Thinking about using beverage inventory software? If you tend or manage a bar, then you know how critical inventory management is to the success of your business. Tracking your beer, wine, and liquor levels on a consistent basis ensures that you always have the right drinks at the right time — which ultimately leads to a well-stocked bar, happy customers, and a healthy bottom line.
That being said, the effectiveness of inventory tracking in your bar largely hinges on your tools and systems. Manual processes (like eyeballing bottle quantities and using pen and paper) tend to be inefficient and can lead to human error and inaccuracies.
This is where inventory software comes in.
The right liquor inventory solution will allow you to efficiently count, track, and manage your stock. It can help you understand trends in your business, so you can forecast demand and ensure that your shelves are stocked with drinks that sell.
It can also keep your bar shelf balanced. Investopedia recommends purchasing 45% beer, 40% liquor, 5% wine, and 10% mixers. Those proportions may need to be tweaked, depending on your business. But, regardless of the ratio of your alcohol inventory, tracking your stock closely will help maintain a good balance of products in your bar.
The question is, what solution should you choose to stay on top of everything? There are plenty of bar inventory apps on the market, and determining the right software for your business requires some and testing.
To help you navigate the process, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to finding the best beverage inventory software for your bar.
Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Determine What You Need From Beverage Inventory Software
Before going “out there” to research solutions, take some time to evaluate the needs of your business. Get clear on your requirements in a beverage stock control system, and put your needs on paper.
Taking this step early on will make the whole process of finding an inventory app so much easier. When you’re clear on what you want and need, you can easily eliminate programs that aren’t a good fit, and focus your search on systems that are compatible with your business.
Below are some of the factors you should consider when figuring out what you need in a bar inventory system.
Your Existing Processes
You want your beverage inventory software to work with your current stock management workflows and processes. For example, if you’re used to measuring liquor levels using an inventory scale, then you’re going to need a liquor scale app and a system that works with scales. Prefer to measure bottle percentages? Then, set your sights on solutions that support that method of measuring liquor.
Choose a solution that supports the drinks you already have. Ideally, your inventory app has a massive database of drinks so you won’t have to enter products from scratch.
If your menu has cocktails and other mixed drinks, then you’ll need a beverage inventory system that supports recipes. WISK, for example, lets you create recipes directly in the app. You can even add the pricing for each ingredient, so it’s easy to recognize unprofitable ingredients and price your drinks in a way that keeps your bottom line healthy.
Your POS Software
Beverage inventory management and point of sale systems go hand-in-hand. Ideally, your POS and stock control solution should be synced, so that your inventory levels are automatically updated when you ring up sales.
Having a tightly-integrated system will lead to less manual work, fewer errors, and a more productive bar overall.
Your Devices and Equipment
If you’re using certain devices in your bar — such as a mobile device, digital scale, or a spout — then choose a solution that works with the equipment and devices that you’re using.
Customer Support Needs
You should think about your customer service needs, just in case issues arise. Do you prefer dealing with customer support over the phone or are you happy with email and live chat? Are you comfortable with self-service help centers? Keep these questions in mind when evaluating solutions.
Also, look into the vendor’s customer service hours. Do they have reps standing by 24/7 or are they only available from 9 to 5? What timezone are they in? If your bar is open late, and need support at say, 11pm, will your software provider be available?
Pro tip: Determine the “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features that you need in your beverage inventory software, then create a matrix that lets you compare different solutions side-by-side. This will make the research and selection process much more organized so you can easily determine which system is best for you.
Here’s a quick example of what that matrix might look like:
Step 2: Do Research on Bar Inventory Software
Already have your list of must-haves and nice-to-have features? Great. Let’s move on to the research stage of the process.
One of the best things about running a business in a digital age is that finding vendor and software information is just a few clicks away. You can learn a lot about the solutions in the market by doing research on the web. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that you can utilize.
That said, websites aren’t your only online sources of information. Your vendors and other entrepreneurs can also point you in the right direction.
In this section, we’ll look at the websites, places, and people that can help you figure out which beverage inventory software is right for your establishment.
Turn to Your Existing Solution Providers
A good shortcut for finding a bar inventory management software that’s compatible with your business is to check out the add-on partners of your existing software providers. Specifically, your point of sale system.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to use a software that integrates with your POS. So by starting your search with your current software, you can automatically narrow down your choices and not get too overwhelmed.
The good news is, it’s easy to discover these integrations. Most POS software companies have pages on their website dedicated to add-ons. Head on over to your provider’s site and navigate to the page marked “add-on partners” or “integrations” and you’ll see the different software that your solution can integrate with.
If you can’t find the page, give your vendor a call and see if they can recommend a beverage inventory app that works well with their system.
Check out Software Review Websites
There are several websites out there that were established specifically to evaluate software. They often contain reviews, feature lists, and product comparisons. Overall, they’re great resources for anyone who’s shopping around for business solutions.
Here are some of the sites that you can check out:
Capterra is a website dedicated to helping small businesses find the right software. It offers nifty features like search tools, star-ratings, and comparison charts, making it easy for people to get the lowdown on various apps and platforms. Capterra also offers user reviews, so you can read up on what other people are saying about a vendor or solution provider.
This site lets you discover software businesses and look over recommendations. Much like Capterra, SoftwareSuggest.com reviews and compares different business software to point entrepreneurs in the right direction.
Product Hunt is an online community that lets people discover and share tech products and apps. Users can submit products to the site, and the community can upvote items that they like. The products with the most upvotes end up on Product Hunt’s homepage, which in turn increases their visibility and exposure. The community can also leave comments and reviews on the product page. On a whole, the site can be a useful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about an app or solution.
Ask Other Bar Owners
Online reviews are great, but it’s also helpful to talk to other business owners about the software they’re using. Strike up a conversation with the bartenders and managers that you know. Ask them what app or system they’re using to manage their inventory. The insights you gain from them can be valuable to your search.
Can’t connect with other business owners in person? Take the conversation online. There’s an online community for just about any industry or business type, so find a forum or group for bar owners, and then start a discussion about inventory apps.
Here are some examples of online communities you can check out:
- Small Town Bar Owners (Facebook Group)
- The Bar & Restaurant Owners Group (LinkedIn Group)
- Above the Bar Forum, nightclub and Bar Owners, Managers, Operators (LinkedIn Group)
Step 3: Get in Touch With Solution Providers
At this stage of the buying process, you should’ve narrowed down your choices to 2-3 inventory management apps. The next step is to actually talk to the solution providers that you’re considering. You want to make the conversation as productive and on-point as possible, so prepare a list of questions beforehand.
Here are some suggestions:
Can You Talk to Me About [Insert Key Features]?
Recall the “must-have” and “nice-to-have” feature list you created earlier and ask the provider about how their capabilities work. Talk to them about your existing inventory management processes and ask if their solution would work with your current workflows.
Do You Work With [Insert Equipment]?
Do the same thing for your equipment. If you’re using special devices such as a spout or a bar inventory scale, ask the vendor if their solution would work with your equipment.
Do You Integrate With [Insert Your POS System]?
If you found the solution provider on your POS software provider’s website, then you can skip this question. Otherwise, be sure to bring up point of sale integration, and discuss if their software works with your POS system.
What Are Your Customer Service Hours and What Support Channels Do You Use?
You want to make sure that you get the support you need, when you need it, and through your preferred customer service channels. So, make it a point to ask the vendor about their customer support offerings.
What’s the Process for Getting Set Up?
Inquire about their setup process. How long will it take? What are the steps involved? Can they help you get the software up and running? The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of how much time to allocate towards the setup process — this is very important, particularly if there’s downtime involved.
How Much Does the Software Cost?
Some providers list their prices on their websites, while others don’t. Either way, it’s best to talk about it with the solution provider so you know the exact costs for setting up, running, and maintaining the software.
In addition to discussing the monthly fee for the app, you also want to bring up things like:
- Setup fees
- Customer support costs (some vendors charge extra for premium customer service)
- Cancellation charges
Step 4: Take a Trial or Demo
Reading reviews and talking about the solution will only take you so far. If you truly want to see what a beverage inventory software can do, you need to see it an action. You can do this either by taking a demo or signing up for a free trial.
Taking this step will enable you to view the software’s interface, and determine if it’s intuitive and easy to use. A demo or trial will also give you the opportunity to see how different features work so you can verify if the program is a good fit.
To get the most out of your demo or trial, take the following steps:
- Invite your key staff members to try the software
- List questions and concerns about the software as you’re using it
- If you’re trialing the program, try to use it in real-world situations (or simulate a scenario)
- If you’re on a demo, ask the company how the software would work in various situations or scenarios in your bar or restaurant
Ready to Find the Best Inventory Software for Your Bar?
Searching for an alcohol inventory app doesn’t have to be overwhelming and time-consuming. By following the steps above, you can efficiently narrow down your choices and zero in on the right solution for your bar or restaurant.
Good luck with your search, and if you want to learn more about how WISK can help you manage your bar’s inventory, get in touch. You can also start your 14-day free trial by signing up below.