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By Katherine Pendrill
The restaurant bar is like the fun-loving sidekick to the more orderly dining room. Whether guests are joining you for post-work cocktails or Sunday Night Football, you want to provide an appealing ambiance (along with great food and drinks). Your restaurant bar design can determine whether your customers will hang out for hours or leave after one quick drink.
In this guide to restaurant bar design, we’ll cover:
Let’s dive into the world of bar design.
Regardless of whether you prefer fancy or strictly functional style, there are a few key factors all restaurateurs must consider when it comes to restaurant bar design layout. Your bar layout needs to work for both your staff and your guests, and should have some level of visual flair.
A poor restaurant bar design can slow down service, leaving guests unsatisfied with their experience at your restaurant. In contrast, an excellent design can wow them and may even make your restaurant Insta-famous!
Keeping your restaurant’s clientele and atmosphere in mind can help drive your design decisions. And don’t worry – you don’t need to be a pro to create something customers will love.
Your bar should be welcoming for guests and encourage them to stay a while. It needs to be an ideal height for customers to sit or stand at if it gets crowded. If you want people to be able to eat at the bar, take that into consideration for space, too.
Don’t forget to leave room for foot traffic around the bar so guests can get in and out of the area as needed. And of course, consider accessibility for customers who may need more space or those who may use mobility aids.
You need to keep your team happy, too! Your restaurant bar design layout should make it as easy as possible for bartenders and barbacks to work efficiently. There should be lots of room to mix drinks and ample space for restaurant equipment like coolers, ice wells, glass racks, and more.
Your options for design will largely depend on the size of your restaurant. If you’re working with a tight space, researching small restaurant bar design ideas can help you create a functional workspace for staff while also appealing to your guests’ needs.
This is the fun part. There are 4 main areas to consider when it comes to restaurant bar design:
Your bar seating should strike a balance of comfort, style, and functionality. You don’t want guests to feel stuck in seats that are clunky to move around or that take up too much space.
From a visual perspective, your seating should complement the rest of your bar design, whether it’s modern, classic, or something else altogether.
Playing with light is your chance to impress your guests. In the bar area of your restaurant, lighting should typically be soft and warm. You don’t want the bar too bright, but you also don’t want it dim to the point where it appears dingy.
You also need to think about the light fixtures. These elements of restaurant bar design can command attention and create a stunning atmosphere when chosen carefully. While industrial and rustic lighting are having a moment lately, more traditional styles like chandeliers can also be a beautiful choice.
Just like your seating and lighting, the glassware you choose for your bar contributes to the overall vibe your restaurant conveys. If you serve locally brewed beer on tap, for instance, consider a more creative glassware option than something with a big brand name logo.
Keep in mind the kind of cocktails you serve (or plan to serve) when you’re selecting glassware. There’s a big difference between a martini glass and a fishbowl, after all.
Finishing touches like art or photography as well as table accessories, can delight your guests and give them something to talk about. Choosing a theme featuring an element of pop culture like framed movie quotesfamous faces in the photos on your walls can keep your guests engaged in the environment as they see who in their group has seen which filmscan identify the most celebs.
Your restaurant bar design can also highlight the less conventional aspects of decor. Try installing a floor with a funky pattern or painting a mural on the wall to create an interesting space that makes the perfect backdrop for selfies.
We’ve now covered why restaurant bar design matters to both your staff and guests. Let’s dig into 18 restaurant bar design examples to give you some inspiration.
This photo from Bar Raval’s Instagram account speaks for itself. The Toronto tapas bar features a stunning, intricate wood design reminiscent of a classic grand library – except instead of books on the shelf, they have booze. Guests can delight in the fact that the food and drinks at Bar Raval are every bit as artistic as the restaurant bar design.
This funky bar design isn’t what comes to mind when you think of the Rocky Mountains, but savvy restaurateurs know being unconventional can help your brand stand out. Instead of going with an alpine-style theme, Poka Lola Social Club opted for bold patterns and sleek seating. The shape of this bar gives it a communal feel, where guests can stay a while and order snacks like a cheese board or BBQ pork sliders.
The Keefer Yard, opened in 2021, is the newest attraction at Vancouver’s Keefer Bar. This outdoor bar with a heated patio boasts a beachy vibe, weaving in the city’s Asian heritage with decorative red lanterns. Guests can enjoy snacks, dim sum, and small plates as they sip on cocktails, spirits, wine and more.
This European restaurant, speakeasy, and tailor (yes, you read that right!) is known for its inventive cocktails. Drinks are beautifully presented in glassware worthy of art status. Looking for small restaurant bar design ideas? Take note of the cozy yet elegant atmosphere Tailors evokes with its stylish patterned wallpaper, brass finishes, and warm lighting.
This tropical restaurant bar design is light, bright, and airy. It’s the perfect place for guests to relax and sink into island life. With breakfast, dinner, and of course happy hour, there’s something for everyone at the Hideout. Keep the Laylow “Hawaiian Style” Mai Tais coming!
You’ll find literature-inspired cocktails on the menu at this downtown Calgary bar. The concept of a library shines through in the bar’s design. Expertly-prepared food and drinks aren’t the only thing this bar serves up, though. Guests can also take home curated cocktail boxes, glassware, and bar tools like shaker sets and strainers.
Sticking with the library theme is the Bluebird Cocktail Room in Baltimore. The gold illustrations on the bar nod to literary characters from the early 20th century, and leather-bound books surround the fireplace. Ingredients for food and drinks at the Bluebird are sourced from local farmers and dairy producers.
Australians can escape to an Italian summer vacation without ever leaving home at Tetto Rooftop Bar, which features a beachy, neutral color palette and design inspired by the Italian Riviera. Serving cocktails, cocktail jugs, and even cocktail trees, this is a place for guests to unwind and have fun. With seafood, pasta, and even Italian doughnuts on the menu, Tetto Rooftop Bar is a crowd pleaser.
This East Coast restaurant bar design is both spacious and stunning. Lighting takes center stage on the ceiling, and greenery adds to the atmosphere, complete with leather and wood furnishings. Creative cocktails, oysters, and comfort food are mainstays at this Halifax restaurant and bar.
Bright velvet bar stools and a black and white patterned floor contrast perfectly with the dark colored bar at The Spaniard in New York City. Cocktails, beer, and wine pair expertly with small and large plates for guests to enjoy at this restaurant.
The energetic vibe is palpable at Sputnik Bar thanks to the venue’s retro-space restaurant bar design. The large bar area offers ample seating for guests. Cocktails feature unique ingredients like cuttlefish ink, and the food menu is complete with everything from share plates to salads to burgers.
This tavern-style spot has one of the most eclectic restaurant bar designs of all the places on our list. A checkered floor reminiscent of a diner meets chandelier lighting and deer heads mounted on the walls at this Montreal hangout. Oysters are a staple here, among other delicious treats like pizza and poutine.
Bright colors abound at this southwestern bar. Tonic Santa Fe has it all: retro design with nods to jazz clubs and art deco style, plus an ever-changing cocktail list with favorites like Cactus Coke. The daily food menu keeps things interesting, too.
Known as one of Asia’s best bars, the Sober Company takes restaurant bar design seriously, which is evident from the wood grain in the floor to the cladding on the walls and ceilings. This hotspot offers several different experiences for guests: the Sober Society bar, the Sober Café, and the Sober Kitchen. Their motto? “Come sober, leave tipsy.”
Q Bar pairs creative cocktails like the purple Empress gin lemonade with a menu featuring dishes like baked brie and lamb meatballs. This restaurant bar design blends the traditions of royalty with a modern twist. Everything from the wall art to the lighting to the seating is exquisite.
Natural light and pastel hues steal the show at Tulsa’s Vintage Wine Bar. This restaurant bar design has a soft, sleek feel while providing a spacious area for guests to enjoy the extensive wine list. Snacks like house cut fries and fried chicken will satisfy any craving.
Rustic design reigns at this craft brewery and bar in historic Quito. Stone flooring, brick walls, and wooden barrels above the bar signal an old world atmosphere inside this 1850s building complete with its very own chapel. Also on order? Pizza and sandwiches to pair with the suds.
The display of 2,500 whisky bottles is a work of art at this Washington D.C. bar. With Old Fashioneds and whisky burgers on the menu, whisky lovers will delight in not only the opulent design but also the cuisine.
Now there’s a healthy dose of inspiration for your own restaurant bar design. Bottoms up!
Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.
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