Bar Inventory

How To Take Inventory For Your Bar: 5 Expert Tips

Many managers feel that bar inventory is a complex, time-consuming process that doesn’t serve any real purpose. Done right, though, it can reveal a great deal about how your business is running and keep your bar on the road to profitability and success.

In this article, the experts at Sling tell you how to take inventory in just four steps and give you some expert tips to make the whole process easier.

How To Take Bar Inventory

Sign on a bar

1) Count Your Product

Counting product during your bar inventory process is more than just tallying bottles. It requires either estimating or determining accurately how much product is left in the container.

You can estimate by using the point count method. If you want a more accurate inventory, calculate the weight of the liquid remaining in each bottle.

Here’s a basic description of each procedure.

Point Count

The point count method involves dividing each bottle into tenths from 1.0 (full) to 0.1 (almost empty). Don’t take this literally and draw hash marks on all your pretty bottles. Just “eyeball” the level of liquid and record the number on your bar inventory sheet.


Weighing the bottles and their contents gives you a more precise measure of your remaining inventory. Many inventory apps come with their own scale to make this process even easier.

Regardless of which method you choose, the final numbers are your starting inventory, which we’ll use later to calculate other important information

2) Enter Amount Of Product Received

During the days and weeks after you count your product on hand, enter the amount of product you purchased from vendors (a.k.a. received inventory).

You will use this number at the end of the cycle (i.e., during the next inventory) to calculate metrics such as usage and monthly pour cost percentage.

3) Count Your Product Again Later

If you conducted your previous bar inventory on the first of July, for example, schedule a time for your next count on the first of August.

This number is your ending inventory. Use it with the other two numbers in the next step.

4) Calculate Product Usage

Drink being poured in a bar

To calculate product usage, plug your bar inventory numbers into the following formula:

Usage = Starting Inventory + Received Inventory – Ending Inventory

Let’s say your starting inventory for rum is 750 ml. You purchased another 750 ml bottle (received inventory) in the month after your first count. Thirty days later, your ending inventory for rum is 900 ml.

Here’s how those numbers fit into the formula:

Usage = 750 ml + 750 ml – 600 ml

Usage = 1500 ml – 600 ml

Usage = 900 ml

From this number, you can get a more accurate idea of how much rum to keep on hand to satisfy the demand of your customers.

5 Tips For A Smooth And Accurate Bar Inventory Process

1) Keep Your Bar Inventory Low

Bar inventory on shelves in a bar

There’s no reason to keep a whole year’s worth of inventory on hand. It’s an added expense your business doesn’t need.

Most successful bar owners recommend maintaining a 15% inventory. When you divide your total inventory on hand (in wholesale dollars) by your total monthly bar sales, the end number should be around 0.15.

2) Arrange Inventory Records To Reflect Your Storage Method

Arranging your bar inventory records alphabetically may seem like a good idea, but you probably don’t store the bottles that way on your bar.

Your inventory sheet should match your storage method so you can go down the line — from right to left or left to right and bottom to top or top to bottom on the bar —  during the counting process.

3) Set A Consistent Inventory Period

You can take inventory as many times during the month as you deem necessary. Just be consistent so your numbers match up.

Don’t take one inventory on the first of the month, the next inventory two weeks later, and another inventory three weeks after that.

4) Conduct Your Bar Inventory The Same Way Every Time

You’re only setting yourself up for difficulty if you change the way you conduct your bar inventory every time. Having a detailed system in place makes the process faster and easier.

For example, if you count product by starting at the top left of your bar (if that’s how you store the bottles), start in the same place the next time through.

5) Train Your Team

man working in a bar looking at a bottle

You don’t have to conduct the bar inventory yourself every time. Train your team members to make the count so they can see what goes on behind the scenes of your business.

Be sure to encourage them to watch for such issues as:

  • Significant spillage
  • Destruction of full bottles

When you and your team are all involved in the inventory process, it will be much easier and go much smoother than ever before.

Streamline Your Bar Inventory Process With Software

If you conduct your bar inventory with pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet and it’s working well for you, then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

But if you feel like you could exercise more control over the process, specialty software can help. Apps like Bar Patrol or BevSpot can help reduce the headaches associated with calculating usage in your bar.

And inventory apps aren’t the only software that can make managing a bar (or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a catering business) easier and less time-consuming.

Sling software

Scheduling software like Sling reduces the time it takes to satisfy all the variables associated with creating, distributing, altering, and finding substitutes for your team schedule.

The Sling suite of tools includes:

  • Powerful, calendar-based scheduling
  • Built-in time clock
  • Attendance tracker
  • Labor cost optimization
  • Budget reminders
  • Overtime monitor
  • Extensive reporting
  • Timesheets for seamless payroll processing
  • Paid-time-off control
  • Efficient messaging system
  • Team-wide newsfeed
  • Flexible task list

With Sling, you can conduct all of your workforce management activities in one place instead of cobbling together various separate apps that don’t integrate well with each other.

Sling's shift tool

No matter the size of your business, the Sling app helps you build your team’s work schedule in minutes rather than hours.

That can give you more time to perfect the way you take bar inventory and make every aspect of your work life more enjoyable.

For more resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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