This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, employment, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
What do you need to run a bar?
After going through the process of nailing your bar business plan, registering your business, acquiring licenses, determining your financing, and finding a location, you’re ready to take the next step and build out your space. But where should you start, and what are your options?
Having a well-equipped, connected, and easy-to-manage bar is essential to setting up yourself, your staff, and your business for success.
Here is the Square checklist for all the hardware and tools you should consider to get your bar up and running.
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Bar office supplies
It can be easy to forget about these basics when you’re starting out and focused on fine-tuning your operations, but planning ahead will help your operations run smoothly while avoiding surprise expenses.
- WiFi: Before you open your doors, ask yourself if WiFi will be used for staff only or if you want to offer it to customers as a friendly perk.
- Computer/tablet: While you can do plenty of business management from your phone, it’s helpful to have a computer or tablet available for larger projects.
- Basics (pens/paper/staplers/clips): Like many of these tools, buying in bulk and budgeting ahead can help save on future costs.
- Cleaning supplies: Items such as trash cans, trash bags, brooms, mops, and disinfectant wipes will help your bar maintain a level of cleanliness to attract customers.
- Business bank account and necessary documentation
You might not need a traditional break room, but consider spaces dedicated to your staff. Giving employees an area to unwind with amenities — even small ones like comfortable chairs and a stocked fridge — is a nice step to attract and retain talent.
- Break room: You can get creative here, and employees are likely to appreciate the perk.
- Filing cabinet and safe: You might not require space for tracking physical documents or providing security for specific items at your bar, but both can be helpful tools as you’re getting started.
- First aid kit: Accidents can happen, such as cuts from broken glass. It’s important to have a quick, easy way to clean up and dress small cuts and wounds.
Behind-the-bar setup, bartending tools, and equipment
The specifics here will vary depending on the type of bar you’re running, but this initial list can get you started. For larger expenses, such as a refrigeration setup, consider whether it makes more sense to track down used equipment or if it’s worth investing more money in something new.
- Drinks inventory (alcohol, mixers, non-alcoholic beverages, garnishes): Many bars will have multiple levels of items in their drink inventory to offer a range of prices and quality to customers.
- Refrigeration/coolers: The size and price here will depend on your specific space, but making sure you have enough room to chill your items is an essential piece of starting up your bar.
- Glassware: This is another item with a wide range of options and a good place to consider how your glassware choices reflect on the idea you have for your bar’s brand.
- Mixing tools (shakers, spoons, juicers, strainers, stirrers, peelers, jiggers, muddlers, spoons, bottle openers, and wine openers): Not all of these tools will be necessary for every bar. Still, it’s key to plan ahead for the items required for everything on your menu.
- Dishwashing station: Options here can range from a simple sink setup to under-counter commercial dishwashers.
Before you get up and running, consider all the additional supplies you may need. Think about whether you plan to serve food, make specialty drinks involving specific tools, or offer takeout options.
- Cutting boards
- Bar mats/service mats
- Ice bins/buckets/trays
- Supplies for food/snacks
- Takeout supplies (disposable cups, bags, drink holders)
Bar point-of-sale (POS) system
Whether it’s a stand for your tablet, a small mobile terminal, or a full register, your point-of-sale system is so much more than a tool for the essential task of processing payments. The best POS nails the basics while streamlining administrative tasks and tracking everything from sales reporting to customer engagement to inventory management. Here’s how to get started choosing the one for you.
- KDS: An efficient kitchen display system helps organize and fulfill orders, syncing front-of-house and back-of-house operations. It can be a good investment, especially if you’re offering food.
- Retail station (to-go goods, merchandise): More customers want options when visiting businesses and having a dedicated station for your to-go items can help drive more attention to that revenue source.
- QR code printouts: QR codes have become a leader in the way customers order and pay, improving the overall guest experience as well as a business’s bottom line. In fact, according to the Square Future of Restaurants report, 24% of consumers would avoid a restaurant that doesn’t offer contactless payment options, like QR codes.
“We’ve placed QR codes all around the stadiums that allow fans to place orders without having to wait in a crowded line. You get a notification when your food is ready for pickup, and you go to a side window of the concession stand for your purchase. The customer experience is just made simple.” — Rachelle Roulston, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation
A good POS can handle QR codes and customers with mobile wallets. Today’s consumers enjoy the flexibility of contactless payments and digital payments and expect this to be offered even after the pandemic subsides. Along with your social channels, this is also a part of a good omnichannel strategy.
Bar ambiance: Lighting, stools, and seating
The quality of your drinks and service will play a large role in creating repeat customers, but people also connect with bars because of the space itself. Consider what design elements will align with your brand and what additional touches are within your budget.
- Lighting: Your lighting choices can affect your business, including setting the right mood and guiding customers to specific areas of your bar.
- Signage: Signage inside and outside of your bar can provide guidance to customers while also acting as another branding opportunity.
- Seating/stools: While not every bar requires physical seating for customers, go in with a plan for where customers will drink at your establishment, even if it’s standing-room-only.
Have the budget to amplify your space a bit more? Small things can make a huge difference in retaining customers.
- Stereo system
Bar marketing materials
While physical marketing tools aren’t essential items for your bar business, you should consider whether they’re useful for the business you’re starting and if they fit inside your budget. While digital marketing can be highly effective, a new bar can get a boost from these items.
- Business cards
- Stickers, pens, and small giveaways
- Branded merch, including shirts, tote bags, and hats