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What makes an excellent bar? We caught up with Diageo Bar Academy trainer, Rob Poulter to find out his top tips for creating the best experience for both bar staff and customers.


The perfect bar doesn’t actually exist. If it did we’d all be working and drinking in identical bars. However, excellent bars do exist though and they achieve excellence through the pursuit of perfection in all aspects of their business.


So where do you start the pursuit of excellence for your bar? A useful process is to break your bar down into touch points, following an imaginary guest journey through the venue, listing every element that might influence their experience. E.g. The entrance, the seating, the layout, the music, the menu, - every element should be considered.

Once you’ve listed all your venue touch points think about how you can ensure they’re all excellent and making a positive contribution to the guests experience and perception of your venue.


Possibly the most important touch point is the bar itself, the place where the magic happens where guests and staff come together and interact, the place where great conversations are held and great drinks are served. As with the other touch points in a venue the bar has to serve the needs of both the guests and the staff.

Workstation Set-Up:

The best set-up for a bar should reflect the most popular drinks a venue serves. Every bottle, ingredient and piece of equipment should be within easy reach of the bartender’s workstation to minimize any delays during drink preparation which can reduce revenue potential and have a negative impact on the guest experience and the staff. Just as there’s no perfect bar, there’s no perfect workstation - your station set-up should evolve with the drinks you serve and constantly be reassessed to ensure it’s optimized to allow all bartenders to work to their full potential and give a great guest experience.

Here are some tips for you to consider when setting up your workstation:

Glassware: Have all the popular types of glasses and have them within easy reach.

Ice: The ice bucket should be on the bar or next to your glassware.

Spirits: Fully stocked on your back bar.

Mixers: A full selection, ready in the chiller and on the back bar.

Garnish: On the back bar one as ingredient and one for presentation.

Back Bar Merchandising:

From the guest perspective the bar isn’t just an order point, it has many different roles and is also a shop window where a bar’s range of spirits is displayed and an extension of the menu where specials can be displayed. Here are some tips:

Remove clutter - this helps you work better and also facilitates choice by ensuring your customers are not overwhelmed.

Make the display role of your back bar more effective by grouping your spirits into lights and darks so your guest can navigate your range at a glance and find the category or brand of spirit they’re looking for more easily. Doing this will speed up their choice and as a result speed up your ability to serve them promptly.

Use your back bar as an opportunity to upsell and have a section to showcase your premium spirits.

Promote your venue’s specialty. For example if your outlet specializes in gin, then have a rich gin range displayed on your back bar.

Inspire you customers through displaying cocktail images, fresh ingredients and cocktail tools. With cocktail specials boards, keep your offer to just two cocktails. This reduces the immediate choice to a couple of options and helps steer your guest choice towards a cocktail which will help drive profit for your bar and a more unique experience for your guests.


As a member of the bar staff you have the biggest impact of all on the guest’s experience and perception of your bar. Everything else in the venue could be perfect but if you don’t deliver great service that’s the thing your guest is most likely to remember and most likely to share.

To make sure that’s never the case remember these five key points of service:

Smile!: I’d rather drink an awful cocktail made or ordered from a friendly member of the bar staff than a perfect cocktail made by an unfriendly one. Personality is important, let yours shine and always keep a smile on your face!

Read and recognize your guests: Learn the different types of guest you serve in your bar and what they most like to drink. If you can read a guest and recognize what they’re most likely to order you can help them with their choice and deliver a more personalized service.

Recommend: You’re the expert! Introduce a guest to a great drink they’ve never tried can be a powerful endorsement of your expertise and have a really positive impact on the guest experience. A great way to do this is to offer a menu and make recommendations from there.

Reassure: With so many options available it’s easy for a guest to be unsure if they’ve made the best choice of drink. When they place their order reassure them they’ve made a good choice to put them at ease and enable them to better enjoy their drink.

Be alert and be ready: Anticipate when customers might want another round. When you see their glasses are nearly empty, go over and ask.


Not all service happens at the bar and serving at tables allows you to get a feel for what customers want and tap into other opportunities.

Here are 3 top tips to table service:

1. Arrange your tray: Make it easy to carry and serve from. You will look more professional and customers will appreciate it.

2. Fill not spill: No one likes spilt drinks. Allow yourself a little room in each glass and between the glasses on your tray.

3. Pour/Make drinks at tables whenever possible: This adds a little more theatre to the customer experience.

Good luck in creating the perfect experience! I sincerely hope you manage to achieve excellence on your journey as there can be few more rewarding experiences than working, or drinking in a truly excellent bar.