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Home » Behind the Scenes: The Importance of Great Service in Bars

Behind the Scenes: The Importance of Great Service in Bars

Service, decor beverages, decor and food, or at least snacks for bar patrons each contributes to the making of a good bar but in the broad sense, there is numerous small things that contribute to make an excellent bar. This is an inventory.


Door staff

A warm welcome at the door rather than “You’re not on the list. We’re not bringing you in, buddy”.

A warm welcoming

Ideally every guest should be welcomed and made to feel welcomed as they enter.

Host in need of a consummate

It’s difficult to maintain conversation with people who are seated at the bar so when you were at Savoy’s American Bar Peter Dorelli used to introduce guests to their neighbours in order to facilitate conversation between them.

Table service

Friendly, efficient table service sets a bar apart. A professional server can tell when glasses are empty and remembering what guests ordered previously asks if they’d like another. Also, they should be aware that guests aren’t drinking and ask if the drink is to their taste.

Clean toilets

Toilets should be clean and always monitored. Hand towels and hot water are provided. Toilet attendants who are waiting to hit you with a spray of soap and a hand towel in return for a tip are to be avoided.

Age gracefully

Bars that are well-designed and stylish get better with time while, conversely it’s clear when bars need to be redesigned every few years.

Minimal or cluttered

Interiors that are minimalist can look stunning however bars that are cluttered are usually more cozy and have walls covered with pictures and/or objects stimulating interest especially for drinkers who are on their own.

Atmospheric lighting

Great bars have a warm glow in them without the light bulbs that are bright and bare.

Robust flooring

The floor of a bar not only has to appear attractive, but it also has to be robust enough to withstand spills and high heels. The thick planked hardwood floors are the surface of choice.

Bartender station

Practical, well-designed and well laid out bartender station areas are vital. Bartenders must have everything they need within an arm’s length without having to move.

Bar counter

Many people like sitting in bars, which is why great bars will have ample counter space. Barstools must be comfy with backs with foot, arm and back rests. The ideal height for a bar counter is 43 3/4 inches or 111 cm and the counter should have enough of an overhang (at at least 10 inches / 25 1/2 centimeters) so that guests can sit comfortably on their legs to allow them to sit closely to the bar. It is particularly important when eating in the bar.

Coat hooks

Every bars should be equipped with hooks placed at regular intervals below the counter to hang handbags and jackets. If there’s no toilet service, then there should be enough hooks for coats close to each table.

Chairs and seats

The chairs should be comfortable and not too low that they are hard to lift out of. The table, or the ledge to place food and beverages is required to be within reach of each chair.

Good ventilation

A good ventilation system is vital, particularly where smoking is still allowed.


The temperature must be maintained at a level that is comfortable – not too hot nor too cold. In the bathroom, too.

Toilet signage

Toilets with gender-specific signs are a snarky test for guests. They should be clear and easily understood by different language speakers.


Space empty

A great atmosphere is the hardest thing to achieve. It’s difficult to pinpoint but bars can either be characterized by it, or they do not. The best bar near me can achieve this with relatively few people. Empty space kills atmosphere and island bars are a great method to divide space and make even bars that are quiet feel atmospheric. False walls that are able to be opened up to reveal more space when busy are also very effective.


See design above. Bright light is not atmospheric.


The music should be appropriate to the mood and at an the right volume.


The crowd is friendly and varied, but not too crowded.

Fruit flies

Fruit flies don’t look right and are the sign of a dirty bar.

The bar offers a selection of drinks


* The best bars will have more than 20 beers available on draught and 100s in bottles but even if just three beers are offered the choice should be diverse that includes different styles, not just bland Euro beer.

* Beers must be served in clear, safe cold glasses – usually specific to the beer. Never from the bottle.

* It’s nice to look at a beer menu complete with tasting notes, or perhaps food-related recommendations.

* Beverages is best supplied by an experienced and knowledgeable team who will offer tasting samples of beers brewed in the tap.


Truely excellent bars have wine lists that make 3-Star Michelin restaurants but a dozen wines can still be considered a worthy selection. The list should contain interesting bins with varied grape varieties and styles. Blends should stretch beyond two grape varieties.

A wine selection must be well-designed, with brief tasting notes and food match suggestions.

* Wines are best handled by knowledgeable staff who can offer recommendations.

The wine should have great selection of wines served in glass, with an Enomatic system or secularised to ensure that the wines are served with the best quality.


* Truly fantastic bars offer the largest selection of top liquor brands across every category – not just Gin.

Some good choices include intriguing spirits that are quirky as well with more standard must stocks.

* All other than the bottles that move at the fastest speed should be sealed to stop loss of liquid and contamination. The pour spout will not ensure the seal of the bottle.

* The top bars have cocktail menus and tasting notes, along with suggestions for aperitifs or after dinner drinks.


* Every “cocktail bar” that advertises itself as a “cocktail bar” should serve great balanced, tasty cocktails using freshly pressed juices.

Great bars come with fantastic ice and drinks, ideally served over moulded/carved ice. (I prefer shaking and stirring using inch cubes.)

* Cocktails should be served in clean, elegant and chilled glassware. There are no Z-shaped stemmed Martini glasses or big Martini glasses (5 to 7oz maximum).

It’s better to make one or two perfect cocktails rather than provide a list of 100 mostly badly made ones. Many of the world’s best bars only have 12 drinks available on the menu.

* A collection of contemporary and classic cocktails that include at most one signature cocktail from the house.

Cocktail menus should not contain any mention of “sour mix”, “grenadine” and local legislation allowing “sugar”.

Menus should be limited to drinks which all the bartenders are proficient and confident at making. “Our expert bartenders are able to make every cocktail you’d like” is an absurd claim to put on an menu. Have you seen the number of cocktails available on this site?

* Great signature cocktails can enhance the image of a restaurant. Some examples of these include: the Pisco Punch in San Francisco’s legendary Bank Exchange Bar, the Bellini at Harry’s Bar, Venice, the Bloody Mary at Harry’s Bar, Paris, the Singapore Sling at Raffle’s Hotel, Singapore, the Daiquiri at El Floridita, Cuba, Tommy’s Margarita at Tommy’s in San Francisco.

Beware of the following three essential variables of bartending a cocktail: 1. Ice and dilution: size of cubes aged ice, and the length of stir or shake. 2. Accuracy of measurement – hard to ‘free-pour’ a fraction of one shot. 3. Quality of ingredients (particularly sugar syrup and juices).

Temperance drinks

* Alcohol-free drinks and cocktails should be readily available to drivers, pregnant women as well as kids… as well as people who are thirsty.

* A great bar should offer excellent coffee.

* All bars should offer iced water for free with alcohol-based drinks, particularly in short drinks and spirits.

A must-have accompaniment

Many others and I consider food an essential accompaniment in the responsible drinking of alcohol. in many cities like Portland, Oregon it is mandatory for bars to serve food.

Don’t do it!

Customers are more likely to stay longer at bars that serve food rather than having to find food elsewhere.

Simple will do

Even simple dishes such as an ice cream sandwich, cheese selections and charcuterie boards made of great bread can be enough.

Finger food

Snacks at the bar should simple and should not require knives or forks.

Dips and chips

Every bar should serve chips (fries) as well as dips.