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

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When planning a restaurant bar, how large should it be?

Discover the secrets of how to calculate the area you’ll need if you’re planning a restaurant bar design.

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

Architectural drawing of restaurant / sports bar with an occupancy of 157
ARCHITECTURAL PLAN OF RESTAURANT / SPORTS 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 (known as IBC).

FACT:

The local fire marshal makes the final determination of stated occupancies.

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
RoomArea% of Total
Bar Area
·Bar (seated)2918.5
· Bar Dining6541.4
Sub-Total9459.9
Non-Bar Areas
·Reception063.8
·Dining Room4528.7
·VIP Room127.6
Sub-Total6340.1
Total157100.0
Table 2. Front-Of-The-House Area Analysis
RoomArea% of Total
Bar Dining
·Bar (seated)41012.7
Bar (tables)98330.4
Sub-Total1,39343.1
·Non-Bar Dining
·Dining Room68121.0
·VIP Room1835.7
Sub-Total86426.7
Common Areas
·Reception1063.3
·Men’s Restroom1404.3
·Women’s Restroom1464.5
·Hallways42313.1
·Vestibule1645.0
Sub-Total97930.2
Total3,236100.0

SAMPLE CALCULATION FOR A PROSPECTIVE 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. would be 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.

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