Essential Bar Skills - Organizing Your Workstation
The two-step rule
As a bartender, the size of the space you’re working in will have a huge impact on your speed and efficiency. Most bars have adopted a “two-step” design: all your essential equipment should be close within reach, so you never have to move more than a step or two away from your station. This can shave crucial seconds off service time during busy shifts, increasing both your sales and customer happiness.
The following items should always be within easy reach:
Ideally, you should aim to have two workstations per register, each equipped with the required tools and ingredients. With everything within reach and always in its place, you'll find you have more time to add a little flair to your service and really wow your customers.
Back bar organization
Your back bar should both showcase your product and be easy to get around, so you can find ingredients quickly. When setting up your back bar, consider the following:
- Be realistic about the space: Many bartenders and bar managers tend to overlook the limitations of their back bar, cramming in extra bottles and produce, which affects the overall appearance and functionality. Bottles should never be positioned behind one another on the same level and extra space should be left around premium products where possible to showcase them. Designate places for temporary items, such as promotional or seasonal produce, as this will give some flexibility without compromising your bar’s layout.
- Organize by the spirit: Allocate sections according to the main spirit classifications: Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Liqueurs, Brandy/Cognac and Whisk(e)y. Premium products should be showcased on a designated “top shelf." Avoid placing lower-end brands in this area as this will detract from the high-end image. This will not only keep the bar organized and efficient for employees but will also enable customers to quickly and easily identify your products.
- Muscle memory: When each product has a set place, you will eventually develop muscle memory, locating bottles instinctively, almost without looking, and improving the speed and accuracy of service. Staff is more likely to follow a layout they helped create, so ask bartenders for their input early on and be sure to alert everyone to the new arrangement. Although time-consuming, labeling each section on your back bar is a great way to establish permanence.
Speed rack setup
A good speed rack allows you to serve frequently ordered drinks more quickly and efficiently, reducing wait times and increasing customer happiness. This makes your guests more likely to return for second and third rounds, generating more sales and more money in the tip jar.
The speed rack is normally located under the bar, in front of the ice bucket at roughly knee-height for easy access. It holds the most frequently used liquors such as Rum, Vodka, and Gin. When using a double rack, the top shelf should be used for house pouring brands and the lower shelf for any popular higher-end brands you need to hand. By setting up your liquids in a particular order and memorizing their location, you gradually develop muscle memory, which improves speed and accuracy.
The industry standard for ordering your speed rack is: Rum, Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Whisk(e)y, Scotch, Bourbon, and Tequila, but this can be adapted according to your customer's preferences. For example, if you work in a cocktail bar, determine what your five most popular cocktails are and group together commonly used ingredients (e.g., Tequila beside Triple Sec for a Margarita; Whisk(e)y next to Sweet Vermouth for a Manhattan).
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol)