July 23, 2021

Commercial Bar Design Ideas

Bar Atmosphere - Atmosphere TV

With the world attempting to return to normal after the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are making their priorities known through how they're spending their money. No longer indulging as much in retail therapy, people in the United States are starting to venture out to restaurants and bars across the country as the weather warms up and the vaccination rate rises.

2020 has been a challenging year for small businesses worldwide, and bars and pubs are no exception. So with restrictions loosening and people starved for a bit of excitement, how can you ensure that your bar absolutely kills it this summer?

One of the essential aspects of any establishment is the bar atmosphere you create.

How can the ambiance and atmosphere encourage people to spend more money, have a better time, and leave you better reviews? Let's take a look at everything you need to know.

Psychology of Perception

Perception is a person's sensory experience of their environment and the world. It comprises the five senses: sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste.

While taste might seem like the most important of these senses in the restaurant and bar industry, you definitely cannot only focus on this aspect of the sensory experience.

When you have a delightful time at a restaurant, it isn't just about the food and drinks being delicious. There are subtle qualities to the establishment’s atmosphere that can add or detract from your experience, sometimes at levels that are not perceptible to the patrons.

The smell, lighting, sounds, and color of a dining environment can be just as important as the food quality. This pertains to both how food is presented as well as the design and atmosphere of your establishment.

How to Increase Bar Sales

If you're looking to boost your bar sales, you'll want to consider creating a positive sensory experience for your patrons. By creating a comfortable atmosphere that people love spending time in, your customers will inevitably spend more time hanging out and getting drinks to quench their thirst.

In the rest of the article, we'll focus on how you can provide the best possible environment to encourage more bar sales and more happy customers.

13 Ways to Improve Your Bar Atmosphere and Make More Money

Depending on where your establishment is located, there's a good chance that patrons have countless choices when it comes to bars where they can spend their time and money. Make sure your bar is on everyone's A-list by enhancing the atmosphere with these tips.

1. Atmosphere For Audio and Visual Entertainment

Many bars and restaurants have TVs, but regular television programming is meant to be watched at home with audio. This is often not preferable or possible in a bar environment, and having standard TV playing with closed captioning may leave your customers unenthused, as these types of shows were not made specifically for the bar environment.

Instead, consider cutting your cable costs by signing up for a subscription to our audio-optional TV programming for businesses. Our TV streaming service for businesses helps create the perfect mood for your patrons to hang out, have fun, and enjoy the vibe.

Interested in advertising and digital signage in your bar using Atmosphere? You can learn more about it here!

2. Use Colors That Enhance Appetite

When designing your bar atmosphere, you definitely don't want to let your color scheme be an afterthought. Colors can have a surprisingly significant psychological effect on a person's mood, emotions, and behavior, which means that the colors you choose will help dictate how people feel at your bar.

There aren't really any wrong colors for your bar’s design, but you just want to make sure that the palette you choose enhances your desired vibe rather than contrasting it.


If you've ever noticed that fast-food restaurants often have the color red in their signage and decor, now you can know why. This stimulating and energetic color can even stimulate a person's appetite, so it can be a great color choice if your bar serves food. Red can signify passion and desire, power, and excitement, and energy.


Yellow is known to increase appetite, so this is also a common choice for bar decor. Depending on the tone of yellow you choose, it can also be energetic, cheerful, and warm.


This natural, optimistic, and calming color helps customers achieve a state of relaxation. If it's a part of your desired bar atmosphere that people chill out and forget about the world, you might consider incorporating green into your decor.


Out of the colors listed here, blue is the only one that is thought to actually suppress appetite. For this reason, it's not the ideal bar color if you serve food, but that doesn't mean you can't have any blue elements at your bar.

3. Design a Visually Appealing Bar Menu

Your menu is one of the most critical internal advertising tools in your arsenal. It is a place where your guests can learn more about the type of establishment they're at and what they can expect.

When your menu is well-thought-out, professional, and visually appealing, it helps your guest see you as a trustworthy and authoritative establishment. Conversely, if your menu is riddled with spelling mistakes and boasts an unappealing color scheme, there's a much higher chance that your customers will be far more critical of the drinks and food they receive.

Here are some tips on the design of your bar menu:

  • Be sure the drink names stand out. It should be easy for your patron to browse through, especially if there is something specific they are looking for.
  • If you’re including a wine list, have sections for the different types. For example, a section on Pino Noirs and another section on Chardonnays. This makes it easier for the customer to find what they’re looking for.
  • Brand the menu with your bar’s theme. Not only should you use the logo and colors of your bar, but if you have any other themes, the design should match. For example, if your bar has a western theme, you may choose to use western-style fonts in the menu.
  • Be creative! Using descriptions that entertain your customer can keep them coming back for more.
  • Use great photos.

4. Include Mocktails and Signature Drinks

There are nearly 60,000 bars and nightclubs in the United States alone, many of which would be practically interchangeable in the consumer’s mind. When you create your bar menu, you want to offer items that make your bar stand out from the crowd.

Having delicious alcohol-free mocktails on your menu is a great way to include people who don't drink and expand your customer base. In 2018, two-thirds of adults consumed alcohol in the past year, and 15.5% noted that they engaged in moderate drinking. If you offer drinks specifically for the non-drinkers, you may be inclusive of an entirely new customer sector.

On top of that, creating mocktails and signature alcoholic cocktails can help create loyal customers who choose your establishment over the others.

5. Create Comfortable Ambient Lighting

Having good lighting might be the most important thing you can do to create a good bar atmosphere. But, in all honesty, nothing can kill a vibe faster than lousy lighting.

You want your bar to be a place where people can have fun and unwind. The last thing that's going to support that environment is harsh fluorescent lights.

You'll want to consider what your ideal vibe is for your bar. For example, if your spot is more of a party-place, you might want to add some touches of neon light, which a cozy, intimate space will benefit from subtle, warm lighting. Here are some tips to make the best lighting:

  • Use different layers of light. You’ll have ambient lighting, which is your primary source of light, but then you’ll also have task lighting that helps your staff with their job. Accent lighting is another layer, which draws attention to specific features. Some bar types may also benefit from decorative lighting, which is less functional and more for creating your bar’s style.
  • Pay attention to brightness. Install a dimmer switch so you can easily adjust the brightness based on the outdoor light and the different moods you’d like to create.
  • Use color sparingly. While colored lights can add their own decorative touch and create a fun space, be careful not to overuse them. The colors should reflect your brand and not be harsh on the eyes.
  • Use light as a guide. When someone enters your bar, they should be able to tell right where to go to place an order. You should spotlight the bar itself in a way that guide’s your patron in the right direction.

6. Comfortable Seating to Make Customers Want to Stay Longer

If the seating at your bar is uncomfortable, people will be inclined to skip out way sooner. If you've ever been to a restaurant or bar where the seating was uncomfortable, you know that it certainly doesn't encourage you to stick around. The ideal scenario is for the seating to be so comfortable that patrons don't even realize how long they've been hanging out.

In a Wall Street Journal study, they found that restaurants with bar seating get 30% of their entire profits from that area alone, and these numbers are rising each year.

7. Create a Bar Theme

Having a theme can really tie your whole situation together. It keeps your branding consistent and makes your design choices understandable to your patrons. Some unique bar theme ideas we’ve seen include:

  • Comic Books
  • Sci-Fi
  • Western
  • Rock-n-roll
  • Heavy Metal
  • Biker
  • Villians
  • Science
  • Zombies
  • Card & Board Games
  • Casino-style
  • Speakeasy

A theme can also make your bar way more memorable to customers, helping them distinguish you from other establishments in the area.

8. Keep Your Bar Clean

Nothing can turn customers away faster than a dirty establishment, particularly in the time of COVID-19. If your bar area is disorganized, cluttered, and chaotic, it might just lead your customers to feel worse than when they came in.

A cluttered space can lead to decreased focus and tension as well as negative psychological states like depression. In addition, disorganized spaces can raise a person's cortisol level, meaning that instead of unwinding at your bar, your patrons might just be getting stressed out.

Having an organized and clean bar is better for both your employees and your customers. Your employees will be happier, do a better job, work more efficiently, and make more tips when the bar is clean and tidy. At the same time, your customers will be able to relax and enjoy themselves, meaning they'll hang out longer, have a better experience, and spend more money.

Download this Bar Cleaning Checklist from Binwise

9. Modernize Your Bar Equipment

Has your bar equipment seen better days? Old equipment can leave customers with a bitter taste in their mouths. Consider upgrading to ensure that all of your patrons see your establishment as the cream of the crop - this includes your bartender’s tools! Here are some things to check and be sure they’re in tip-top shape and up to date:

  • Bar Mats: Yes, even the bar mats are noticeable to patrons. Make sure they’re clean and in good condition!
  • Bottle openers: Consider wall-mounted openers for an extra modern touch that also creates efficiency behind the bar.
  • Cutting boards: Be sure they’re clean and fresh looking.
  • Blenders: If you utilize them, keep them modern and new. The same goes for ice-crushing machines.
  • Glass racks: Try an overhead mount to free up space and keep your glassware from breaking.
  • Glasswashers: These can be expensive, but they can mean the difference between efficient and not during busy times.
  • Ice machines: Invest in a machine that can keep up with your production needs.
  • Cash register: The more up-to-date your register, the more likely it’s built for efficiency. Older registers can be slow and visually unappealing.

10. Create Special Events to Give a Fun Vibe

Nothing can gain more devoted customers than providing an exceptional social experience for them. So when you throw special events that make your establishment seem like the hip, fun place to be in town, they'll always keep coming back for more. Some things to try:

  • Bingo
  • Trivia
  • Poker
  • Dancing
  • Specific food nights (if your bar serves food)
  • Live Music
  • Special sporting event nights

11. Consider Bartender Uniform or Dress Code

Having a uniform or dress code for your bartenders makes your establishment look more put together and increases the trust patrons have in the bartender. Rather than letting bar staff where whatever they feel like, create guidelines that add to the environment’s ambiance.

Uniforms create a cohesive look to your bar and provide branding. The consistent look, especially by adhering to the theme, can really convey the feeling your bar is meant to provide.

12. Keep Stocked - Patrons Notice!

Have you ever gone to a bar where they always seem like they're out of the one thing you really wanted? Patrons need to be able to know they can rely on you having a fully stocked bar. If you don't, you might find they get frustrated and take their business elsewhere.

It is equally important to rotate stock and use the oldest bottles first. This way, you won’t waste valuable inventory or serve your patrons anything less than fresh.

Take advantage of inventory management technology. Many software solutions and apps help you count inventory, analyze results, and generate reports. Studies have shown that properly handling your bar’s inventory can increase profits by 24%.

13. Hire Good Bartenders

This point cannot be overstated. The bartenders you hire can make or break your bar, so it's worth putting some time and energy into finding the best possible candidates.

A great bartender will:

  • Make great drinks
  • Move quickly
  • Listen to customers
  • Be attentive
  • Smile
  • Have customer service skills
  • Be savvy with bar machines and tools
  • Be punctual
  • Keep on top of inventory
  • Be polite
  • Make recommendations and upsells
  • Have thorough knowledge of beers, wines and spirits
  • Multi-task
  • Be friendly and warm
  • Not gossip
  • Be prepared for anything

After all, patrons may choose their favorite haunts based on how friendly, helpful, and fun the staff is - it’s not solely about the quality of the food or drinks!

Creating the Perfect Bar Atmosphere With Atmosphere

If you want to take your bar atmosphere to the next level, you'll want to check out Atmosphere's unique, audio-optional TV and digital signage solutions for bars. While your customers might show up to get a drink, they stick around when they're feeling entertained.

With Atmosphere’s streaming TV, you can even replace the TV ads with your own promotional material. Once you sign up for Atmosphere, you'll find that people stay for much longer than they used to. In fact, Atmosphere channels have proven to increase customer dwell time by 16%!

Are you interested in signing up for Atmosphere? If so, you can learn more here!