Professional Bar Designers vs General Interior Designers

Candace MorganArticles, Bar & Restaurant Builders, Behind the scenes, Commercial Construction

A true master of his craft, the Professional Bar Designer or Bar Builder can transform an ordinary space into a magnetic gathering place. Professional bar designers will create a place that people are instinctively drawn into because of it’s charm, ambiance, comfort, or for reasons that resonate deep within that are otherwise difficult to explain. But what is a “Professional Bar Designer” versus a general interior designer, and what does this difference mean for your bar or restaurant project? Many of the differences will affect your bottom line for years to come, so pay attention now (or pay up later.)

While a general interior designer may be a good addition to your project, there are many reasons to hire and trust a professional bar designer / bar builder first and foremost to lead your restaurant bar build-out or bar design.

Questions to ask a potential Interior Designer before bringing them on to your bar or restaurant development or design project include:

  • Do you have experience building and designing bars and restaurants?
  • How extensive is your experience in THIS field specifically?
  • How many bars and restaurants have you PERSONALLY designed from top to bottom?
  • Are these bars/restaurants local?  Are you familiar with the local culture?
  • Are you familiar with the targeted demographic the establishment aims to attract? Describe in your own words? (Ask the designer to describe the targeted market in their own words.)
  • Will you provide references and/or a list of other bars/restaurants you have designed or built?

It is also important to make sure you are hiring a competent designers who are insured and run legitimate businesses & that they do it for a living, not a part-time side gig or after-work hobby. The most important piece though, is to make sure your designer has experience specifically building and designing bars and restaurants.

Make sure your designer has experience SPECIFICALLY building and designing bars and restaurants.

It is always helpful if they also have familiarity building and designing these within the local market, and for the targeted demographic you are trying to attract.

Your interior designer should keep your timeline, budget and vision as the driving force behind every decision. Builders or designers who have no (or very little) bar & restaurant designing experience tend to make many design and logistical errors. Additionally, there are many things that can require substantial cost when building a bar or restaurant so make sure your interior designer works with your bar designer to stay within budget. Frequent examples of this include:

  • Restaurant layouts that don’t take into account easily serviceable table or bar positioning.
  • Behind the bar layouts that aren’t setup to grow to accommodate larger staffing.
  • Behind the bar layouts that don’t include adequate storage, working surface, trash receptacle area, or space for other logistical necessities such as a three compartment sink. Or layouts that don’t comfortably fit the equipment.
  • Lighting that is abrasive to customers.
  • Lack of ambiance or flair that makes a bar feel comfortable.
  • Making changes or requesting materials that don’t fit the project’s timeline. (Using a professional who knows how long materials take to procure helps to keep your timeline on track.)
  • Implementing furniture choices that are not graded (sturdy/heavy wear) for a bar or restaurant
    • Furniture for a restaurant needs to be very sturdy and capable of handling a great deal of wear & tear as they will get far more use (and abuse) than home furnishings ever would. Tables, chairs, and booths are not cheap, and so choosing the right ones from the start will prevent you from having to replace them quickly because they started falling apart.

By hiring an experienced, professional commercial bar and restaurant builder to run your project, you give yourself the best chance for success out of the gate as well as minimizing potential costly mistakes. Additionally, if you chose to bring in an interior designer, make sure you have one selected and starting at the beginning of your project so that they can work WITH and not AGAINST your bar designer to avoid extending the cost and timing of your project.