As restaurants across the country prepare to resume indoor dining, you may be thinking about a refresh or a remodel. You also may be a bit concerned about the $64,000 question: how can I make my often-limited space look innovative and appealing while remaining compliant with state and federal safety regulations?
Start with a Careful Floor Plan
New flooring and stylish fixtures are the fun part but don’t do anything until you devise a solid, efficient floor plan. Some will remember that the old guideline for spacing was 42-60 inches between each square table, 24-30 inches between the corners of diagonal tables, and 18 inches between each occupied chair. New physical distancing guidelines, however, may well mean you need to provide more space between patrons— which means less seating for the time being.
For example, current distancing guidelines from the CDC call for at least six feet, or two arms’ length, between people. That means spacing each table at least 72 inches apart on all sides. Consider limiting seating to 2-6 people at small tables. Think about strategically placing plexiglass barriers that are 20-30 inches tall for added protection.
Create a safe and appealing entry
As always, first impressions matter! Despite the current safety measures in place, there are plenty of things you can do to make your entry inviting yet compliant:
● Switch up the waiting area. Encourage physical distancing by getting rid of the furniture. Look into software that will text customers when their table is ready.
● Provide a count. Assure your patients that you’re complying with any percentage of occupancy guidelines with an LED board near the bar entrance that indicates the number in the house above the capacity.
● Direct traffic. Got a couple of doors? Welcome people in one and direct their departures through another.
● Provide sanitizer. Place sanitizer stations near the doors and at strategic places throughout the bar to encourage good hand hygiene.
● Cashier Station. Install a clear partition that’s at least 20 inches high with a small slot to receive cash or make change.
Make Your Bar the Focal Point
If your space is small, be sure to make the bar the focal point of the front of the house. Got a wider space? Try situating the bar in the back, so it catches the eyes of patrons who walk in. In a long, narrow location, consider having the bar on either the right or left side with tables down both sides. Just take care to leave at least six feet between the tables and the bar top area. Check with your state or local officials to see if bartop seating is allowed and if any modifications are necessary for staff and patron safety.
Arrange your liquor and barware in an artful, appealing way. Think about adding LED shelves or hanging fixtures to bring a warm and inviting glow bar space and make it stand out from the rest.
Place your TVs with Care
Not every bar boasts big screens, but if you’ve got a sports bar or another themed space where TVs are a plus, place them with care. If your space is long and narrow with the bar top on the right or left side of the room, mount a TV on each side of the bar. If you have a wider, more square-shaped space with the bar toward the back, mount four TVs— one on each side of the bar and two near the front of the space.
Take the Decor Up a Notch
Color is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to create a mood or emphasize a theme or environment. Warm beiges, hunter green, navy, or cranberry create a rich, cozy atmosphere, while lighter hues such as cream, peach, pale yellow, mint, and sky blue open up the area, giving an illusion of a larger, more open space. Mirrors also help create the illusion of more space, making your bar appear longer or wider.
Preparing to reopen indoors with all these guidelines and restrictions in place may feel daunting, but getting over the next roadblock is what business people and entrepreneurs do. With patience, creativity, and imagination, your bar will be back and better than ever.