Why your pub's back bar should be front of mind

By Nigel Huddleston

- Last updated on GMT

Back to front: increasing variety in customer pro­files and drinking habits means the importance of the back bar is front of mind nowadays
Back to front: increasing variety in customer pro­files and drinking habits means the importance of the back bar is front of mind nowadays

Related tags: Technology, Hygiene, Public house

Changing customer demands have given the back bar an increasingly prominent role, with a variety of new services available to provide an effective operation.

There was a time when it was enough for pubs to serve a decent pint of beer and get away with it, but increasing variety in customer pro­files and drinking habits means the back bar now has to service a range of functions.

There’s a need for ample refrigeration for craft and world beers and ciders, an attractive and efficiently organised spirits bank to cope with long mixes and cocktails, and enough space for soft drinks, tea and coffee to meet the needs of those who aren’t drinking.

And customers have become more demanding than ever before, with the instant ability to publicly call out bad service, putting bar hygiene high on the agenda. It helps to keep on top of latest developments to allow the back bar to evolve organically, while refurbs offer a perfect opportunity to get things right in one big hit.

If you are going the whole hog soon, many suppliers offer a full back bar design service. London-based Nelson says that “a well-run bar attracts customers but a well-designed one ensures they return”.

It says its bespoke service trumps modular configurations by incorporating irregular shapes so the space can be used to its best effect, with workstations accommodated in optimum locations and dirt-traps eliminated.

Power points can be installed so equipment such as ice makers and crushers, blenders, coffee machines, glass-frosters, bottle coolers and EPoS stations are sited conveniently.

Nelson specialises in glasswashers and its latest addition is the Compact, designed for small spaces but which it says has washing power to rival machines twice the size. It has a soft start option to prevent chipping and rinse arms at both top and bottom to give a better wash ­finish.

IMC also offers a full back bar design service to improve speed of service and effective operation.

UK head of sales Martin Venus says: “The type of equipment, and where it is positioned, is crucial to the smooth and successful operation of a pub or bar, and it’s important that it’s tailored to individual establishments.

“Before we advise any outlet on layout design and equipment, we assess their needs and understand what they want to achieve, so space can be maximised.

“We ­find out how many staff there will have to be behind the bar at busy periods, whether the glass washers and ice machines will be front-of-house or in the back, and whether they have handwashing facilities within reasonable distance, to adhere to health and safety regulations.”

Back bar

Differing priorities

It also takes into account the contribution to a venue’s sales from draught product, single-serve bottles and made-from-scratch drinks.

“The priorities for a cocktail bar and a real ale pub will be very different,” adds Venus, who suggest creating workstations for each staff member, with beer taps, cocktail ingredients, glasses and a till all within easy reach.

“Every minute a bartender isn’t in front of a customer, service is slower, which affects sales and profits,” he adds.

“If there was one piece of kit I would advise investing in, it would be an IMC glass refresher.

“This sprays a jet of cold water and is great for glasses that are still hot from the washer. It enables bar staff to serve drinks quickly, without having to wait for glasses to cool.”

Useful kit

The sheer range of drinks a busy pub has to be prepared to serve means the amount of useful kit on offer grows all the time.

Jestic supplies a number of high-spec Vitamix blenders designed for making quality smoothies and blended cocktails.

Sales director Steve Morris says: “Ensuring consistent quality when it comes to a diverse cocktail menu requires consideration of the type of blending equipment used.

“As they are on display to the customer and used regularly throughout the day, operators need to ensure their equipment is not only capable of delivering an excellent product, but also looks good and, most importantly, is reliable.”

The range includes the Bar Boss Advance. “It features automatic shut-off, which allows the operator to prepare the beverage and start the blend before continuing with the rest of the customer’s order, safe in the knowledge the unit will automatically stop when finished,” says Morris.

The widespread awareness of quality cask beer and the resurrection of keg as a result of the craft beer craze has made beer line cleaning more important than ever.

Chemisphere UK specialises in drinks dispense system hygiene and says its Pipeline detergents range is “uncompromising and totally effective in the removal of yeast deposits, biofilm and bacterial and protein growth”.

Its purple cleaner changes colour if the line is dirty, but if it stays purple pubs can be confident lines are free of yeast and bacteria.

Back bar (1)

Intensive deep clean

Cocktail and soft drinks service also requires a clean and efficient postmix dispense system. Abbeychart, which specialises in Wunder-Bar and Schroeder bar gun equipment, offers an intensive deep clean and refurbishment service for post-mix kit, over and above a pub’s regular daily cleaning.

It includes a complete strip-down, deep-cleaning, sanitising and replacement of seals and plastic parts.

“Most people would be quite surprised at the amount of unsightly residue and grime that accumulates on bar guns, particularly with heavy use over the summer,” says managing director Mark Taylor. “This harbours germs and undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on the taste of drinks.”

Hubbard Systems offers a next day delivery service for replacement Scotsman icemakers, which could be a boon if things go wrong during busy periods such as Christmas.

The range includes the EcoX EC, an eco-friendly machine that produces long-lasting “supercube” ice, and comes with capacities ranging from 25kg to 170kg a day.

Marketing manager David Rees says there’s a lot that pubs can do themselves to maintain existing machines that hopefully won’t mean them having to rely on an emergency bailout.

Ventilation grills need to be kept clear of obstruction, filters replaced at least every six months, and the scale guards and air filters cleaned regularly.

“If it gets clogged with dust it will make the icemaker less efficient, so you’ll get less ice,” says Rees. “If it’s a quality icemaker this should be a simple, two-minute job.

“Having a maintenance schedule for the components that need regular cleaning will help keep the equipment in peak condition.”

Rees also warns not to ignore warning lights.

“If the machine has self-diagnostics it’ll indicate what’s wrong, and should be sorted straight away,” he says. “Don’t wait. If necessary, call in the equipment service provider. If the icemaker isn’t being looked after by a service company, get one in sharpish.”

Related topics: Technology

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