Glasses neatly organised on a rack behind bar

Speed and Efficiency

Mastering speed and efficiency will help you serve perfect drinks and deliver great service to your guests. By implementing operational principles such as the ‘two-step’ rule, you'll be sure to increase speed and efficiency, leading to happier customers who want to return time and again.  

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Speed and Efficiency

Speed and efficiency work hand in hand and are arguably two of the most important elements attributed to an effective bar professional. Speed is a function of efficiency and so if you can improve the efficiency of your team, their speed should increase proportionally. 

The amount of time a guest feels like they have waited to be acknowledged or served will have a direct impact on their experience, with long wait times potentially deterring them from returning to your venue. Efficiency is a bar professional’s best friend, enabling you to deliver serves quickly and without unnecessary additional effort. Efficiency relies on organisation, prioritisation, and forward thinking, allowing you to work your best during busy periods.  

Master these skills for a clean and efficient bar - and happy guests who feel well looked after. 


Optimising efficiency is the first step to increasing speed of service. From a well laid out bar, to clever stocking and thorough preparation there are a few learnt habits which can vastly improve bar efficiency. 

Everything You Need, at Arm’s Reach 

If you don’t know the ‘two-step rule’, prepare to reorganise the flow of your entire bar! The principles of the ‘two-step rule’ are that everything a bar professional needs should be reachable within two steps. This means positioning your best-selling (by volume) products in the speed rail along with the ingredients of any top selling cocktails.  

If room allows, hold back-up stock of your best-selling spirits (by volume) beneath the bar or as close to your station as possible to reduce time spent in the back and away from guests. If you have a long bar, consider introducing mirrored bays with multiple stations so a bar professional has all they need within arm’s reach, rather than having to run from one end to the other.  

Prepare to Succeed 

We have established how important a well organised bar is, but the back bar is just as essential. While some spirits might not be as popular as others, you don’t want to run the risk of running out of something and being unable to supply a serve.  

Instead establish a ‘miscellaneous’ back-up stock section with less popular, but still integral, products. Have a team member make a list of all the bottles on your back bar that are down to their final quarter and build your back-up stock based on this.  

Harnessing the ‘Next Job’ Mentality 

As we all know, service often comes in waves, from rushes to lulls and back again so thinking ahead can be a fantastic way to stay on top of tasks. Adopt a ‘next job’ mentality: while serving one guest, think ahead to the next task, whether it is refilling ice, checking in on another guest for their next drink or preparing for the next serve. Thinking ahead will eradicate wasted time looking for your next task and will allow you to prioritise next steps.  

Take advantage of precious down periods to fully reset your station, this will ensure you are fully prepared for the next rush to come. Wait for the opportune moment, when there is a break in service, and refill anything necessary such as ice, fruit juices, garnishes, napkins, or straws. If you fail to notice when something is running low, you may have to leave the bar when it’s busy to refill stock in order to complete a guest’s order. 

Cleaning as You Go Doesn’t Make Service Slow 

It’s a common misconception that cleaning as you go will slow you down, but there are a variety of reasons why this isn’t the case. On your bar, every item should have its place, and once used, should be returned immediately to its designated place. In addition, if every item on your bar has a home, you will quickly find that you needn’t look down at all, relying on cognitive muscle memory to locate regularly used tools and ingredients effortlessly.  

For messes such as spills and discarded napkins, you will find that a quick wipe of the bar top not only encourages guests to return to the bar but is also more time efficient than leaving the small messes to pile up. It is far easier to wipe away a fresh spill than clean a mess which has dried so tackle these as soon as you are able, and you will also find clear up after a busy shift is a quick job.  

Quality over Quantity 

It’s essential to note that speed and efficiency should never compromise quality. Whether this be quality of interaction or the serve itself, you must ensure that quality does not suffer, if you compromise on quality you risk guests returning poorly made drinks, this not only represents a cost in terms of the impacted guest experience (with potential consequences for repeat visits and recommendations) but will also cost you additional time, money and resources to rectify the mistake and replace the drink. 

Use all the information detailed above to be as efficient and quick as possible, while also taking the time to have some interaction with guests. Additionally, be sure to maintain an attention to detail and ensure each serve is up to standard. Balancing speed and efficiency with quality is the mark of a truly skilled bartender.

Speed and Efficiency Essentials

Mastering speed and efficiency, developing good technical skills and having a good knowledge of your menu, including the prices will help you serve perfect drinks and deliver great service to your guests in the fastest and most efficient manner. If you introduce the "principles" detailed below, you'll be sure to increase efficiency and, therefore, speed. All this will help lead to happier customers who want to return time and again. 

Be sure to:

  • Organise your bar so you have everything you need within arm’s reach. 
  • Prepare for a successful service with no hold ups. 
  • Embrace the ‘next job’ mentality and always think ahead.  
  • Clean up as you go and give every tool and ingredient a permanent home. 
  • Always prioritise speed and efficiency but never to the detriment of quality. 

Key Takeaways

  • Speed – without compromising quality – is key to the guest experience: if customers are waiting too long to be served, it may deter them from coming back to your venue. 
  • Efficiency is key. Is everything you need within a couple of steps? Are your best-selling spirits well-stocked, both at your bar station, and with replacements nearby when those run out? 
  • Service comes in waves – a lull and then a rush – so think in advance about how you can use the next quiet moment to prepare for the subsequent crowd. 
  • A truly skilled bartender will make the organisation of the bar station seem effortless – allowing them to focus on the quality of the serve, and interaction with guests.