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Bar-i Liquor Inventory Blog

How to Cut Your Bar Inventory Counting Time in Half

Let’s face it, counting inventory is a truly miserable task. We always joke about the fact that we don’t even like doing it and we’re a bar inventory company. While we say this in jest, there’s a bit of truth to the comment as well. We’re passionate about doing the data analysis and providing the recommendations that will help your bar make more money, but the actual counting aspect of the inventory process is boring and repetitive. It’s easily our least favorite component of performing inventory audits, so we understand how your staff most likely feels about counting inventory.

Most bars lose 10-20% of what they pour due to shrinkage. Therefore, while counting inventory may be boring, it’s an important task that can help you identify what’s missing and take the steps necessary to correct these issues. While your bar inventory efforts provide a powerful tool to address shrinkage, it requires either weekly or biweekly counts. Monthly inventory counts simply don’t provide enough data to effectively evaluate the performance of each product you sell in order to take actions necessary to reduce your shrinkage.

Since counting inventory is an essential task that must be performed on a regular basis and it’s also a bit of a chore to do, you understandably want to complete this process as fast as possible. Bars and restaurants typically operate on thin margins and your managers have higher value tasks to perform than counting inventory. Therefore, if you can reduce the time spent on counting, it’ll be beneficial to your business.

Most Bars Are Counting Inventory in an Inefficient Manner

The most common counting methods – using a paper and pen, Google sheets, or an inventory app on your phone – create a variety of problems:

  • bartender performing a bar inventory countInaccurate – Most of these methods use a tenthing approach to identify how much is left in each bottle. In other words, your counter estimates how many tenths of the bottle remains full and records this value on the spreadsheet. This process only gives you an estimate of how much liquor is left in the bottle, and you aren’t able to objectively measure precisely how much is missing.

  • Time Consuming – These processes require manual searching to record inventory values on alphabetical spreadsheets. Without true shelf-to-sheet software mapping provided by sophisticated inventory systems, the order of the products where you’re recording information will never match the order of products behind your bar. This will increase the time it takes to record your inventory values, and it also increases the risk of errors.

  • Manual Data Transfer – If you’re still counting with a pen, paper and clipboard, you have another step to complete. After counting, you’ll need to spend time transferring the data from your clipboard to a spreadsheet on your computer. This increases the time it takes to count and increases the risk of errors.

  • Auditability – You don’t have a detailed paper trail of your counting efforts. As a result, it’s hard to go back and confirm the count later on if you discover you’re missing a significant amount of product. This creates challenges in finding errors and identifying miscounts.

Using Sophisticated Inventory Software Improves the Efficiency of Your Counts

The first part of the solution to your counting problem is to start using more sophisticated inventory software. These solutions will provide several important benefits:

There’s a Catch: Additional Factors Impact Your Counting Time

It’s important to mention a caveat here. Good inventory software only addresses half the problem. There are a variety of other factors that impact how fast you’re able to count. These include:

  • bartenders counting inventoryOrganization – The better organized your bar is, the faster your counting will go. When you adhere to bar organization best practices, you won’t have to open broken cases to see what’s inside, and you won’t have to reset your counting map all the time because your bottles will consistently remain in the same position behind the bar.

  • Product Rotation – Anytime you change up your product selection, you’ll need to update your counting system, and this can create delays. Inventory systems which use barcode scanners will speed up this process since all you have to do is scan the barcode for each new item and it will automatically be added to your system.

  • Physical Challenges – There is a physical component to counting inventory, such as lifting heavy kegs to weigh them, which can slow down your counting process and increase the risk of injuries.

  • Bartenders – The diligence with which your bartenders keep the bar organized and properly restock items will impact the speed of the counting process.

How to Measure Your Counting Speed

There is an objective way to measure your counting speed. To arrive at your counting speed, you’ll need to figure out how many product positions you count. A product position refers to a specific location where an item is being counted. For example, if you count Jack Daniels bottles in three separate locations (behind your main bar, behind an auxiliary bar and in your storeroom), then Jack Daniels has three product positions.

The average bar has about 500-800 product positions to count each time inventory is performed. Based on our extensive experience performing inventory services, we’ve found that the average bar can count 200-300 items an hour. Therefore, it takes 2-4 hours for most bars to complete their count, based on the specific number of product positions they have.

How’s the counting speed at your bar? It will only take a few minutes to figure out your total number of product positions. Divide this number by the hours it takes for your staff to complete an inventory count and you’ll have your counting speed. This is your baseline measurement to gauge your progress over time.

Bar-i’s Project 500 Will Help You Cut Your Counting Time in Half

Over the past 12 years, Bar-i has performed over 20,000 bar inventory audits. During this time, we’ve discovered a lot of tips and tricks that significantly speed up your counting time. We’ve developed Project 500 to pass along this valuable information to your team.

Unfortunately, there’s no one simple solution to speed up your counting time. Instead, a holistic approach is required to get your staff from counting 200-300 items an hour to counting 500 items an hour. That’s why Project 500 consists of 40 tips to speed up your counting time. When all 40 counting hacks are implemented, your staff should consistently be able to count 500 items an hour.

We feel that it’s much easier to explain these tips in a video than by providing a long-winded written guide for you to reference. However, bombarding you with a massive training video that takes several hours to work through can be overwhelming and is a poor way to absorb the information. Instead, we’ve broken these tips down into 40 separate videos to make this information more digestible. Each two-minute video contains one counting tip, and you can view them at your preferred pace.

Click on the button below to sign up to receive these videos. You’ll receive a new two-minute video each week. By the time you’ve gone through the entire series and implemented all of these tips at your bar, you should be able to count about 500 items an hour, which will significantly speed up your counting time.

Sign up for #Project500 video series emails

To learn more about how Bar-i can streamline your operations and help you maximize your profits, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We serve bars and restaurants nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.

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Topics: Liquor Inventory, Bar Inventory, Counting Inventory

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