Bars need equipment in order to operate efficiently and profitably. Lots of equipment. Big equipment. Most people have no idea what kind of equipment it takes to keep a bar running smoothly.
Not to be confused with a bartender’s “tools,” I am listing here the (mostly larger) equipment that every bar needs. A bartender’s tools would include jiggers, blenders, cocktail picks, etc.
Below are a couple of questions I get all the time from brand-new bartenders:
Q: Do I need to know what kind of equipment a bar uses in order to get a bartending job?
A: It will certainly help. Having a general idea of what type of bar equipment is used on a daily basis is a no-brainer. It will certainly help you on your first day/week on the job.
Q: Will the interviewer ask me any questions about bar equipment?
A: Possibly. You could be asked almost anything regarding bar equipment. Some very common questions are to ask if you have ever changed a keg before.. Or, “Have you ever worked with a POS System?” Easy.
Rookie Mistakes: Clueless about bar equipment. All bartending schools should be giving you a general idea of what kind of equipment is needed that allows a bar operate in a smooth, efficient – and profitable manner.
The bar owner will supply all of the bar equipment (the big stuff), and most of the bartender tools which I discuss in a different article.
Professional Bar Equipment – The Small Stuff
Some of these items may cross over into “bartender tools,” but I have listed them here anyway. All bars will supply the equipment I have listed below.
New bartenders should understand that this equipment costs money. A lot of money. Take care to operate and maintain all equipment in a responsible manner.
The Bartender’s Ice Scoop
Usually metal. Use it – don’t scoop glassware in the ice! Most likely, there will be some sort of tray or slot next to the ice bin to store when not in use.
Lots of controversy on where to store the scoop. Should NOT be left in the ice, but you know how that goes. Much depends on the local health codes and health inspector. Follow the bar’s policy.
The ice scoop was mentioned in another of my articles as a “bartender tool.” It’s both, as the bar will supply this item – but many bartenders will prefer a certain type – and get the bar to buy it for them.
Bar Ice Crusher
Not to be confused with the large machine usually located in the kitchen. Small, mechanical – but may be electric, and near the bartender’s workstation. Used for individual drinks – and chilling glasses.
All bars have them. Powered by CO2. Health inspectors love taking a flashlight to the rubber gun holder.
Probably right next to the soda gun. a lot of controversy surrounding this involving sanitation. Some bars have them – some don’t.
Some bars have them for their well/house liquors. They’re getting extremely sophisticated and may dispense more than just liquor. Calibrated to pour whatever the bar owner determines. Regular customers hate them. Bartenders have a love/hate relationship.
Same as above. Some bars have them – some don’t. As I mentioned above, the health laws are very strict when it comes to dispensing juices and wines out of a gun.
Most bars will pour wine right out of the bottle and juices will be stored in plastic containers with pour spouts.
Essential. Larger than a bartender’s pouring mat. Usually located in the cocktail server’s area. Flat, rubber, many times provided free by one of the bar’s vendors.
All bars have them. Located on bar countertop for server easy access – or below bar the top near the bartender’s ice bin.
Again, lots of controversy on where to place the tray. Customers sticking their fingers in trays, garnish items temperature, cross-contamination with ice, etc. Follow bar policy.
Plastic, usually a quart or liter in size. May have a cap or a pourer. Some bars will use an electronic pouring system/gun.
Bar Food Condiments
Anything used along with food service. Bloody Mary’s. You know – ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, etc. There will be one or two easy-access storage areas for the condiments behind the bar. And don’t forget the silverware.
Heavy Duty Bottle Opener
Usually bolted to the counter within arms reach of the bartender workstation. A must-have at each bartender station.
I love these. Close by – and saves the skin on my hands. However, ALWAYS carry your own beer and wine openers!
Heavy Duty Wine Openers
Also bolted to the bar countertop somewhere – similar to the bottle opener, above. Don’t misuse these. When a customer at your bar orders a full bottle – open it directly in front of them with your own personal wine opener.
Rubber, assorted colors – green seems to be the most popular. Allows for minimal draining and air-drying of glassware. Health inspectors like to check for “stickiness.”
Detergent and Sanitizer
Obviously, every bar needs and uses these items. Follow the directions! Foodborne illness is serious stuff.
Almost always white. Used for keeping the bar top and other areas clean and sanitized. Moist, folded properly, and placed here and there around the bar.
Some bartenders are extremely picky about their bar towels – as they should be. Never moisten them in the 3-sink glass washing sinks!
Bar Equipment – The Big Stuff
Located directly in front of the ice bin – about knee/thigh high. Usually holds the house/well liquor. Additional speed racks may be installed elsewhere – close to the bartender’s workstation.
Stainless Steel Shelving
All over the place. Sinks, coolers, shelving. Easy to clean. Very expensive bar equipment.
Beer and Wine Keg Cooler
Most bars have a separate walk-in cooler for beer kegs. Possible wine kegs. May also store back-up bottled beer, perishables like juices, garnish trays, olives, cherries, fruits, etc. Usually fairly close to the main bar.
One of the most important pieces of bar equipment. Expensive to install, and the temperature should be monitored on a regular basis. Many will have a temperature gauge on the outside of the cooler with easy access.
Draft Beer Pouring System
Powered by CO2. You’ll learn how to change kegs and CO2 probably on your first shift. Easy, but every bartender is going to get doused at one time or another.
An outside vendor will probably clean the beer lines once a week or so. Some beer companies will do it for free – if you buy their products.
3-Sink Glass Washing System
All bars have them – unless they committed to 100% commercial glass washers. A very important part of the bartender’s duties, and I go into much more detail in how to wash bar glasses.
Commercial Glass Washer
Some bars have them – some don’t. They’re just like the dishwashers used in the kitchen, only smaller and specifically designed with racks for glasses. Fast, efficient.
Ice Maker – The Most Important of All Bar Equipment!
Probably located in the kitchen area. May even be a couple of them. Smaller ones could be behind the bar. Cubed ice. Bar owners better have a bagged ice vendor on speed dial when these go down.
Ice Maker, Crushed
Same as above, but may also have a small, mechanical/electric crusher in the bartender’s workstation.
Bartender Station Ice Bin
A lot of controversy over exactly how the ice bin should be used – and what sanitation procedures to follow. Might (should) have a stainless-steel cover.
Careful here, and I go into greater detail in a couple of bar sanitation articles. One of every health inspector’s pet peeves.
Cold Plate for Soda Dispenser
Slab of heavy metal that that the soda system runs through to help chill before dispensing. Buried under the ice in the bartenders ice bin. About 12” x 16” and an inch or two thick. There are also other ways of chilling soda.
Floor Bar Mats
Usually black, heavy-duty rubber about an inch thick. Anti-fatigue, anti-slip, and each section is around 4 x 4 feet. Very heavy! Should be pulled and washed at the end of every day.
Overhead Glass Racks
Some bars have them – some don’t. Great space saver. Glasses better be clean, as customers can see them very well in the light. A lot of controversy when customers could smoke in bars.
Cash Register/POS System
POS systems can be a beast. They do everything these days, and it’s pointless to describe one as they’re all different. If you can operate a smartphone – you’ll be just fine. Communicates directly with the BOH (Back of house), system (Manger’s terminal in the office), for real-time sales/stats. Don’t leave home without one. Many bars still have the old-time cash registers.
Server POS “Clients”
Smaller computer units for servers. Located around the bar and restaurant. Kind of like your home cable TV system with the main unit and smaller “boxes.”
For bottled beer, juices, wines, cream, etc. Usually located underneath the back bar top, but could be strategically placed anywhere.
Tap Beer Stations
Could be located anywhere. Many bars have multiple locations.
Beer/liquor signs, etc. The bar owner’s choice. Many are provided free by liquor and beer vendors.
Daily food & drink specials, promotions, up-coming events. Usually the bartender’s responsibility to keep it updated.
Powers the soda dispensers and kegs. Probably in keg walk-in cooler – or towards the end of the bar somewhere.
Should be under lock and key. All liquor storage, probably wine, and other valuable items. Managers only. Liquor dispensing system may be located here. Don’t get caught in here without manager’s prior approval.
All supplies/dry goods needed for bar – and kitchen. Napkins, straws, towels, olives, cherries, etc. Some bars have a completely different storage arear for bar supplies.
Stay out of the cook’s way! Really no reason to be back there other than to possibly sign in, get some ice, or use the general walk-in cooler if perishable supplies are stored there. NEVER walk down the cook’s line!
Bar Equipment Conclusion
That’s it. All bars are different and have some variations of equipment and set-ups. For aspiring bartenders, getting to know the basic equipment may help you land that first job.
Bar equipment is expensive. Bar owners spend a lot of money – not just on the initial purchase, but also in maintaining this very equipment.