Liquor Inventory App:
Everything you Need to Know

A liquor inventory app may sound complicated for some. However, using one can significantly simplify the inventory process at your bar or restaurant. As an owner, manager, or operator, you probably already have a good understanding of how to use certain tools like Excel, calculators, spreadsheets, and pen & paper to manage your supply. However, these tools are no longer the best option for your business. While there are various tips for making manual inventory easier, only the most advanced technology will help you take full control of your alcohol inventory.

To help you out, this guide includes the ultimate list of resources for everything you need to know about maintaining your beverage inventory – the right way. That being said, fearing technology, especially in the hospitality industry, isn’t the correct approach. So, we’ve created this guide to give you a complete overview of all the things you should know about liquor inventory.

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What is liquor inventory?

Picture the following scenario. You open a new bar in your city and stock it with different types of liquor, wine, and beer. Then, you move on to hiring your staff and creating a menu around all the drink options you have in stock. The doors are now open to the public.   

As customers come to your bar and consume the drinks you have on your menu, you eventually need to reorder supplies. You then realize that some drinks, like your Friday night bartender’s unique take on a gin and tonic, are probably outselling some of your other ones as you always run out of those ingredients first. To compensate for this, you eyeball what you left at the front bar and in your back storage room, and place orders based on what you see regularly.  

On a very basic level, that is beverage inventory management. It is the process of counting and replacing your stock as it is consumed by your customers. Unfortunately, there are dozens of ways to do the process incorrectly. To do it right, it requires an organized, comprehensive liquor inventory system that takes into account customer preferences, employee error, unique sales opportunities, and more. 

In short, liquor inventory is a deceptively complicated process and the way you manage it can have huge implications for your bar’s success.

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Why is bar inventory management important?

Knowing the basics is just the beginning. The question you should be asking is why it is important? A good bar inventory system will help you avoid over or under stocking your bar and ensure you have all the ingredients you need to make your customers’ favorite drinks. It will also reveal opportunities to increase profits through more effective bartending techniques, promotions, and so much more. In addition, time and cost-effectiveness can be achieved by reducing waste, decreasing spillage, and cutting the time it takes to conduct inventory. Overall, there are an infinite number of benefits that come optimizing the way you do inventory.

In reality, a comprehensive inventory system can quickly become time-consuming and profit-draining in and of itself. When employees and managers spend dozens of hours counting, tracking, and optimizing alcohol levels, the customer experience can suffer. That being said, finding the most effective way to manage your supply is crucial to running an establishment, successfully.

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How to do Liquor Inventory: A Step by Step Guide

  1. First, create a bar inventory spreadsheet and catalogue all of your bottles.

  2. Then, organize the spreadsheet the same way your bar is organized so it is easier to keep track throughout.

  3. Now, count what you have. To do this, start at the front bar and keep track of each alcohol type, brand, name, and bottle size. Then, add a tab to keep track of what is available in your back bar, storeroom, or anywhere else you store alcohol.

  4. Next, visually take note of how much liquid is in each bottle and round to the nearest tenth. After, make estimates about whether the bottle is half full, a third full, etc.

  5. Then, repeat the previous steps for every bottle in the bar, recording all estimates in the spreadsheet. Separate them into spirit, wine, and beer categories to make tracking easier. Make sure to record all bottles in the bar, including all secondary storage beyond the main bar. Afterwards, add columns for any alcohol that needs to be counted by case in addition to bottle.

  6. Once every bottle in the bar has been recorded in the spreadsheet, add up the totals for each category and record them. It’s important to remember, inventory period will vary for every bar. So, you’ll need to repeat this process every inventory period, whether yours is a week, two weeks or a month. This will leave you with a beginning and ending inventory count.

  7. In order to add an extra layer of complexity, your establishment will sell and receive liquor throughout the course of your inventory period, no matter how short. Use your invoices to keep a record of how much product you receive. Lastly, use your POS system to track sales and be sure to take those numbers into account when managing inventory.
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The Last Step: The Magic Formula for Calculating Liquor Inventory

So, what’s the point of all of this work? The answer is a fairly simple calculation. Once you take stock of the product you have, use your starting inventory and ending inventory to calculate your usage. Knowing your usage allows you to do all sorts of important tasks like pricing, ordering, identifying total prices of purchases, pour costs, and more.

The formula: starting inventory + received inventory — ending inventory = usage.

Overall, this sums up the old-school, pen and paper method of taking beverage inventory. If it sounds like a time-consuming, headache-inducing way to keep track of products, that’s because it is. Also, it’s not only inconvenient, but this method is more likely to lead to human error and miscounts which can be harmful to your bar’s bottom line.

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How do you measure liquor bottles for inventory?

Measuring liquor for inventory purposes can be accomplished in a number of ways. As mentioned earlier, you can use a pen and paper to keep track of alcohol levels based on “eyeballing”. Alternatively, you can weigh bottles and manually keep track of the changing weights. These methods typically include sorting through alphabetical lists of alcohol brands and types, entering data into Excel sheets, exporting sales reports from your POS system, and trying to compare those reports to your consumption.

On the other hand, when you choose to do inventory with an app, you can use an integrated liquor inventory scale to get an exact measurement of how much liquor is left in each bottle. This system can then not only track supplies, but also make automatic orders, create trend reports, and generally make your system smarter. 

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How often should a bar take inventory?

The answer to this question depends on the bar, the state of its current inventory, and sales cycle. In most cases, a bar should take inventory on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. If your inventory efforts haven’t been up to par in the past, you’ll need to take inventory more frequently than a business with an established process. 

Beyond that, there are several other factors to consider, including how often your bar needs to make purchase orders, whether it’s a busy season or not. The tools at your disposal is another important factor that needs to be given thought to. For example, if you have restaurant inventory management software, you might want to take advantage of the speed of your application to do inventory more frequently and get more out of your investment. If you’re doing inventory with a pen and paper, you might want to cut down on your frequency to save on time.

How do you calculate your liquor usage?

Remember the process we laid out earlier in this post about how to take liquor inventory and why it’s so important? 

We won’t make you scroll back up, don’t worry. The point of taking inventory is to gather all the information you need to calculate your liquor usage. Generally speaking, a good beverage inventory software will calculate your usage for you. However, if you’re doing it the old-fashioned way, you’ll have to measure liquor usage with the formula mentioned in the above section. 

How do you find your starting inventory, received inventory, and ending inventory? It’s all part of the process. Inventory is a process that works only through repetition. Whether you have weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly inventory periods, you’ll eventually repeat your whole procedure. This repetition leaves you with a starting inventory count each time as well as an ending inventory count. This accounts for two of the three components you need for the usage formula. 

Meanwhile, throughout any given period, your establishment will receive and sell items. It’s crucial to keep good records of all the items you receive by tracking your invoices and the items you sell through your POS system. While both counts are important, the items your bar receives through purchase orders, and tracked through invoices, are received inventory.

To make calculating usage easier, enter the totals of each of your alcohol categories into three columns: starting inventory, received inventory, and ending inventory.

With the inventory usage, you will be able to gain valuable details to improve your bottom line, including which products are your best-sellers, what your pour cost should be for each product, and where your shrinkage is coming from.

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3 Tips on How to Better Manage Your Liquor Inventory System

If you’ve made it this far, you’re basically a pro. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement when it comes to managing your supply. So, here are some tips on how to boost your processes. Overall, what it all boils down to is consistency, convenience, and accuracy.

Consistency

Ensure consistency by choosing an alcohol inventory system with an integrated scale that you can use for all your bottles. This will help provide you with the same standard of measurement no matter the type of liquor you’re measuring. You can also improve consistency by taking inventory on a regular basis and at the same time of the day. 

Convenience

It might sound like it’s too good to be true but it’s not. Making your inventory process more convenient does make it better. A swift, easy inventory management system will allow you to take more frequent inventory without wasting precious time or resources. Taking inventory after close of business is another way to make your life easier, while also ensuring more accurate counts, and reducing the number of people working behind the bar at any given time. 

Accuracy

It’s clear that you want an accurate management system but unfortunately, it’s a surprisingly easy step to mess up. To get the best accuracy, you must calibrate your scales and make sure there’s always two pairs of eyes on calculations or orders. For the most precise measurements, use a first-in, first-out system to avoid dead stock piling up in the back storage room. Dead stock is not only a poor use of resources, but can also make it easier to miscount old bottles or count them past their expiration dates. 

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Top 10 Things to Look For in a Bar Inventory App

If you truly desire to know how to manage liquor inventory quickly, easily, and effectively, you’ll need to start using an app. These are the top ten things to look for when investing in a new liquor inventory app.

1. Cost savings

To begin with, the number one reason to staring using an inventory management software is for the cost savings. With this in mind, it’s best to ensure that this is a key feature mentioned in the description and mission of whichever app you choose to go with. 

With the help of a beverage inventory management software, you will be able to save money by decreasing inventory time, reducing dead stock or waste, minimizing spillage, optimizing drink prices, and more. Hence, you should look for an app that mentions these specific benefits for optimal results. 

2. Speed

The second most critical quality to look for in an app is speed. When deciding which app to go with, always keep the need for speed in mind. To explain, if an app’s process for inventory still sounds time-consuming or inefficient, don’t commit to it. Inventory time should be drastically reduced when you make the switch. Instead, invest in a platform that can provide savings of up to 80% (like WISK). Whatever happens, don’t settle for poor speed when making your choice. 

How do you know if an app will save you that much time? The best apps will specifically reveal time savings through customer reviews. In addition, you can also look for features such as direct POS integration and a comprehensive ordering system. 

3. Convenience

Managing your bar or restaurant should fit into your schedule and lifestyle, seamlessly. In other words, you should be looking for apps that offer both a desktop and mobile version because this will make the whole process a lot easier. A liquor scanner within the app will also help simplify your life. To clarify, you should choose an app that enables you to use your mobile device as a barcode scanner to save yourself the hassle of manually searching for products. The more features a software offers to fit your needs, the easier your life will be. 

4. Flexibility

Strict requirements, lengthy obligations, or unclear contracts are all red flags to look out for when choosing an inventory application. For instance, some companies will even minimize your cost savings by charging you too much or by using shady business techniques to keep you locked into a contract long after you want to make a change. That being said, flexible contracts and short-term options are signs of a company with your best interests in mind. 

5. Smart technology

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence and machine learning are both shaping the hospitality industry each day. As a result, choosing the most technologically advanced bar management app is needed to get the best possible results. 

To help you make your decision, you should understand what makes a liquor inventory app effective. The most useful and intelligent software will certainly use smart technology to help you manage your inventory efficiently. It will also help you identify opportunities to improve your customer experience and sales. 

6. Sales analytics

You may be wondering, how do bars increase liquor sales? Bars ultimately improve profits by intelligently using all of their sales data to make decisions that are both good for their customers and good for their sales. To tell the truth, the strongest beverage management app will use your sales data to provide recommendations on the best brand of alcohol to order, what kind of promotions to run, when to order additional inventory, and how often to place purchase orders.

Since there is so much information waiting at your fingertips, you shouldn’t waste it by choosing an app that doesn’t include any type of analytics feature.  

7. Customer insights

Beyond improving profit with sales data, a liquor inventory app should give you more information on who your customers are and what they want. At the end of the day, the key to how to run a successful bar is keeping the customer happy. An app helps you know what your customers need and desire. From there, you can optimize drink prices, improve your menu items, and create your own drink recipes, without creating mountains of extra work for yourself. 

8. Integrated scale

While there are stand-alone liquor scale apps available, it’s easier if the scale is integrated with the other features offered in one comprehensive liquor inventory app. Different apps have different types of scales, making it possible to find the version that works best for your needs. Some apps offer one-tap measurements, while others use Bluetooth or provide you with an external scale for purchase. The Bluetooth option is highly recommended in the long run as it will save you the most time. 

9. Automatic orders

This feature is fairly basic and should absolutely be offered by the beverage inventory app you choose. Most importantly, make sure to look for one with an extensive number of products available to order from all over the world. This will ensure that you never run out of the bottles you’re looking for, even the most obscure ones. 

Overall, orders should be easy and quick to place as well as easy and quick to receive. Above all, ordering should be safe and secure, so you don’t have to worry about theft or fraud. Lastly, be sure to check reviews to ensure other users have not had to deal with misplaced orders or a faulty interface as this could save you from having to switch to another application.

10. Reliability

If you work in the restaurant industry, we don’t have to remind you about the importance of customer service. Like with having to provide your customers with the best quality service, you should expect nothing less from your liquor inventory app. With that said, you should look for 24/7 support and strong reviews when shopping for an app. 

Why choose WISK as your bar management software

Your bottom line is paramount and it shouldn’t be hard to keep track of inventory in a way that’s easy and legitimately helpful. 

That’s what drives our team to work harder every day. We’re restaurant owners too! We know just how stressful managing your liquor inventory can be. Our number one goal to provide you with the tools you need to ensure your bar is profitable and continues to be in the future. Our liquor inventory app does just that!

Imagine going through the inventory process we laid out at the beginning of this article. Now, picture automating that process while also gaining valuable insights into your customers and what they want. From inventory management to ordering and receiving, WISK provides everything you need to help you run your restaurant (efficiently).

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