How to Stock Basic Food Items in a Bar

Most liquor will last and last (if you keep it in your bar at the right temperature, of course), so when you’re getting started, you may have more inventory than you’d like. Ultimately, you’ll sell it, but you tie up your cash in inventory.

However, food is a different story. Food is perishable. You buy too much, and it ends up in the trash. You don’t want to throw your money away, so buy fresh items judiciously.

Here are a few general tips for stocking food items in your bar:

  • Most produce spoils in two to three days, so buy only what you can use during that time. Strawberries, bananas, and pears are prime culprits.

  • Produce stays fresher longer if you don’t wash it or cut it until you need it.

  • Uncut citrus and apples last longer, up to a couple of weeks, if refrigerated properly.

  • After produce is cut, use it quickly. Cut bananas, apples, and pears as you need them. Use citrus within 1½ days. Use strawberries the same day.

  • Fresh is better. If you can get daily produce deliveries, do it.

Ultimately, the amount and type of food you need to stock depends largely on your bar’s menu. For now, though, just make sure to plan ahead with regard to how much and what type of food you need to store.

Ultimately, your business levels dictate your garnish levels. Because many of these items are perishable, you walk the fine line of making sure you have enough, but not so much that it goes to waste. It’s truly a trial-and-error situation.

The number of garnishes you have at the ready totally depends on how many customers you have, what they are drinking, and how you garnish the beverages. And your garnish level depends on how labor intensive the garnish is. You may choose to dedicate more caddy space to hand-stuffed olives (which take your bartender some time to make) than to, maraschino cherries (which generally come right out of a jar).

Here is a list which gives you some help in getting started with figuring out how much you need.

Garnish Weekday Par Weekend Par
Oranges slices 1 caddy 3 caddies
Olives 1 caddy 3 caddies
Olives, stuffed 1 caddy 3 caddies
Maraschino cherries 1 caddy 2 caddies
Lemon wedges 5 lemons 10 lemons
Lemon twists ½ lemon 1 lemon
Lime squeezes 3 limes 6 limes
Lime wedges 4 limes 15 limes
Lime twists ½ lime 1 lime

Notice the list gives you two different par levels, one for weeknights and one for weekend nights. This is assuming that Friday and Saturday are busy nights for your bar; if that’s not the case, adjust accordingly. Many bars create par sheets for each and every shift

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