Spinal tap

Spinal tap

The restaurant bar has become one of the key sections of any operation thanks to the demand for drinks.

Customers expect a selection of wines, beers, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, coffees and teas to be available and served to them at their best. This means well-made with quality ingredients, with the right equipment, in a clean glass and at the optimum temperature.

As a result, back bars are filling up with more equipment required to create these drinks from start to finish. Glasswashers to keep a healthy stock of clean glassware, blenders to make smoothies from scratch, refrigeration to store drinks chilled and ice machines to keep them cold once served.

“Both ongoing and recent trends mean bars have to feature a range of equipment and barware to satisfy demand,” says Mitchell & Cooper managing director Guy Cooper. “The recent popularity of coffee-based cocktails for instance, kick-started by the espresso martini, has made the inclusion of an espresso machine a must for any outlet taking their cocktail offering seriously. Similarly, the inclusion of dried fruits and herbs that are used for both decoration, and as ingredients, has made dehydrators a popular choice for many outlets.”

This amount of equipment may be required in practice, but operators should be cautious of the effect it has on the appearance of the bar. Each item should have its place, fitting neatly in the fit-out and design of the back bar to avoid clutter and mess. Not only will this help the look of the bar, but it will enable staff to work more efficiently behind it.

“Smooth and efficient operations behind the bar are a vitally important part of running a successful, practical and trouble-free back bar operation,” says DC Warewashing & Icemaking System director Bob Wood. “If the layout has not been designed correctly then this will affect staff workflow, the efficiency to serve when demand is high and the impression of a smooth professional operation to one of chaos.”

As the pressure on the back bar increases, equipment needs to be more innovative than ever.

Dispense systems

Space is one of the biggest issues for back bars, almost to the point where it dictates what an operator is able to stock and serve. Where beer is concerned, the lack of a cellar in casual dining outlets means that draught options are virtually impossible, while the area that two or three dozen bottles of wine can take up goes to waste.

The industry has heard these plights and reacted with solutions such as counter beer dispensers and wine on tap.

“We know that enhanced quality behind the bar will create a memorable experience, which in turn is more likely to encourage customer return, making it really important for operators to get right,” says Carlsberg national account manager Matthew Kelly. “We also know that while serving a draught option expands an operator’s consumer base, it isn’t always easy for those with limited space.”

Small beer tap dispensers fitted with small specialised beer kegs can sit on countertops so that customers can enjoy beer from a tap rather than a bottle or can. Pizza restaurant Rossopomodoro installed such a system in all 12 of its sites across London and within the first three weeks beer sales were up 20% with draught outselling bottled beer three to one.
“Beer sales have increased rapidly,” says Daniele di Martino, CEO of Rossopomodoro, which uses the Heineken Blade dispense machine. “Quality is unquestionable and customers are enjoying it – they’re staying longer and spending more. The machine looks fantastic, it’s simple to use and my staff and customers just love it. It is an incredible solution for outlets not currently able to serve beer on draught.”

From pinot grigio to cabernet merlot, a range of red, white, rosé and sparkling wines on tap are now available to operators that don’t have the space to stock multiple bottles. It seems to be pizza restaurants again that are taking advantage of this new equipment.

“We are always looking for ways to provide excellent customer service; not only are the taps more cost effective and efficient, each wine has a great taste too, which our customers love,” says Stacey Goldsmith of GB Pizza Co in Manchester, which offers fours wines from LoveWineOnTap.com.

Wine on tap can be cost-effective because it avoids the opening and closing of multiple bottles and provides restaurant customers with the flexibility to try different wines without committing to a whole bottle. Furthermore, one 20l keg is the equivalent of 27 bottles, as well as corks, foil and labels that may end up in landfill.

Glass bottles are one thing; plastic bottles are another. There’s been enormous argument of late that operators have their part to play in reducing the use of plastic bottles. There’s been the idea that customers should be able to refill their reusable water bottle for free in a restaurant, through to venues getting rid of all plastic water bottles in favour of a permanent dispense system.

“One of the simplest ways casual dining operators can instantly improve their environmental impact is by switching from serving water in single-use plastic bottles to installing a sustainable water dispenser system,” argues Jason Saville, commercial director at Brita Vivreau. “By investing in a water dispenser system, operators can dispense unlimited quantities of pure, chilled still and sparkling water to consumers in elegant, branded and reusable glass bottles.”

A dispenser for something as simple as water, which only has one ingredient, seems pretty, well, simple. But what about when you use a tap to serve something that consists of three or four liquid ingredients?

For a long time, cocktails have been considered a theatrical side to eating out. They can be an art form, with lots of care and attention from the bartender. However, so popular have they become that some venues that would like to offer them just don’t have the scope or the time (or sometimes the skill). The alternative is cocktails on tap.

Giraffe is installing cocktails on tap by Frizzenti in its Reading, Basingstoke and Bristol sites, to offer guests ready-made mojitos, Aperol spritz and espresso martinis. The cocktails are supplied in 20l kegs and attach to any dispense system, so that staff can serve a cocktail in five seconds, without chopping, measuring or mixing.

While pre-made cocktails can ensure consistency in the product, there are operators that still require some skill from bartenders when serving cocktails on tap. Made in Italy co-owner Peppe Corsaro explains that the restaurant’s cocktails such as Aperol spritz and negroni are made in-house by hand, which means that there’s still a fair amount of time needed to prepare them. The difference the tap makes is that it provides a quicker service to the customer in real time – which is necessary as Corsaro claims they are the bestsellers – and delivering a consistent product from the barrel.

“Traditional bar tools for cocktails are becoming a key piece of equipment that operators should consider,” says Funkin managing director Andrew King. “However, for those outlets that are not confident using traditional bar tools, or find it hard to keep up with orders during busy periods, cocktails on tap are a good solution. It is important to deliver cocktails consistently to ensure repeat business and keep customers happy while imbibing in your establishment.”

New dispense systems for beer, wine, water and cocktails are the latest original products to be released in the battle to create a streamlined and efficient back bar. Equipment that has been around for years have also evolved in order to do its bit to ensure a quality product keeps guests happy.

Glasswashers

Time is of the essence when it comes to washing glassware to ensure a quick turnaround and healthy stock, especially as people may change to a different drink midway through a meal, or require more than one type of glass in front of them at any one time.

“‘Cool wash’ glasswashers are ideal in a busy bar, where it’s often essential to get glasses back in circulation straight from the wash,” says Winterhalter UK marketing development manager Paul Crowley. “No one wants drinks in a warm glass, so look for machines that offer a cool wash option, which means glasses are cool straight from the machine. They use special chemicals to ensure that the glasses, although washed in cooler water, are hygienically clean.”

“Here, they are used pretty much non-stop,” adds Tom’s Kitchen founder Tom Aikens, who uses a Winterhalter glasswasher. “We have a range of glassware, some of which is fragile and needs that extra bit of special care and attention. I know with this machine the washing cycle will not break the stemware. You can even put in glasses with red wine stains and they’ll come out clean.”

Glasswashers should save time for staff working behind the bar, negating the need for someone to stand over a sink. Glassware that comes out, not only clean, but ready to use, enables this even more so.

“Having a glasswasher with integral reverse osmosis saves time and labour because it ensures sparkling clean glassware, and that means no more hand polishing and therefore also reduces the risk of breakage,” says Meiko UK managing director Paul Anderson.

Refrigeration

Besides refrigerators that keep drinks at their desired temperature, refrigeration needs to continue even once the drink is poured. As Crowley suggests, what’s the point in chilling a drink only to serve it in a warm glass? For this point, keeping cool has extended to the glass itself.

“A cold frosted glass is the prerequisite to serving a perfect cocktail or premium beer,” argues Precision Refrigeration managing director Nick Williams. “Frosted glasses enhance the taste of the ingredients and keep the drink cool for longer, with the added bonus of looking stunning as well.”

Ice machines

Bob Wood, director of DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems, lists the latest developments in ice machines.
• New generation insulating foams which use water as a blowing agent.
• Separable parts which can be easily recoverable.
• Noble metals such as copper, steel, iron and brass are easily removable and fully and directly recoverable.
• Refrigerant gas R404A has a high ODP and R290A has a zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) that means no invasive gases are released into the environment.
• New compressors that provide a reduction in electricity and water consumption.
• Ice storage bins that are made from insulated, non-toxic, ABS food-safe plastic with limescale inhibiting evaporator plates.

Juicers and blenders

When operators do have the time and skill to make their own smoothies and cocktails in-house, juicers and blenders become a key piece of equipment to the recipe. To reduce the noise pollution that such tools give off, Jestic Foodservice Equipment sales director Steve Morris explains that “magnetically secured sound cover and advanced vibration-dampening technology” can be used to make juicers and blenders quieter for “sites looking to maintain a relaxing atmosphere, or for use in making milk-based blends and cocktails throughout the day.”

Cocktail equipment

A huge part of cocktail culture is the presentation. The need for cocktails to look good has reflected onto the equipment that cocktail makers and mixologists use to create these attractive serves.

Artis marketing manager Gill Head observes the importance of accessories that not only do the job in hand, but add to the aesthetics of the bar.

“Copper is now so popular that manufacturers cannot keep up with demand – copper shakers, martini glasses, hammered mugs, strainers, jiggers, bar spoons and even showpiece pineapples. You name it, you can get it in shiny metal to make a massive impact back bar.”

However, so quickly do trends move in design that Cooper argues that copper is already being replaced.

“As back bar equipment continues to follow design and interior trends, we are seeing a move away from copper. Although still a popular option with the prevalence of copper barware having increased over the last few years, we are beginning to see outlets move towards other colours and finishes. Notably, gold is now replacing copper as the bold, trend-conscious choice of barware colour. Due to its lavishness and attention-grabbing shimmer, it has become a staple in bars looking to match their interior styling with the panache and flair of mixology.”