Third party hardware and software bar inventory systems:
• Setup cost- High. These systems typically start at a few thousand dollars. Ironically one of the worst available on the market costs more than $10,000.
• Overall cost- Medium; over the lifetime of the system, the initial setup cost is shared over the years you use the system. Monthly fees are often another component of the cost but the real cost is spending all that money for a system which isn’t used effectively at your bar.
• Effectiveness- Variable. Some bars had good success with these but for every success story there are three other bars which spent the money and fail to see the potential benefits. The common factor in bars that make these work is often whether there is owner involvement since this addresses concerns of independence and knowledge loss when your manager leaves.
• Speed- Medium to good. Once you learn how to use these systems they tend to be significantly faster than using a clipboard. Be careful which of these systems you use however as some of them are poorly designed. This means that taking inventory of a single bottle requires many steps, pushing many buttons in the correct order and in the worst case sticking labels on every liquor bottle in your bar for the system to work.
• Ease- Poor. Going to the detail of measuring the performance of individual products is relatively complicated. It requires accurate counting, integration to your POS system, management of all your drink recipes, updates to the POS system and detailed error checking.
Full service bar inventory systems:
• Setup cost- Low. Aside for paying for the initial setup (which is complimentary in some cases), since all equipment and expertise is provided, no equipment or software is required aside from a POS system.
• Overall cost- High. There is no getting away from the fact that having a professional come to your bar on a regular basis to perform liquor inventory is the most expensive method.
• Effectiveness- High. This method has been shown to be very effective and the results are worth paying since the benefits of an effective bar inventory system far outweigh the cost.
• Speed- Fast. A professional will be fast and since you are your employees aren’t involved in producing the numbers, their time can be put to better use elsewhere.
• Ease- Very good. Inventory is performed consistently, to a high standard, with minimal time commitment.
Hybrid bar inventory systems:
• Setup cost: Medium. The standard setup cost for Bar-i’s hybrid system is $900. This includes all required equipment, software and one-to-one training.
• Overall cost: Medium. Hybrid systems cost more overall than in-house or DIY bar inventory systems since they include the time of a professional. Conversely they cost significantly less than full service systems since the most time consuming tasks are performed in house. Professionals are involved remotely and are only involved in the high value and technical elements which keeps the cost down.
• Effectiveness- High. While you do the counting on your own, professional help is only ever a phonecall away. Results are essentially the same as full service liquor inventory since reports are independently and professionally prepared.
• Speed- Fast. The speed is dependent on the exact system you use. Bar-i’s hybrid system uses a map system which avoids having to scan every bottle every time, voice command to enable faster counting and without a handheld device tying up one of your hands, you can use two hands.
In summary I’d say that in-house bar inventory systems are ineffective. The availability of reasonably prices, and more effective, alternatives mean you’ll get a positive return on the money you spend implementing a better system. Make your choice of the three other types based on what suits your specific situation best. Ultimately the bar inventory system which is most effective at your bar will be the best value.