Bar Design Advice from Bulletin Place & The Beaufort [Pt. 1]

As every bar owner will tell you, bar design is never far from your mind. Even after a major fit-out, you’ll always be on the lookout for new ways to improve the space.

Your bar’s design can have a major impact on the mood of the venue, as well as the efficiency of your food and drinks service. Whether you’re just starting your own bar or you’re thinking of refurbishing a tired-looking venue, it’s hard to know what’s involved in designing a bar.

We’ve spoken with two hospitality gurus, Bulletin Place’s Rob Sloan and The Beaufort’s Dave Kerr, to see what they had to say about the role design has in every bar’s success and how they’ve gone about improving their venues.

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How important is your bar design?

Rob Sloan [Bulletin Place]: Over the years, you become aware of how nuanced hospitality is as a profession, and how the culmination of a hundred agonised-over, almost indiscernible details result in a successful looking venue.

Dave Kerr [The Beaufort]: Never underestimate the value of good design. People make up their mind on how they’re going to feel and interact with a venue within seconds of setting foot inside it.

As far as importance, design means everything to us and we are constantly altering the layout and elements.

How often do you think about your bar design?

Rob Sloan: It never ends! I don’t feel like there will ever be a point with our venues where we aren’t looking to freshen things up and evolve the venue as we evolve as operators.

Internally, we talk about it being a game of 1% improvements, always chipping away at the list of improvements we have in mind.

Dave Kerr: It comes up in every management meeting. It plagues my dreams and haunts my nightmares. It’s a never-ending process and given the ‘lived-in’ divers aesthetic it has to do that, or else it looks disingenuous. 

Bulletin Place Interior:

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The interior of Sydney’s buzzy Bulletin Place bar has a hip, natural charm

When did you last update your bar’s design?

Rob Sloan: Last year we replaced the entire barter that extends around 40% of the room. We worked directly with the manufacturer to deliver & install a cost effective, durable and visually appealing slab of timber for our guests to perch at.

Everything went to plan, one of the benefits of working with contractors who are recommended by people in the industry.

Dave Kerr: I’ve been renovating since I over-committed to this venue 5 years ago and realised I didn’t have enough money to open the doors, because I was a naive 27 year old and all I could afford to do was replace the bar and paint the ceiling.

The bar was the one thing I built properly from the start. We’ve expanded our ice wells and moved a few things, but being a bartender by trade, it was actually this that I was adamant had to be done right the first time.

As far as the service layout, table, and so on, I look back at old photos and can’t even fathom how we used to operate with so little furniture and care for the customer. I guess we just relied on good chat and great drinks for the first few years. 

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Professionals or DIY?

Rob Sloan: It’s important to understand the limits of your own capabilities and contract out to the professionals in areas you’re not qualified in.

Between the directors, we have over 40 years of hospitality experience, so we’re quite well attuned to creating physical spaces that work well within the context of serving guests but we always seek fresh ideas and input from young and talented design teams. They offer insight into a host of details we may overlook.

Dave Kerr: It’s been a constant process of learning new skills, buying tools and doing stuff myself. I can now weld, paint, do carpentry, and a host of other things. After five years though, we’ve engaged an architect to do new plans for us, the majority of which I’ll be doing myself to finally finish what I started. 

The Beaufort Bar Decor:

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The Beaufort‘s decor is full of eclectic vintage memorabilia and atmospheric lighting.

Whether you feel more comfortable going with professionals or taking control of your bar’s design yourself, it’s important you think about how well the design will work for your business.

You’ll want it to fit seamlessly with the needs of your customers and staff, and to work as effectively as possible with your POS system. If you’re looking for a POS system that can be tailored to your bar’s design, rather than the other way around, learn more about Impos’ bar POS system today!