Planning a Restaurant Bar – How Much Space Do You Need?

Cabaret Design Group

When planning a restaurant bar, how large should it be? Discover the secrets of bar planning and how to calculate the area you’ll need.

HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU NEED FOR PLANNING A RESTAURANT BAR?

The following is the interpretation and opinion of Rick Uzubell and covers overlapping requirements of building codes, standards and regulations and is only a general guideline. Consult your local architect for exact information.

When you look at prospective commercial buildings, do they appear abstract? If you’re in the market for a restaurant/bar and don’t know how to select a prospective building to match a given occupancy, you’ve come to the right place! Referring to the sketch at right, let’s again use this 4,700 sq.ft. restaurant/sports bar, which we determined to have an occupancy load of 157, as calculated by the guidelines stipulated in the International Building Code (“IBC”).

 

BAR DESIGN TIP:

 

The local fire marshal makes the final determination of stated occupant loads.

Architectural drawing of restaurant / sports bar with an occupancy of 157
ARCHITECTURAL PLAN OF RESTAURANT / SPORTS BAR

PLANNING BUILDINGS FOR PROSPECTIVE RESTAURANT/BARS

When planning new restaurant bars, the facts most hospitality experts agree on are:

  • Back-of-the-house generally accounts for 30 – 40% of the total building area.
  • 60 – 70% of a given building’s space is designated as front-of-the-house, which is the area intended for customers. The 10% variance is normally the result of the complexity of the menu.
  • Sports bars tend to require less kitchen space, whereas fine dining requires more. Also note in this example that the bar and bar dining areas account for nearly 43% of the front-of-the-house area as well as 60% of the total occupant load. Conversely, the non-bar dining accounts for 27% of the front-of-the-house area and 40% of the occupant load. The remaining front-of-the-house space (30%) is dedicated to common areas, as shown in the following tables:
Table 1. Front-Of-The-House Occupancy Analysis
Room Area % of Total
Bar Area    
·Bar (seated) 29 18.5
· Bar Dining 65 41.4
Sub-Total 94 59.9
Non-Bar Areas    
·Reception 06 3.8
·Dining Room 45 28.7
·VIP Room 12 7.6
Sub-Total 63 40.1
Total 157 100.0
Table 2. Front-Of-The-House Area Analysis
Room Area % of Total
Bar Dining    
·Bar (seated) 410 12.7
Bar (tables) 983 30.4
Sub-Total 1,393 43.1
·Non-Bar Dining    
·Dining Room 681 21.0
·VIP Room 183 5.7
Sub-Total 864 26.7
Common Areas    
·Reception 106 3.3
·Men’s Restroom 140 4.3
·Women’s Restroom 146 4.5
·Hallways 423 13.1
·Vestibule 164 5.0
Sub-Total 979 30.2
Total 3,236 100.0

SAMPLE CALCULATION FOR PLANNING A RESTAURANT BAR

What if you’re planning a restaurant bar with an occupancy load of 100 – how large would your building need to be? The above information will serve as a good template for establishing an approximate building size, but given the variation of kitchen sizes, let’s first focus on how the front-of-the-house space can be predicted. If the above 3,236 sq.ft. front-of-the-house space yields an occupancy of 157, we could predict that an occupancy of 100 would require approximately 2,061 sq.ft. for the front-of-the-house according to the following calculations: 

  • 3,236 sq.ft./157 occupants = 20.6 sq.ft./occupant
  • 100 occupants x 20.6 sq.ft./occupant – 2,060 sq.ft.

The overall size of the facility, with 30% of the overall space dedicated to the back-of-the-house can be calculated as follows:

  • 2,060 sq.ft./.7 = 2,944 sq.ft.

The back-of-the-house requirements can be calculated as follows: 

  • 2,944 sq.ft. – 2,060 sq.ft. = 884 sq.ft. 

So, in round numbers, a 3,000 sq.ft. restaurant/bar would be broken down into 900 sq.ft. for back-of-the-house and 2,100 sq.ft. for front-of-the-house. 

DESIGNING TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

The next decision will be the breakdown of the dining seating. In our example, about 1/3 of the overall occupancy is dedicated to dining seating and 2/3 to the bar area. This model is built on the success of the bar and that makes a lot of sense, because the activity of the dining patrons tends to taper-off several hours before closing. Secondly, the dining room is more family-friendly and therefore we want to earmark enough capacity. Planning a restaurant bar with an occupancy of 100 should probably have 40% of its capacity dedicated to dining tables; ten booths would be a solid approach. The remaining 60 patrons could be split between the island bar and adjacent 4-top tables and booths.

NEW CHANGES TO THE IBC FOR OCCUPANCY A-2

 

The building code is constantly evolving. According to my good friend, architect Tom Kuhn of CSK Architects:

DESIGN TIP:

As of 2018, IBC now requires businesses in Occupancy A-2 that serve alcohol, any new or existing modified fire area over 1500 sq.ft. are now required to have sprinklers if you wanted to meet current code without implementing work-around design parameters in Chapter 34. Always consult your local architect.

I want to thank our good friends at Bullpen Luxury Sports Bar and Gelsosomo’s Pizza for their courtesy. A great place to hang-out, have pizza and watch the game.

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY:

Restaurants with bars don’t require large waiting areas, as many patrons enjoy waiting at the bar.

 

POPULAR DOWNLOADS:

STANDARD BAR CLEARANCES w/ADA

ADA GUIDE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

BAR AND RESTAURANT SEATING GUIDELINES

 

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