Taking Stock. Every Drop.
Bar Inventory Revolutionized.

21 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Liquor Inventory System

"Who's really running my bar?"

There are bar owners who let their bartenders run the show or who let their staff disregard whatever policies that they see fit to disregard -- without consequences.  Until these types of owners are ready to take control and actually manage their bar, an investment in a Liquor Inventory System is just wasted money.

On the other end of the spectrum are the strong, effective owners -- owners who call the shots and who aren't afraid to step on some toes when toes need to be stepped on. These owners will find that a Liquor Inventory System is going to be one of the best investments they've ever made for their bar.

The thing that every successful, profitable bar owner is able to tell themselves, everyone who works for them, and anyone else who asks, is this: "This is my bar -- I buy the liquor -- I pay the bills -- they're my customers -- that's the deal". As your dad might have said when you hit your rebellious teen years, "my house, my rules". Hiring competent managers to do day-to-day management of your bar doesn't mean that you should forfeit the ultimate control of your bar. It's still your bar, your liquor and your customers.

So, you might be able to stop reading -- and shopping! -- right here, just by answering this one question: "who's really running my bar?". If your answer is anyone other than "me" (and you're happy with that answer) then you really don't need to go any further.

"Do I even need a Liquor Inventory System?"

You've got three options when it comes to the decision on a Liquor Inventory System:

  • Option One - Do Nothing

    The first option is to do nothing. This is a bad, awful, horrible option -- because by doing nothing, you will never know if bottles of liquor are leaving your bar without being paid for, if your bartenders are effectively robbing you blind by giving away free drinks, pouring extra-strong drinks to boost their tips, or pocketing the money intended to purchase drinks.

    And here's the thing:

    If you can't detect that you have a problem -- you can't correct the problem.
    Maybe you just "trust your bartenders" to pour accurately. And hey, that kind of idealism and rose-colored view of running a bar is kinda nice -- refreshing even. But sadly, it's just not realistic.

    There's a old saying that goes something like this: "Locks don't prevent break-ins - they only keep honest people honest". A locked door is going to be an effective deterrent to people who consider a locked door too big a threshold to leap across when considering a life of crime. The same principle applies when managing your liquor -- if your staff knows they're being watched by an effective Liquor Inventory System, then they're going to be more careful about how they're doing their job. Over-pouring is a "crime of opportunity" -- it's your job to shut down the opportunity.

    Or maybe your bar uses regulated pour (e.g. Posi-Pour) spouts. While they may give you the feeling that you're doing something proactive about managing your inventory -- it's a false sense of confidence. First off, these types of pour spouts are notoriously inaccurate. Even though labeled to dispense a given amount of liquor per pour, the amount actually poured can be off by plus or minus 10%. So even if your bartenders are just tipping the bottle once per drink, they can still be over (or under) pouring by 10% (or more!). If you need proof of this, pick up a cheap graduated cylinder ($3.75 for a 50ml plastic graduated cylinder from www.sciencestuff.com) and test out a few of your pour spouts on some liquor bottles filled with water. Your false confidence in these kinds of pour spouts will quickly be shattered. And these types of regulated pour spouts don't prevent your bartenders from "double-tipping" the bottle to add in "a little extra" for a customer who wants more liquor in a drink and is willing to tip the bartender extra to get it.

    Same goes for putting your bartenders on a jigger -- false sense of confidence. If you're sitting at the end of your bar watching your bartender use a jigger, then you can be absolutely sure that they're going to use it exactly as it's supposed to be used: pour liquor into jigger, stop when jigger is full, pour jigger into glass. Because they're not idiots -- they know you're watching! But when you walk away, something amazing happens! Their technique magically morphs into this: pour liquor into jigger, pour jigger into glass, keep pouring from liquor bottle into glass while jigger drains.

    Maybe you don't want to "send the wrong message" to your staff that you don't trust them. Fair enough -- but does your bar use a register or a POS to ring up sales and keep track of sales throughout the night? Do you count the drawer and compare it to the register tape or POS report to verify that all the cash is there? Why are you not worried about sending that message to your staff?

  • Option Two - Buy the Wrong System

    The next option is to invest in the wrong system for you and your bar. It's an investment that you'll be stuck with it for a long time. You'll either pull your hair out trying to make the system work for your bar -- or you'll put it up on the shelf and watch it get dusty.

  • Option Three - Buy the Best System For You

    The last option -- the best option -- is that you can do your homework up front -- find out the features that are available, the types of systems that are out there and determine which system aligns most closely with what you want to accomplish so you can make an informed choice.

Your bar isn't just your livelihood -- it's the livelihood of every person that you employ. Keeping your bar on firm financial footing benefits all of your employees just as much as it benefits you. It could even be argued that your staff expects you run your bar in the most profitable way possible to ensure that it's around day after day, week after week, year after year.

So yeah, long story short, you need a Liquor Inventory System if you're running a bar.

"What kinds of Liquor Inventory Systems are available?"

Liquor Inventory Systems come in all kinds of "flavors" -- from the manual clipboard and "tenths" method, to Excel spreadsheet-based systems, to hand-held PDA devices, to self-contained, proprietary scanner/scale units, to Windows-based systems connected to a full line of devices depending upon your requirements (current and future).

  • Clipboard-based Systems
  • Everybody's probably used (or at least seen) the clipboard-based system for keeping track of their bar's inventory. It's not very fast so you don't do it very often and it doesn't save you any time. Nor is it very accurate, so you really can't use the results to determine if your bartenders are over-pouring.

    Clipboard-based Liquor Inventory Systems are used only by people who feel like they should be managing their bar's inventory, but are either unaware of the vast advances made in the field of Liquor Inventory Systems over the past decade or so or are unwilling to invest in the tools required to run their bar profitably!

  • Spreadsheet-based Systems
  • One step up from the clipboard-based Liquor Inventory Systems are the spreadsheet-based systems, which are fundamentally a manual system -- unable to offer the hardware integration needed to make the inventory process both fast and accurate.

    When you perform an inventory at a station with a spreadsheet-based system, you have to find each product on the spreadsheet (let's hope your products are all lined up at your bar in alphabetical order!) and then manually type in the number of full units and the number and weight of the each of the partial units into the appropriate cells of the spreadsheet (let's hope your typing is accurate!).

    And like PDA-based systems, spreadsheet-based systems are able to offer you none of the advanced inventory validation and error-checking capabilities to ensure an reliably-accurate inventory - nor do they offer the ability to use the collected usage information for other time and money-saving purposes (such as product ordering and stocking needs).

    To their credit, spreadsheet-based systems are able to print out an exceptionally pretty report of your station inventories. If presentation is your highest priority in a Liquor Inventory System, then a spreadsheet-based system is definitely right for you

  • PDA-based Systems

    PDA-based systems come in several varieties. One type involves a hand-held PDA that after a product has been selected, flashes up a silhouette of the product's bottle and has you tap the liquid level on the silhouette with a stylus.  It should be noted that this method is effectively just as accurate as the "tenths system" (that is, it's not very accurate).

    Another type of PDA-based system utilizes a special, proprietary ruler which must be held up against each of your partial units of product.

    The inventory process for these types of systems looks something like this:

    1. Pick up a bottle of some product from the shelf behind the station.
    2. Twist the bottle around to locate the UPC barcode on the label.
    3. Carefully aim the PDA's single-line laser barcode scanner at the bottle's barcode. Barcodes can be oriented horizontally or vertically, so be prepared to have to look at the barcode and twist the hand holding the PDA or the bottle to line the laser line up correctly.
    4. Place the bottle on a flat surface and let the liquid inside -- sloshing from all that moving around -- "settle". Depending upon how much sloshing is involved, it may take several seconds for this settling to occur to the point where an steady fluid level may be observed.
    5. View the level of the liquid inside the bottle (this can be somewhat of a challenge with bottles like Skyy Vodka, Kahlua, Gran Marnier, Malibu Rum, and other dark and/or opaque bottles).
    6. Now here is where you pick up, depending upon which PDA-based system is involved, either your PDA stylus or a special, proprietary ("magic"!) ruler.
      • In the case of the Bottle Silhouette system, you tap the stylus on an inch-high bottle outline on the PDA's screen to reflect the amount of liquid in the bottle (let's hope your guess was correct and your PDA stylus aim was true!).
      • In the case of the Magical Ruler system, you pick up the special ruler and hold it up against the bottle, and scan the ruler at the level of where the liquid is in the bottle (again, let's hope your aim was accurate).
    7. Pick up the bottle, replace it on the shelf, and move to the next product.

    Every bottle of liquor that you inventory involves both hands (to handle the PDA, the bottle, and the stylus or magical ruler) and lots of manual intervention to indicate the quantity inside.

    After the station is inventoried, the PDA is taken to a dock in the back office, the data is downloaded from the device uploaded to the company's server, where it is processed and reports e-mailed to you.  With these systems, no "on the spot" validation of the inventory is performed, so if you should screw up a bottle count or forget to indicate a partial unit, the likelihood of the problem being caught are pretty low.

  • Proprietary Hardware-based Systems

    Systems using a proprietary hardware device itself might be fairly large and cumbersome and only considered easily "hand-held" by former NFL football players (with large hands) or might take the form of a self-contained scanner/scale device. The barcode scanner built into these devices is a single-line laser design, which means that you must carefully orient and aim the laser line at the UPC barcode of each bottle of product being inventoried. The digital scale is either attached or otherwise integrated to allow for an accurate capture of the weight of each partial unit without relying upon visual estimates of the content levels of product bottles.

    These proprietary hardware systems also utilize a user interface -- displayed on a small 4x4 inch LCD screen -- that some users may find challenging to learn and master.

    Like the hand-held PDA systems:

    • Your station inventory's progress is impeded by the fact that one hand must be holding the device the entire time -- meaning you can't be grabbing two bottles at a time from your shelf and inventorying one right after the other.

    • There is no error-checking or "on the spot" validation intelligence built into these proprietary devices, making reliably accurate inventories more of a challenge.

    • After the station is inventoried, the PDA is taken to a dock in the back office, the data is downloaded from the device uploaded to the company's server, where it is processed and reports e-mailed to you.

  • Windows-based Systems

    Windows-based systems incorporate a great deal of "smarts" into the application running on a laptop PC. The laptop is connected to a barcode scanner and a digital scale.  Scan a bottle, the application on the laptop automatically receives the barcode from the scanner and selects the product just scanned!  Put a partial bottle of liquor on the scales, the application on the laptop automatically receives the weight of the bottle from the scales and calculates the quantity of liquid inside that bottle.

    The barcode scanner, because it's not built-in to a small, hand-held package, is typically an advanced imaging scanner or a laser scanner incorporating an omni-directional, cross-hatch scan pattern -- both of which negate the need to orient a product's barcode to the scanner. Different scanner options are available depending upon the customer's personal preferences. The digital scale installed with these types of systems are highly-accurate devices -- accurate to 0.1g -- allowing for very accurate weights of the products behind your bar.

    Additional devices, such as fingerprint readers, barcode label printers, etc. can be attached depending upon the features the user wishes to utilize of the Liquor Inventory System.

    The inventory process for these types of systems looks something like this:

    1. Pick up a bottle of some product from the shelf behind the station.
    2. Wave the bottle's UPC barcode in front of the barcode scanner (no lining up of barcode with laser scan line required).
    3. Place the partial bottle on the digital scale, where its weight is quickly captured.
    4. Replace the bottle on the shelf and move to the next product.

    As you can imagine, an inventory of your bar's stations using this type of system is going to progress very quickly, since the process is basically "scan a bottle... weigh the bottle".

    These systems, because they are full-fledged applications, are also capable of real-time "on-the-spot" validation to ensure that the inventoried values for each product pass a "sanity check". This ensures that the inventory is accurate while you're standing there at the station, where it's easy to pick up bottles you might have missed and inventory them.

  • Regulated Pour Spouts

    Regulated pour spouts are devices that are attached to the neck of every bottle behind your bar's stations. When a drink is ordered, the bottle of liquor is inserted into a "ring" device which limits the quantity of product which can be poured from the bottle.

    In theory, these are a great system, provided you are serving customers who cannot see their drinks being poured. Regulated pour spout systems are universally reviled -- by customers and bartenders alike. Customers don't like seeing their drinks and shots being poured with such obsessive controls - leaving a distinctly unfavorable, "cheap" impression with the customer. Bartenders dislike giving that unfavorable impression, as well as the mind-numbingly slow rate that these regulated pour spouts allow product to flow from the bottle. During your bar's busiest times, your bartenders don't want to be waiting for the bottle's pour spout to dribble out a shot for every drink they make.

    A skilled bartender can accurately and reliably "free pour" a shot when mixing drinks -- in a way that doesn't project an "uptight" image that regulated pour spouts do -- but also in an accurate manner that conforms to the serving size (that is, "shot size") mandated by your bar's ownership/management team.

    Not to mention the fact that every regulated pour spout system can be circumvented by creative and knowledgeable bartenders.

  • Wireless/RFID Systems

    Wireless / RFID systems look to be a great "hands-free" system for liquor inventory management -- since the pour spouts attached to each bottle behind the bar transmit real-time pour information of those products as they are being poured into drinks. But that "convenience" usually comes at a high price -- literally and figuratively.

    The monetary costs associated with these types of systems are extremely high - as each bottle must be outfitted with its own battery-powered pour spout. "Battery powered" implies "a bunch of pour spouts with eventually-dead batteries", such that much of the capital outlay for the initial investment must be made every couple of years or so.

    And if you read the fine print on the product specifications of these wireless systems, you'll find that the pour spouts are "accurate to 1/10 of an ounce". If your shot size is 1.5 fl. oz., then right off the bat, your inventory system's accuracy is reduced by almost 7% (1.0 fl. oz. -- 10%, 1.25 fl. oz. -- 8%)! If you grant your bartenders a +/- 10% "cushion" for over/under-pouring -- where is the benefit of deploying an inventory system if the very best that the system can promise in terms of accuracy is the very cushion that you're allowing for your bartenders?

    There's also a human -- or staffing -- cost to these pour spouts. You must depend upon your staff to get the correct pour spout onto the correct bottle when you're pouring their way through six or more bottles of your well vodka on a busy night. Get the wrong pour spout on the wrong bottle and your pouring numbers are going to be wildly unreliable. A network failure, server failure, or even a computer reboot during operating hours results in a pour spout blindly transmitting pour data to a server which is not listening -- thus missing those pours completely.

    A bartender determined enough to steal liquor from you is also going to be bold enough to thwart a system that utilizes wireless, low-power, low-frequency micro-transmitters to communicate pour data. Shielding the pour spout -- even with just a strategically-placed hand between the pour spout and the antenna -- as the bottle is up-righted after a pour is enough to disrupt the transmission, effectively "losing" the pour data for that drink. It doesn't take many such disruptions before the the seeds of doubt are effectively sowed with respect to the integrity and reliability of this expensive new liquor inventory system.

    And finally, these wireless systems don't negate the need for daily, at-station inventories - since products for which no pour spout can be attached (bottles and cans of beer, wine bottles, Jell-o™ shots, etc.) must still be manually counted and entered into the system.

"Is it fast?"

Doing an inventory of a typical station is something that if you're using the wrong system is going to take you two or three times longer than it should. If you've got to hold a piece of equipment in one hand, then that's one hand less that's available to be moving liquor through the system. If you've got to pick up a tiny stylus after each product is scanned in order to tap the screen to indicate the number of full units or the liquid height in the bottle, then that means you've got a lot of "overhead" for each and every one of the 125+ bottles at a given station. Same deal if you've got to hold up a magical ruler against each bottle after you've scanned it.

Scan and weigh systems involve scanning the UPC barcode on the liquor bottle and if it's a partial unit, putting the bottle on a scale, where its weight is captured and product quantity automatically calculated.  Since your hands aren't holding anything except the bottles of liquor you're scanning and putting on the scale, they're free to move down the row of bottles at speeds of up to six seconds per bottle (for a station with 125 bottles, that's 12.5 minutes for the entire station).

"Is it accurate?"

Speed without accuracy is just wasted time. You've invested the time and energy in doing an inventory at one of your bar's stations, why would you want your efforts to reflect anything less than an absolutely-accurate inventory of the stock present at that station?

When your system requires that you tap an inch-high outline of a bottle on a tiny PDA screen, you're really just giving an approximation of the liquid height in the bottle. It's no better than the "tenths system" that you've no doubt used or seen in the past. If your system requires you to scan a "magical ruler", if the scanner catches the ruler before you've lined the laser up against liquid height in the bottle, then you've just screwed up the inventory of that product.

Why is accuracy so important? Because by accurately calculating the quantity of each product behind your bar, you can -- by extension -- calculate the amount of each product that was served from each of those bottles since the previous inventory. And by comparing what was poured -- that is, "usage" -- against actual sales, comps, and waste/spill data from your register or POS, you are able to clearly see how accurately your bartenders are doing their job when they're behind the bar.

If you have a system that's only "so so" accurate, are you really going to feel like you're on solid ground when you have to confront a bartender about the fact that six shots of your most expensive tequila "went missing" without being paid for during that bartender's shift? When you're using a system that is obsessed with accuracy, you've got rock-solid evidence of bartender over-pouring. And that evidence gives you a lot of ammunition to reprimand (take shifts away from, terminate, etc.) a bartender if they are unwilling to do their job correctly.

"Is it comprehensive?"

An important feature to look for in a Liquor Inventory System is that it can handle every kind of product you sell at your bar -- and does so in a consistent, practical, time-saving way. For example, RFID pour spouts may track (with dubious accuracy) what gets poured out of your liquor bottles, but are completely incapable of tracking your bottled beers, your Red Bulls, your wines and/or your draft beer.

If you do sell draft beer, can your inventory system track that -- and with how much effort?

And let's say you make and sell a butt-load of Jell-o™ shots every week -- does your inventory system know how to convert bottles of vodka into Jell-o shots from an inventory perspective?

Maybe you're just concerned about your liquor right now. Does that mean that you'll never be concerned about your bottled or draft beer down the road? The Liquor Inventory System you buy should provide you with the features you want today -- as well as being capable of handling your future needs.

Another thing to ask is does the system handle your inventory from "cradle to grave" -- that is, does it track your inventory from the moment you order it from your Vendor, to the moment it hits your door and gets stored in your stock room, to the moment each bottle gets distributed to one of your stations, and through its life at the station as it gets poured out into drinks for your customers? That's cradle to grave -- and the only sure way to get a handle on your inventory is to track it every step along the way.

"Can I inventory products behind the bar in any order?"

Believe it or not, there are systems out there -- both manual and computerized -- that require you to inventory each bottle behind the bar in a predetermined order. Which makes your system entirely dependent upon your bartenders putting each bottle back from where it came. Chaos is wreaked when bottles are "rearranged" -- either accidentally or "accidentally" (that is, on purpose to screw up the inventory system and cast doubt on the process).

And on those systems where shelf order is pre-determined, you must inventory every bottle of given product at a station at the same time -- the open bottles on the shelf behind the bar as well as the backup stock that may be tucked away in a cabinet at the station.

The ideal Liquor Inventory System doesn't dictate the order in which bottles are inventoried. At all. Partials can be inventoried first, then the "backup" liquor bottles.

But at the same time, allowing you the freedom to inventory the station in whatever order you choose requires that the system be "watching over your shoulder" to tell you if you've missed a bottle, or if there was a partial unit of a given product there yesterday, but not there today. That is, ...

"Does it validate on the spot?"

Many systems available require you to take the inventory device to the back office and upload the data onto a PC, transfer the data to some remote location (wait, where?!) for analysis, and then have reports emailed to you (sometimes a day later!). That may be okay if you've done an accurate inventory -- but think about a typical day at your bar -- even when it's closed. How many times are you interrupted by deliveries, vendors, salesmen, hungover customers from the previous night wondering if you've still got their credit card or if you found their mobile phone. You're going to be interrupted while you're doing the inventory. That's just a fact. Wouldn't it suck to realize -- long after you've moved on from a station -- that you've totally skipped a product, or double-counted another bottle, or counted a partial unit as a full?

That's why "on the spot validation" is so important. Your Liquor Inventory System should alert you right away if you've missed a product altogether, or if there was a partial unit at the station the day before but no partial was inventoried today, or if you've got more of a given product than you should have. Maybe the calculated usage is so far off from the sales that it really just warrants checking that what you've inventoried is really what is present at the bar.

By validating the inventory right there -- while you're still standing at the station -- it's easy to just look up or turn around and see "yep, I guess I did miss that bottle of Jack Daniels™" or "yep, we really are out of Bacardi 151™", or "yep, I did forget to count that bottle of Fireball™ as a partial unit and not a full".

By validating "on the spot", your inventory's accuracy is verifiably-accurate before you move on to the next station.

"Does it allow my bartenders to self-police their own pouring?"

Wouldn't it be great if -- after you've performed the inventory at the station -- the Liquor Inventory System sent the bartender(s) that worked the station an e-mail that showed him or her - in great detail - how accurately he poured during the shift -- the same results that you're seeing -- that they poured 13 shots of Jager™, but only managed to ring up ten of them?

If you've got conscientious bartenders on your staff and they get these results automatically delivered to them after each of their shifts, you'd expect to see their pouring habits start to improve pretty quickly, right? By doing so, it saves them an uncomfortable conversation with you -- and more importantly, it saves you an uncomfortable conversation with them.

And let's say you've got a bartender that consistently over-pours, shift after shift, even after a couple of weeks of getting these automatically-generated Usage vs. Sales reports in their e-mail -- wouldn't that be a pretty clear indication that they really just don't give a damn about what kind of job they do and how it affects the bottom line of the bar -- your bar? Wouldn't that be good information to know about that bartender?

If your Liquor Inventory System can automatically keep your bartenders in the loop about their pour accuracy, then the good bartenders on your staff are going to use that information to become better bartenders.

"Can I skip a stock take without losing the ability to track usage/sales data for the station?"

Many Liquor Inventory System are incapable of comparing multiple days worth of usage at a station against multiple days worth of sales -- so if you miss a day of performing inventory, then you've lost the ability to track your inventory for those days that you missed.

So the first thing you want to look for in a system is the ability to skip a day (or several days) -- that is, the ability to track multiple day's usage against multiple day's sales.

A related question is "how often should I perform an inventory at my bar?". There's no absolute right or wrong answer to the question -- but as a general rule, when you first install a Liquor Inventory System, you should try to do daily inventories for at least the first couple of weeks in order to allow your bartenders to get the information they need in order to accurately pour the drinks that they sell to your customers. Once you've got a good level of control and oversight established, you can go to weekly inventories and see if you can maintain the good numbers.

It's also a great feature if your Liquor Inventory System has a "hybrid" mode of operation -- where you perform an inventory at your bar's stations every day, but only of the bottles from which drinks were rung up. That is, the system analyzes the sales data at the station and tell you which bottles need to be inventoried. This "Abbreviated Inventory Mode" can come in really handy once you've gotten over-pouring under control and don't want to have to inventory everything at the station, but still want to keep an eye on things.

"Is my data hosted (stored) at my bar rather than on another company's servers?"

Where your data is stored is important when you realize that the Liquor Inventory System's data includes not just your product mix and product demand, but also your sales data (because the system must have the sales data to compare usage against).

Is this really information that you trust other people to have access to, to store it on their servers and to protect it as their own? Do you trust them not to sell any or all of the data to advertisers or mailing lists? You don't have to be even a little paranoid to see the giant red flag waving over this level of access to your most critical business data.

When a Liquor Inventory System requires you to upload your data to some central server before it can be analyzed and have its data reported to you, then you've lost control of your data before you have even seen the first word the eventual analysis will tell you.

Your system's data is important enough to protect. It should be maintained in-house. Off-site backups of the data are recommended for maximum data protection and those off-site backups should be encrypted with tough encryption.

"Does it handle multi-liquor shots and drinks?"

A Liquor Inventory System should be aware of -- and handle accordingly! -- the fact that single-liquor drinks are just one kind of drink that your customers order at your bar.

Multi-liquor drinks, such as a White or Black Russian, Colorado Bulldog, Sex on the Beach, etc., all contain multiple liquors in them.

Your Liquor Inventory System should be possess the ability to account for the appropriate quantities of each liquor in each drink that is served to your customers to allow for the accurate comparison of "usage" against sales.

"Is on-site installation of the system available?"

Setting up a Liquor Inventory System isn't hard, but it is a process that involves multiple steps -- all of which must be followed with an eyes towards doing it right. The products you stock and serve must be added to the system, your vendors and the products (and prices) that they stock added, your bar's inventory pools and POS/Register configuration correctly configured, and the items on your POS/Register accurately mapped to each of the products that you sell.

Most systems are delivered to you in a big box with a fat instruction manual and a hearty "best wishes!" of the company that sold you the system. It's easy to become overwhelmed, hard to find the time to get everything set up the way it's supposed to, and ultimately -- right out of the box -- your system is a headache.

When buying a Liquor Inventory System, look for a company that will come to your bar and spend the time getting the system installed, configured and tested -- and getting you and your staff trained on its operation.

"Does it allow for 'hands-off' oversight of your bar?"

Are you -- or do you aspire to be! -- a "hands-off" owner of your bar -- trusting a management team to perform day-to-day operational management of your bar without requiring your regular presence?

If so, then you really want a Liquor Inventory System that keeps you "in the loop" of what's going on at your bar in your absence, notifying you of:

  • Your bartenders' pouring accuracy every night your bar is open
  • The day's sales
  • Received inventory
  • Breakages
  • Inventory adjustments
  • Stockroom inventory variances
  • Items on your POS priced such that your minimum desired gross margin is not being met relative to the cost of the products related to those POS items.

A system that let's you know what's going on without you having to be there every day is one that gives you confidence that your staff is doing what they're supposed to. It's your "eyes" on your bar when you're not there.

"Does it verify that everything ordered and delivered from vendors make it into the system?"

A common avenue of theft in bars is that extra bottles of liquor are ordered from a vendor, and upon delivery, those extra bottles are shuffled out of the bar instead of put on the stock room shelves.

Your Liquor Inventory System should be able to ensure that this avenue of loss is shut down. By associating a vendor's invoice number with inventory received into the system allows for "checks and balances" days/weeks/months later - to ensure that the inventory delivered by a vendor was actually received into the system.

"Does it protect access to the system to prevent data tampering?"

In order to maintain a system of "checks and balances", your Liquor Inventory System should require that anyone who uses the system log in with a unique userid and password - or with their fingerprint. The person who receives stock from one of your vendors should have to log into the system. The person who distributes a bottle of liquor from a storage room to a serving station should have to log into the system. The person performing an inventory at one of your bar's stations should have to log into the system.

By having every user of the system log into the system to accomplish their assigned tasks, every action taken in the system is associated with a real person.

For operations that need to be performed in a hurry -- distributions of liquor from the stock room to a station, for example -- the Liquor Inventory System should offer a "fingerprint login" option.

And the system should have a means of ensuring that once a user is logged in, their activities are limited to tasks that you allow them to perform. For example, you would want your barbacks to be able to distribute liquor from your stock room to the stations in your bar, but not be able to add new users, enter breakages, add new products, enter or view sales data, etc. On the other hand, you'd want your senior staff to be able to accomplish all of these actions.

Much like you wouldn't give everyone on your staff a key to the front door and the combination to your safe -- you should be able to delegate responsibilities in your Liquor Inventory System to staff members as appropriate.

"Does it track every movement of liquor, beer, wine, etc.?"

If the Liquor Inventory System requires a user to be logged in to perform any activities in the system, then the system should be able to track each "movement" of liquor, beer or wine -- associating each movement with a userid and a timestamp of when it happened.

That way, when bottles of liquor go missing, being able to analyze all of of the movements for that product will prove to be very helpful. If bottles of liquor suddenly start disappearing out of your stock room, then knowing when they were last present (and who inventoried them) will be very useful.

"Can it generate a purchase order based upon past usage?"

Your Liquor Inventory System should also be capable of analyzing past usage and automatically generate a purchase order for you -- in seconds -- to fulfill the anticipated demand for the coming week.

The system should be able to analyze past usage and statistically calculate a "projected demand" for the coming week (or for whatever duration) -- compare that projected demand to the stock on-hand at each station and in the stock room -- and also take into account the number of bottles of each product you want to have in reserve.

By doing this intelligent -- data-based -- ordering, you limit the number of bottles of liquor you must have on your store room's shelves. Bottles in storage aren't generating any money for your bar. Let your vendors store the bottles -- you just need to have on-hand what you need for the coming week.

And of course, the system should have the capability to "tweak" the automatic purchase order generation to account for upcoming big events (Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, etc.), such that more (or less) product is ordered than would normally be ordered.

And after the purchase order is generated and submitted, the system should be able to transmit that purchase order to your vendor.

And when that order is delivered by your vendor, the system should verify that the quantities received are the same as those ordered.

"Can the system tell you what products need to be stocked at each station in order to fulfill the anticipated demand at that station that night?"

Once your bar is open for business, you want your staff focused on keeping your customers happy and the place running smoothly. By having your stations pre-stocked with the quantities of each product your customers are statistically going to buy that day, the risk is minimized of your bartenders running out of one or more of those products mid-shift, causing an emergency scramble by you, your staff or the bartender to retrieve a replacement bottle from your stock room.

An intelligent Liquor Inventory System can look at the quantity of each product on-hand at each station, look at past usage of each product for that particular day of the week, and determine which products should be back-stocked at each station in order to fulfill that anticipated demand -- all before your first customer walks in the door.

"Can the system tell you which products are selling well and which ones aren't?"

The shelf space behind your bar is a limited commodity -- there's only so much room there for bottles of liquor. And liquor reps are always pitching new products that they think you should stock (how many lines of flavored vodkas does the world really need?!).

The Liquor Inventory System should be able to look at all of the data collected from the inventories performed at your bar's stations to determine each product's "demand". Using this data, you can make an informed decision as to which products to replace on your shelves when new products become available or are requested by your customers.

"Does the system come with a money-back guarantee?"

The Liquor Inventory System you purchase should come with a guarantee that backs up its claims that it will lower your inventory cost and increase your profits.  But even before it gets to that point, the system should come with amazing US-based customer service that answers the phone when you call to answer your questions and help you through any problems.


What we've tried to do in this guide is to give you a better idea of the types -- and capabilities -- of Liquor Inventory Systems that are available.

Our answer to these questions is, of course, TavernTrak -- an advanced Liquor Inventory System that answers "Yes" to every question above. Along with its outstanding set of features and capabilities, it's easy to learn and operate.

Here's our guarantee, plain and simple:

Use TavernTrak in your bar for 90 days - if your inventory costs aren't reduced, your pour costs don't decline, and your profits don't rise, then return the system for a full refund.

Your bartenders pour drinks extra strong to get a bigger tip? TavernTrak's going to catch that. They mix a drink or grab a beer for themselves behind the bar without paying for it? TavernTrak's watching. They give a beer to the hot guy or girl across the bar that they've been flirting with all night? TavernTrak is going to detect it.

Whether you want to track liquor, draft beer, bottled beer, canned beer, wine, or energy drinks, TavernTrak's got you covered.