How To Do Bar Inventory: 3 Simple Steps

How To Do Bar Inventory: 3 Simple Steps
Bar Inventory - October 12, 2022 Written By: Krista Dinsmore

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Bar inventory is the process of counting everything you have in stock. You then use numbers from the beginning and end of a given period (i.e. week, month, quarter, year) to calculate your inventory usage, which is the amount of product you have used during the specified period.

This process is an important part of maximizing the success of your business. With bar inventory you can be sure your bar is properly stocked to meet customer demand and minimizes loses on wasted product. It also gives you insights and data so you know exactly how your bar is performing financially and what changes you can make to improve profitability further.

While inventory often gets a bad rep, it can be quick and easy. So, let’s look at how you can do successful bar inventory in just three simple steps. 

  1. Get prepared 

Organization can go a long way in ensuring your inventory process is simple, efficient and accurate. If this is your first-time doing inventory, make sure your bar and storage are organized in a way that makes it easy to inventory your alcohol.  

Try to put products back in the same place and keep items together. That way you can quickly scan your shelves to count stock instead of pulling everything out to be sure it is all the same. Labels can also go a long way in helping keep everything organized behind the counter and in storage. 

This will not only make inventory easier, it will help your servers and bartenders find items more easily and will reduce the risk of having multiple bottles of the same product open at the same time. 

You will also want to take a moment to get yourself ready and make a plan. 

Generally, you’ll want to start taking inventory at the front of your bar. This will take the most time as you’ll need to inventory part bottles. After you’ve done that, you can start taking inventory of the alcohol that is stored in the back. 

You also want to consider how you will take inventory. Will you do all the beer, then the wine, then the liquor? Will you take inventory starting at the left side of your bar, moving to the right? Or will you do open air shelves, closed cabinets and then fridges? Any method works, so long as it makes sense for your space, and you are able to ensure nothing was missed. 

After that, you want to decide what information to capture. As a rule of thumb, you want to record: 

  • Category (this can be as broad as beer, wine and liquor, or you can narrow it down further to whiskey, scotch, IPA, etc) 
  • Name (Budweiser, Johnny Walker, Smirnoff, etc)
  • Size 
  • Quantity 

You can also verify additional information such as expiry. However, you can choose to check these details less frequently, such as once a week or once a month. 

  1. Count your inventory 

While step one may take longer during your first few inventories, after a while it will simply be a quick maintenance task to ensure your team is following processes. 

Step two is when we get to counting the actual inventory.

There are several ways to count inventory. The most basic method is a manual count where you repeatedly count individual bottles and measure the amounts in part bottles. However, there are ways to automate the process to save you time and improve accuracy. 

Two of the biggest are using an inventory scanner linked to inventory management software and weighing your alcohol instead of manual or electronic tenthing. To ensure consistency, it is recommended that you follow the same order for every inventory based on the plan we talked about in step two. 

  1. Calculate inventory usage 

As we mentioned at the start of this article, the point of bar inventory is to determine how much you’ve used over a specified period (your  inventory usage). 

To do this, you will need:

  1. Your inventory count from the beginning of your inventory period.
  2. Your inventory count from the end of your inventory period.
  3. How much stock you received during this period.


With those three things, you can make one simple calculation to determine your bar’s liquor inventory usage. 

Inventory Usage = Opening Inventory + Purchases Received – Closing Inventory 

This calculation can be done manually or you can use a bar inventory system to automate your inventory usage calculation, along with calculations for other important metrics such as: 

  • PAR level PAR level is the optimal amount of an inventory item that should be in your restaurant at all times to ensure you don’t have too little or too much. 
  • Pour cost – The cost of alcohol used to make the drink as a percentage of its overall selling price. This amount is compared to your ideal pour cost to help identify over or under pouring and ensure you are maximizing profits.  
  • Variance – The difference between what is recorded and what was sold. This helps you identify if you are losing product. 

If you follow these steps, your inventory counts will be fast and easy. Especially if you use inventory management software to automate processes and gain valuable insights into your inventory processes.

Interested in learning more? Get in touch with the Sculpture Hospitality team of inventory management specialists today

Contact your Local Inventory Consultant Today


A Complete Buyer's Guide to Food & Beverage Inventory Management Systems

With around 25 to 35 percent of a restaurant’s operating budget dedicated to purchasing food (that’s not even taking into account beverage inventory costs for the bar), proper inventory management can significantly improve expected revenue.

To maximize profits you need to improve visibility and control over your restaurant or bar’s inventory. 

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