How to Run a Bar: Basics of Day-to-Day Inventory

When you start to run your bar, you need to make an inventory sheet for both of your storerooms. An inventory sheet shows who is taking what items when.

Whenever someone takes something out of the storeroom, he marks down the time and date, item taken, amount, and where the item will be used (bar, kitchen, bathrooms, and so forth). Then the employee has to sign his name. This form should be as easy to fill in as possible (and don’t forget to keep a pen nearby). Post the sheet on the inside of the storeroom door.

This basic sheet is all you need for your dry storage area. You need to modify the inventory sheet for your cold storeroom. Add a line at the top of the form that tells your employees that only a manager can take items from any liquor storage area. Limiting who has access to the liquor storage area helps you keep track of valuable products.

All items should be checked in and out. Every time. No exceptions. Empty bottles should be given to a manager for accounting. That way no partial bottles leave the restaurant with employees rather than in the trash.

Many technological innovations are happening in the bar industry that can help you manage your bar inventory, for a fee of course. Fees range in the thousands of dollars, but most manufacturers believe the systems more than pay for themselves, typically within the first year. Here are a few you may be interested in:

  • AccuBar: AccuBar has developed a proprietary, handheld scanner that allows you to quickly take an accurate measurement of your inventory by scanning existing bar codes and virtually marking their volumes in the database. The system makes reordering simple.

  • BarMaxx: The BarMaxx system tracks your bottles via radio frequency identification (RFID) from delivery through service to the recycling bin. When the bottles are delivered, you tag them with RFID tags. When the bottles move from storage to service, they are placed on wireless scales.

    Each time the bottle is used, the weight changes and the web-based system is updated. You can see the change in the volume of liquor in any bottle in your operation from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. When the volumes of liquor used don’t match the sales, you know you have a problem.

  • Berg: Berg is one of the oldest names in liquor inventory management. The company offers many different systems, from automated dispensing of complete metered cocktails to a system pouring both liquors and mixers from a single gun.

  • Bevinco: Bevinco is an auditing and consulting service rather than a vendor of inventory management tools. They conduct on-premise liquor audits and compare the results against your sales and volume reports. Then they use that information to help you plug the gaps.

  • Control Plus: Control Plus is an automated dispensing solution that prevents overpouring. It’s fairly labor-intensive because you must change out standard pourers and use a heat gun to attach the company’s proprietary spouts.

  • Easy Bar: Easy Bar sells several different systems. One of them operates with specially designed, free-pour spouts that don’t regulate the flow of liquor, but do measure and report on said flow. The spouts themselves use RFID reporting to a web-based software program, allowing you to instantly track pour volumes.

You can’t keep an eye on everything all the time, so invest in a couple of good locks for your storerooms. Locks keep honest people honest. When products go missing, you’re hit with a double whammy: You lose the money you spent on the item and the money you could have made on the item.

Keep your cooler locked unless someone is actually stocking or restocking it.

Do not allow everyone to have access to storage rooms. Limit the people who have keys or lock combinations to your managers, head cook, head bartender, and of course, you. When the bar is open, make sure someone has a key at all times.

Extra keys should be placed in the safe. Always make sure that a set of keys is available during each shift, or you won’t get backup supplies when you need them. (Yes, this does happen.)

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