The Future of Bar Design Trends in Creating Memorable Drinking Spaces

Reinventing the Bar Experience: 7 Trends Shaping the Future of Bar Design

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By Suzanna Hayes-Goldfinch

Since the Romans brought the concept of ‘tabernae’ to the world, we have enjoyed drinking sociably with friends, family and even strangers. Tabernaes began as single-room shops, often in people’s homes in Italy. But as the Roman Empire spread, they became synonymous with drinking, situated along busy roads and offering food and wine to travellers.

Unsurprisingly, today’s bars are very different from those primitive wine-serving establishments. Let’s dive into the evolution of bar design and see what influence social and global trends have brought to the hospitality industry.

A quick history lesson of bar design

Roman tabernae

The focus shifted from wine to beer in the Middle Ages and taverns became inns, as more drinking houses offered accommodation. There was also the emergence of guildhalls, drinking establishments that provided a space for business. They were the center of economic growth at the time, creating networking opportunities for locals.

When William and Mary took to the throne, the UK became a country of spirit drinkers, adding more variety to the alcoholic beverages on offer. And then prohibition took effect in the U.S.A., with widespread consequences on the global market. This time of temperance made people more creative with their drinking habits, and so came the birth of speakeasies and the cocktail.

On a basic level, it seems little has changed in hospitality over the years. Most bars aim to provide a wide selection of drinks and give visitors somewhere comfortable to consume them. However, since COVID-19, bars have had to seek ways to entice people to part with their hard-earned money.

People were already starting to drink at home more, thanks to rising drink prices, but lockdowns exacerbated this trend. This sparked an exciting era of change in bar design.

Bar owners now strive to create an experience for their customers every time they visit, so they feel they are getting more for their money. And the rise of social media platforms like TikTok mean that the more photogenic these bars are, the more likely they are to be seen by a wider audience.

Telling a story through decor

Themed popup bars

Themed bars have been popping up around the world for a while now. Many started as pop-ups, which quickly gave way to new themed locales worldwide.

The problem with these “unique” bars, is that the more of them there are, the less unique they become. So, we will see more multi-themed bars aiming to take their guests on a journey through the different zones, taking pictures to provide free advertisement.

Luxury bathrooms

trendy bar bathroom design

One of the worst aspects of going to a busy bar is using the facilities when you are there. Bathrooms are often the most neglected area of the venue and can become particularly grubby by the end of the night. This is set to change, as more bars focus on enhancing the experience for their customers.

Watch out for a more indulgent bathroom visit in your local bar. Modern trends suggest minimalist design will be mixed with technology such as smart mirrors and hands-free faucets. Don’t be surprised to see marble countertops and other opulent design elements too.

An acceptance of technology

qr code technology ordering

The best bars have spent years trying to get people to look up from their phones and live in the moment. For better or worse, that trend might now be starting to reverse. You’ll likely see more charging docks on tables and perhaps some unexpected tech-integrations to enhance your visit. The cleverest bars will use QR codes for more than just menus—they are a great data capture tool that can give them a better insight into the customer experience and how to improve it.

Maximalist decor

maximalist decor bar

If your favourite bar isn’t themed, chances are it is still trying to jump on the Instagram bandwagon with bright, bold decor. Neon signs are already popular, but you’ll see more playful wallpaper and furnishings, as well as photo-centric spaces to encourage people to pose for their social media pictures.

A natural antidote

nature-inspired bar

From one extreme to the other, some bars will choose a more nature-inspired look. Organic materials and earthy tones are just as photogenic but reflect a more sustainable approach to hospitality that many bars are adopting. With a wider focus on wellbeing and environmental concerns, these venues will be filled with plants, reclaimed wood and rustic charm. And design isn’t limited to the walls and furniture—expect to see plants hanging from the ceiling and unique lighting effects too.

More spaciousness

It used to be that bars would squeeze in as many tables and chairs as possible, to maximise potential profits. But if social distancing has taught us anything, it’s that people enjoy their personal space. Allow people to spread out and they will feel more comfortable and inclined to stay. And if a bar has embraced the multi-themed approach to decor, this space will ensure people can explore all the elements on display.

Versatile elements

For a bar to be successful in the modern world, it must adapt to change. It should be a quiet drinking spot by day and lively dance venue at night. Furniture should be easily moved to accommodate events and lighting should be influenced by the scene. Bar trends—again, originating from a social distancing environment—dictate that an establishment should serve a variety of needs to different audiences, and that requires a simple approach to versatility. The quicker you can adapt, the less impact change will have on your business.

It is no longer enough to be a welcoming patron to your customers; the best bars will embrace modern trends and always aim to offer something a little different to stand out in a competitive market. This will also include the type of drinks you serve and extend to food and accommodation.

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