October 1, 2021

15 common problems your bar inventory management process – and how to fix them.

Whether you're a bar owner or manager, this article will give you insights about why your inventory management process may be flawed and how to improve it.
Angelo Esposito

Bar inventory management is far from an easy process. As a manager of a bar or restaurant, you know that if you have 99 problems, inventory is 98 of them. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that there are dozens of methods, tools and strategies out there all claiming to be the best one.

When choosing the best inventory method for you and your bar, it’s crucial to consider your specific needs to ensure enough accurate information for the survival and success of your business. This list will help identify what you’re currently doing wrong in your chosen inventory process, along with easy-to-follow steps to improve. So, let’s get started!

First, what does bar inventory mean?

Bar inventory is the process of counting all the alcohol in a bar or restaurant in order to stay organized and profitable. At its most basic level, conducting inventory ensures that you always have enough stock to serve your customers.

The process is usually conducted with a bar inventory spreadsheet, app, or good old fashioned pen and paper. Bar managers take inventory on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the volume of product they have and how busy they are.

However, counting stock is only the beginning.

What is the importance of bar inventory management?

When done well, inventory goes way beyond having enough product to serve your customers. It also helps you make informed business decisions by providing you with critical information such as:

  • How your bar is performing financially
  • What your product variance is
  • Whether you have dead stock (and how to reduce it!)
  • When shrinkage or spillage might be occurring
  • How to set pars and pour costs for each product
  • Which products sell well and which don’t

Armed with all of this data and insight, bar managers can restructure menus, set better prices, use the most cost-efficient brands in mixed drinks, create profitable promotions, plan for the future, and more. In one sentence, bar inventory management is important because it improves your bottom line.

15 Bar Inventory Management Mistakes (And What To Do About Them)

Now that we’re on the same page about the importance of doing inventory, we’ll dive into the most common mistakes bars and restaurants make during the process.

1. Not doing inventory at all

We shouldn’t need to explain this one! Overall, if you’re not doing inventory yet, you’re putting both your business and time in jeopardy. Even though liquor inventory is time-consuming, it will ultimately save you tons of time and money in the long run. Best of all, there’s no need for anymore inventory-induced headaches.

2. Choosing the wrong inventory system

Depending on the inventory system you have in place, you could be putting your establishment at a great disadvantage. Take your bar’s needs into account when deciding how often to do inventory, whether you will use a manual bar inventory form or an automated software. Also, consider how many employees will be involved. Most importantly, go with the system that will allow for the greatest accuracy without straining resources.

3. Being disorganized

Once you’ve picked the system that works best for you, stick to it. Disorganized bar inventory management can do more harm than no inventory management at all. Make a schedule, assign responsibilities, and then stick to them.

4. Going tech free

Sure, inventory can be done without a sophisticated liquor inventory app. But, can it truly be done efficiently? The best thing to do is to consider switching from pen and paper, calculators, and spreadsheets to a liquor scale app. You’ll be able to significantly cut down on time, human error, and all of the other things that could go wrong when doing inventory manually.

5. Under or over involving staff

To improve operations, find the middle ground between putting the full responsibility of inventory on one person’s shoulders and putting too many cooks in the kitchen. What you want to do to avoid this mistake is to involve more than one employee in the inventory process. Having more than one set of eyes will ensure accuracy and fewer errors. However, make sure not to overcomplicate things by involving more than five employees at a time. Having 2-3 employees on inventory is more than ideal for getting the job done.

6. Allowing stock to go to waste

This one should be fairly self-explanatory. Waste = unhappy customers and an unhappy wallet. In order to reduce waste and dead stock, you must stop yourself from purchasing too many bottles. By tracking inventory correctly, you can determine the exact number of bottles you’ll need to please your customers. For the best results, we recommend using liquor inventory software as it will help you determine what you really need. Consequently, you’ll be able to ensure that nothing is wasted or left sitting on the shelf.

7. Failing to plan ahead

Forecasting when you’ll need additional supplies and when you won’t helps avoid dead stock, waste, and running out of popular menu items. When you manage a bar or restaurant, it’s crucial to plan ahead in order to make a profit. Making decisions blindly and without a real plan will not help you increase your bottom line. With the right data, provided by a beverage analytics platform, you’ll be able to make strategic decisions when placing orders.

8. Opting out of automation

Does forecasting sales or correcting these other mistakes sound difficult or downright impossible? If so, refusing automation is certainly not the answer. Instead, consider automating as much of your inventory as possible with an app. Most of them can automatically place purchase orders, help with pricing, and more.

9. Not updating menus and prices

While your bar might have long standing fan favorites, it’s a mistake to keep your menu and prices the same year after year. Updated prices ensure you stay in the black, while new menu items keep customers coming back for more.

10. Not optimizing recipes

Don’t be afraid to switch the type of alcohol you use in your mixed drinks and cocktails. Different brands might offer discounts or just make more sense overall. It’s no secret that finding areas where you can cut costs provides huge benefits.

11. Falling behind on industry trends

Additionally, customer tastes will change and so will your competitors. So, make sure to stay in the loop by paying close attention to what the bars in your neighborhood are doing and what your customers are asking for. Also, never stop researching new trends and keeping up with whatever’s in hype.

12. Ignoring holidays

Never and we mean never disregard the financial importance of holidays for your bar or restaurant. This includes the big ones like offering a deal on beer for St. Patrick’s Day or one on champagne for New Years’ Eve. Even the smaller ones shouldn’t be forgotten as they can really get customers in search of deals, always coming in. In addition, all of the “national” days on social media (e.g. #NationalTequilaDay) might seem made up but they represent real opportunities to boost profits through promotions and events.

13. Forgetting the customer

Everything you do as a bar or restaurant manager revolves around making your customers happy. Forgetting or failing to take their feedback into account will have a negative effect on your inventory and overall business success.

14. Collecting data, but not putting it to use

By all means, you may be doing all of the technical parts of inventory from counting stock to calculating usage and weighing all of your products. Though, if you’re not using all of this data to its fullest potential, you could be missing out on many sales opportunities. What you want to do is use all of the data to order more of what’s in demand and set promotions around these items.

15. Failing to set inventory goals

Failing to set goals for what you hope to accomplish is a step in the wrong direction. Whether it is reducing waste, improving profits, identifying theft, or all of the above, you must be clear on what you want to get out of doing inventory in order to achieve it. To explain, goals will help motivate you and give direction to a sometimes overwhelming process.

Tips, Tricks & Tactics to Better Manage your Liquor Inventory System

We all know that in the food and beverage industry, it’s not enough to simply avoid mistakes. You have to go above and beyond to be successful. We’ve got your back there, too. These bar inventory management best practices will take your bar to the next level.

Monitor the sales of different alcohol brands

You should pay attention to the most popular ones and the slow-movers. The next step is to make a list and get rid of the unpopular brands by offering discounts and replacing them with more profitable brands.

Prevent waste at the front of the house by training bartenders

To avoid dead stock as much as possible, train your staff so they understand how to make and pour particular drinks to minimize shrinkage. Also, provide them with tools like jiggers and measured pourers for best results.

Take inventory while your bar or restaurant is closed

This will help to avoid changing product levels while counting. Otherwise, it messes with your accuracy, leading to discrepancies and restarting.

Rotate your stock

If you allow alcohol to get pushed to the back of the shelf, it’s more likely to go to waste. Instead, rotate stock to the front when you receive new deliveries. The new shipment should go to the back, and the older product should make its way to the front to be used before expiration.

Create a supportive and positive work environment

Happy employees mean happy customers. That being said, ensuring your employees enjoy coming to work every day will not only make everyone’s lives better, but it will also be good news for your bottom line.

Analyze trends and reasons for inventory fluctuations

This is to identify issues and opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed. We talked about this among common mistakes but it’s worth repeating. Inventory provides a huge amount of data about the health of your stock room and your business as a whole.

That’s Where Bar Inventory Software Comes In...

What will really take your bar or restaurant to the next level, though, is investing in a proficient inventory software. Software helps address common mistakes by cutting down on errors, automating processes, and, most importantly, providing critical insights into how your business can improve.

With the data and smart technology that software provides, the inventory process not only becomes easier, but it becomes more valuable to your business.

Why Choose our Beverage Inventory App

From counting inventory to automating ordering and optimizing pricing, WISK has the tools you need to generate the best results for your business. With our software, you won’t have to worry about lengthy, manual inventory sessions or making mistakes again. In fact, you can cut your inventory time by up to 80 percent to free up your schedule for the more important things. Visit https://wisk.ai/bar-restaurant-inventory-software/ to learn more.


Taking inventory should not take hours.