on your bar will define these, but the two main choices are display fridges or storage fridges; glass doors or solid doors. Glass doored fridges will allow you to display products such as wines, bottled beers and soft drinks, whilst solid door fridges will allow you to keep your prepped products out of the customers sight.
Backup cold storage might also be a consideration for your bar. If you do not have enough space behind your bar for a large fridge then installing a fridge in the back somewhere will allow you to keep enough product cold to continue serving your guests all night long.
Some also like to keep glassware in a fridge in order to save their bartenders the time of chilling a glass first. If this is your plan then you’re going to want a newer fridge, with a faster cooling rate, and one with sufficient space to store enough glasses so that when you’re operating at high volume they get chilled sufficiently before being used for service.
Freezers are not always necessary in a bar and if you are also operating a venue with a kitchen then you’ll have access to the small amount of freezer space you may need in your kitchen.
Freezers are mainly used behind the bar for storing products that will otherwise go bad, and for making large whiskey cubes. Some will actually have freezers behind their bar to store glassware for service to provide that extra cold touch.
Most glass washers are front loading and made to a standard size in order to fit a standard size tray, the same size trays found in kitchen dishwashers. These are the most common and often have the best size to wash rates. There are smaller versions of these front loading washers available and carousel style ones to fit under really small, skinny bars, as well as conveyer format glass washers for those really really high volume places.
An alternative to the mechanical glass washer is the three compartment sink and if you don’t want the noise of a glass washer sounding from behind your bar then this is an excellent choice. You’ll buy the actual sinks and the upright washer (which goes in the first sink) separately. These sinks and washers are available in a variety of sizes to fit a variety of spaces. The disadvantage of these, however, is that each glass requires manual washing and more drying time than glass that emerge from mechanical glass washers.
Ice is essential behind the bar so your ice machine needs to produce quality ice, which means large, solid, cold cubes. It is advisable to attach a water filter to the inlet of your ice machine - many do come with one, or the option of one, nowadays - as this will ensure that you have the best quality ice. There’s also the crucial element of keeping up with service. If your ice machine cannot deliver enough ice when your bar is busy then it’s going to be rendered useless. Consider too, if you have a kitchen in your location they’re also going to need to use ice to chill food items, increasing the amount of ice you’ll need on site for any given day.
Many of these items require access to drainage and therefore positioning them near the drain on your bar is necessary. You may also not want all of these pieces of equipment on your bar. Not only can they produce an unruly amount of heat but some of them, mainly glass washers and ice machines, can make a lot of noise. If you’re running a high-end establishment you may wish to keep these items in the back of house. Also, don’t jam equipment into tight corners and spaces where it would be hard to access part of it when it needs servicing.
On a final note, be aware of certain factors when buying equipment secondhand; which is what many of us do when starting our own bar. Don’t only look at the condition of the machine but ensure that the company who produced your new-old equipment is still in business and that parts are still available for it should anything break.