Opening a bar is easier when you have a plan. Before you open your business to the public, make sure you have every piece of equipment you need to transform your vision of a successful bar into a reality.
So, you’re planning on opening a bar. You start brainstorming a concept and running through the checklist of responsibilities associated with opening your business. Eventually, you’ll reach your bar equipment list, a manifest of everything you need to operate your bar.
Maintaining inventory is one of the most important aspects of running a successful bar. Much of the equipment we’ll discuss won’t last long, so you’ll have to stay on top of your inventory and reorder from vendors who offer you the lowest prices.
Here are the answers to the questions you probably have about every ingredient on your bar equipment list, from the obvious, like cocktail supplies, to the useful, like a bar point of sale system.
What Equipment Should Every Bar Have?
The equipment that appears on your list may vary based on the unique operations of your business. However, your supply list will likely include the following:
Cocktail and Bartending Equipment
- Rocks glasses
- Pint glasses
- Shot glasses
- Collins (and other specialty) glasses
- Pint glasses
- Wine glasses
- Champagne glasses
- Martini glasses
- Brandy snifters
- Highball glasses
- Mixing glasses
Bartending Tools and Accessories:
- Cocktail shakers
- Cocktail spoons
- Citrus Juicers
- Cap Catchers
- Bottle and can openers
- Cocktail strainers
- Garnishing tools
- Muddling supplies
- Straws and stirrers
- Cutting boards
- Napkins & coasters
- Bar mats
- Bar towels
- Liquor bottle pourers
- Containers for garnishes and bitters
- Ice cube trays, ice molds, and ice buckets
- Wine openers
You may also need to purchase other specialized equipment that allows your staff to easily make any unique drinks on your bar’s menu.
Beverages and Beverage Dispensing Bar Equipment
Your bar equipment list should also include a good selection of well liquors and top-shelf liquors, as well as liqueurs and mixers for cocktails.
- Coffee Liquer
- Dry and Sweet Vermouth
- Irish Cream Liquer
- Orange Liquer
Non-Alcoholic Mixers for Mixed Drinks
- Lemon and Lime Juice
- Orange Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Grapefruit Juice
- Pineapple Juice
- Tomato Juice
- Simple Syrup
- Sour Mix
- Milk, Half & Half, or Cream
- Tabasco Sause and Worcestershire Sauce
Every bar needs a soda hose/fountain that dispenses the most common mixers for drinks, including soda, cola, and water.
- Club soda
- Tonic Water
- Ginger Ale
- Cola and Diet Cola
- Lemon-Lime Soda
If you’re serving beer like most bars and brewpubs, you’ll also need to have a selection of beer taps, kegs, and equipment to pressurize lines and connect those kegs to your taps, as well as a variety of bottled beers.
An ice maker is also important, as it eliminates the time-consuming task of making ice in trays and molds.
You’ll also want to stock garnishes and those extra touches that take your cocktails up a notch, particularly if you’re running a higher-end establishment.
- Maraschino Cherries
- Cocktail Onions
- Salt and Sugar
- Grated Nutmeg
- Celery or Pickles
- Whipped cream
Bar Furniture and Other Equipment
Depending on the size of your space, you’ll have to build a layout and determine the number and variety of the tables and chairs you want in your business. If you don’t have a physical bar counter, you’ll want to have one built to fit the space.
Refrigeration and cold storage are also important, even if you don’t serve food at your establishment. Every cocktail bar needs to store fresh herbs and produce to serve along with the drinks.
As far as refrigeration in the actual bar counter area goes, you’ll need beer coolers for bottles as well as coolers for chilled wine and champagne. You may also consider an extra refrigerated cooler for assorted garnishes and mixers that aren’t part of your soda fountain and for refrigerating beer glasses.
In the back, you’ll need a cooler for storage. You will also need to keep the keg room at a certain temperature to avoid warm beer.
Coolers and Refrigeration
- Horizontal bottle cooler
- Swing door back bar cooler
- Swing door merchandiser
It’s most efficient to clean glasses at the actual bar instead of sending them back to a separate dish area, both in terms of logistics and making sure glasses are disinfected well enough.
You’ll need a two or three sink setup for bar staff to wash dishes with specialized cleaning agents. Other logistical needs will include decor to fit your concept, as well as TV monitors, cable and sound equipment, bathroom equipment, and cleaning supplies.
- Speed rails
- Liquor dispensers
- Floor mats
- Ice wells
- Ice crusher
- Waitress stalls
- Glass racks/holders
Food and Kitchen Supplies
If you are going to serve food at your bar, you will need kitchen supplies. Depending on the food you serve, you will need grills, fryers, flat-top griddles, plates, cutlery, and whatever else lets your staff execute your menu efficiently. You will also need to have room in your cooler.
For a more detailed list of kitchen supplies you might need, check out our 6-Step Equipment Checklist for Bootstrap Restaurateurs.
A Bar POS System
While you can operate a bar using old-fashioned cash registers or heavy computers, a modern, iPad POS system can be a huge help to your business. Not only will this system give you a quick way to manage customer tabs and transactions, but modern POS software also gives you tools to manage the operations of your entire business right from the palm of your hand.
How and Where Can I Get This Equipment?
Knowing what should be on your bar equipment list and actually knowing how to acquire it are two separate issues. You need equipment that will last a long time, so it usually pays to buy new, high-quality equipment. While used bar equipment may save money at the time of purchase, it will likely wear down and need to be replaced sooner than brand-new bar supplies. You can find discount supplies at any restaurant supply retailer or order them from various specialized online retailers.
If your margins are tight, you can rent or lease some of the equipment you need to operate a bar. This is a good idea for any specialty equipment you either use for limited-time offerings or don’t use very often. Make sure that if you shop for used or rental bar equipment, you don’t compromise on quality.
The Bottom Line
Running a bar, like any business, isn’t always easy. One of the most important aspects of running a successful bar is maintaining sufficient stock of your important equipment so your staff can successfully execute your vision.