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Annabel Beales
July 10, 2018

Five ways to manage your bar's inventory better

Bar inventory management: not a phrase that most owners get excited about. It’s more likely to make you feel exhausted just thinking about it.
A poor stock management system means working long hours after closing time, discovering mysterious discrepancies, and waste that could be easily avoided.
On the other hand if you keep on top of your inventory you can expect minimal waste, maximised profits, better forward planning and a closer relationship with your customers and staff.
It’s a no brainer — putting effort into knowing your bar’s inventory pays off.
Want to know the best part?
It doesn’t have to be as difficult as you expect.
These five tips talk you through finding a system that works for your bar, and how to take full advantage of the benefits to keep your profits rising.  



  1. Find a system that works for your bar

Tailoring your system to your bar will help to take the headache out of organising your liquor inventory.


The good news is that you have a number of systems to choose from:


  • Pen and paper is accessible to all who work at your bar. On the downside, it’s very time consuming and difficult to keep track of — probably not the one if, for example, you own a chain of bars.
  • Templates are easier to follow, and are also free. Template.net has a number of free bar stock control templates to download, meaning you can experiment with what works for you. However this method still takes a long time. While you may be able to implement it from one device, multiple people working on it may make it less easy to understand.
  • POS systems require minimum effort and are compatible with multiple locations — you can also purchase ones specifically geared towards the hospitality industry that have, for example, inventory and ingredients tracking to make your life easier. But — if your bar’s going through a bit of a dry spell, maybe it’s not worth the price tag.

So, how do you work out what’s the best option for you?


4.-vermouth,-wine,-bar,-club,-party,-alcohol,-wineglass-1Consider who and how many of your staff will use it. Is it easy to follow or will your staff need extra training? Are lots of people going to need to access it at once?


You should also think about how much stock you have to keep track of — not just now, but in the future. Should your business expand (which good inventory management should help you with), is counting your liquor inventory by hand still going to work or will you need to change your system?


How much time are you willing (and able) to spend on it? Of course, we all want to answer as little as possible, but if you’re just starting out, it may be worth investing a some extra hours rather than your first takings.

Thinking about the answers to these questions should point you in the right direction.

  1. Get your staff involved

Getting your staff involved obviously speeds up the process — managing your bar inventory alone is a tall order.

If you ask for their help with calculating your inventory usage, you’re showing how every poorly pulled pint of draft beer (the biggest culprit for wastage) affects your profit margins.




You can expand on this by integrating your bar inventory management with your staff’s pay — for example a bonus for minimal wastage will encourage them to make every effort to keep losses to a minimum.


Working with your staff on this matter builds your relationship — it shows that you trust them. Demonstrating your commitment to stock control also discourages thievery. No one likes to think this way, but a meticulous liquor counting process will hopefully minimise any temptation to slip their friends a cheeky free drink or help themselves to a bottle from your stockroom.

  1. Timing matters

Here’s the thing:


The more frequently you are able to take stock of your bar’s inventory the better. You’ll be able to keep on top of things and minimise the chance of any discrepancies occurring.17.-bartender,-bottle,-bar,-club,-party,-alcohol


Of course, your system will affect how often you can do this — if you’re measuring your liquor inventory by hand doing it daily or weekly may prove to be a bit of a struggle.

In this situation it’s worth identifying what your best sellers are and creating a separate, smaller bar inventory list which you keep track of more regularly. For example, if your speciality is fresh fruit cocktails taking inventory of the ingredients regularly is going to be pretty vital due to the shorter shelf life.


Consistently measuring your stock at the same time allows you to get a more accurate representation of trends. This in turn can help you forecast any changes you might need to make when making future purchases.

  1. Always measure waste

Be sure to properly record not just how much wastage you have, but also how it happens. You’ll probably find that if you know where your biggest losses come from you can make changes to prevent it. It’s worth knowing that some POS systems handily have this feature built in.


19.-bar,-club,-party,-alcohol,-bottle,-glass,-chairFor example, if there are regular reports of spillages perhaps you need to introduce a pour test or think about more bar staff training. The Exacto-pour claims to be ‘the industry standard for training and testing bartender pouring skills’ and could be a worthy investment.


If stock is frequently going off, you can implement a system to ensure that the oldest gets used up first. This can be as simple as labelling bottle crates or arranging bottles in date order.


This can also be an opportunity to get creative. If you have materials fast approaching their best-before date think about other ways they can be used. Could your bartender come up with a new cocktail? Perhaps you’ll find a new house special.


However, you also need to consider the flipside, which brings us onto the next point…

  1. Think ahead

8.-fire,-wineglass,-glass,-lemon,-alcohol,-bar,-party-1While you want to minimise waste, nobody wants to be turning customers away because they’re out of stock: a blow for the evening’s takings as well as potential future ones if it drives customers away.


If you have a POS system, alerts for low stock can be set up to prevent this from happening.


Looking at your inventory system alongside a calendar is also beneficial. It can make sure you’re prepared for special occasions — no one wants to be out of mulled wine on the first of December.


Whilst you don’t want to go overboard, an emergency stash of your most popular items for unexpectedly busy nights is a good idea. Of course, taking the above advice and arranging this stash in date order ensures your extra products won’t go to waste.

Thinking ahead to your customers’ needs will always ensure you can provide the service you want — and help you to build a closer relationship with them.


There are a number of ways to manage your bar’s inventory, but what it comes down to is identifying what works for you. The more personalised your system, the less of a headache it’s going to be, and the more effective results you’ll see from it.