Bar inventory and ‘mise en place’
Bar inventory and ‘mise en place’: Those who have worked in kitchens might well be familiar with the French term ‘mise en place’ meaning everything in its place. This concept is common in kitchens but inconsistent in its application to bar inventory despite making equally good sense. The idea is very simple when applied to your bar inventory: Every item which a bartender needs during a shift has a set position within easy reach and sufficient backup product so as not to have to interrupt serving customers during the normal course of service.
The benefit of following the principle of ‘mise en place’ for bar inventory is to allow your bartenders to be more efficient, make drink orders more quickly and therefore improve customer experience and liquor sales. Here are some thoughts on applying mise en place to your bar’s inventory in practice. Obviously you need to apply the principles to your bar given space constraints etc.
Behind the bar
• Setup your bar in stations in a way that, at a minimum, each bartender has their own well and as far as possible can access all the items they need without having to make more than a step or two
• Every product a bar stocks should have a set position at each bartending station and every bartender follows that system. At least to start with it’s important that positions be labeled so there is no room for confusion about the correct place for each product • The most important thing is not where everything is placed but that it has a spot where everyone knows where to find it • The most popular products should be in the most convenient places (typically the wells) • Backups of popular products are kept behind the bar according to par levels based each product’s popularity
• Par levels are checked and stocked before each shift to reduce interruptions to serving customers (your daytime bartender stocks before they leave so the night time bartender has everything he/ she needs)
• Inventory levels of low volume products which don’t have dedicated backups are checked each shift so that spares of bottles that are about to run out are collected during setup and placed in a designated spot behind the bar
• You can buy a fancy label maker to print pretty looking labels for every item in your bar inventory but we suggest simply using scotch tape and a sharpie: It’s cheap, you always have it on hand and the ease of making new labels means you may even keep up to date as the items in your bar’s inventory change over time
Liquor storage area
• In your liquor storage area, products are grouped together (e.g. whiskeys with other whiskeys) and individual products have their own spaces which are again labeled
• Every product has a par
• A bartender or manager should be able to virtually go and grab any backup liquor item with their eyes closed
• Labeling is a pain to do in the first place but will help things operate more smoothly once it’s done
• In coolers behind the bar, every item again has a fixed position and par so that every bartender can find it without looking and knows when it has to be stocked
• Pars for backup cases of beer and kegs are again based on how much volume you use
Much of what I’m suggesting here about pars and how to organize your bar inventory is very straightforward. While most managers and owners would say they already apply the principles to their bar, go and take a second look at your bar inventory and you’ll almost certainly find opportunities for improvements. As Ace says in Casino, “Listen to me very carefully. There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way, and the way that *I* do it. You understand?” In my experience as the owner of a liquor inventory company, I find that the best run bars have their established position for every product in their inventory and a established system for everything they do.
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