Bar Inventory, Guides, Inventory, Management

Bar Inventory and Usage for Beginners

December 20, 2017

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

Bar Inventory and Usage for Beginners

How to count your bar inventory more efficiently!

We care about accurate bar inventory counts—really.

That’s why we make tools to make processes like inventory easier.

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Taking inventory probably isn’t the favorite task of any bar-back, bartender, bar manager, or bar owner. However, inventorying your liquor, beer, and wine doesn’t have to be archaic, disorganized, or time-consuming.

We’ll walk you through the entire inventory process—from counting bottles and cans at the front bar, to measuring kegs and cases in storage—using either a spreadsheet or your BevSpot account. Lastly, we’ll teach you how to calculate usage during an inventory period. This will help you get smarter about ordering new product.

Whether you’re implementing your first inventory system or want to improve your existing method, this six-step beginner’s guide will give you clear answers and tools for understanding your inventory. Let’s get counting, shall we?

Try BevSpot Inventory today with a Free Trial. Or, if you’re not ready to create an account yet, give our free inventory spreadsheet a try. Then, come back and follow these steps. Go ahead, we’ll wait here.

First: Understand why inventory matters

Taking inventory is important for maintaining a stocked bar, of course, but it also identifies:

  • How your bar is performing financially
  • What your product variance is and where your shrinkage is coming from
  • How to set pars for each product
  • What your pour cost should be for each product
  • Which products sell well, and which don’t

Step 1: Get set up at the front bar

The first step is to get things organized on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Pull up a blank spreadsheet or open a new inventory count in BevSpot. In your spreadsheet, designate columns for alcohol type, brand, name, bottle size, and storage area location. In BevSpot, create a storage area called ‘Front Bar.’ The rest of the categories are already created for you.

Although you probably store alcohol in more than one location, let’s start at your front bar.

Pro Tip: If you ultimately want an alphabetical list, you can filter your spreadsheet or BevSpot account later.

Spreadsheet vs. BevSpot

Spreadsheet: Separate your products into spirit, wine, and beer categories by sections of rows.

BevSpot: BevSpot will sort products into categories for you and works great on mobile devices.

Input your products to correspond with the order your alcohol is positioned in the front bar and the order in which you plan to count it. This will help you save time when counting.

Step 2: Start counting at the front bar

Once your spreadsheet or BevSpot inventory count is populated with your bottles in the correct order, it’s time to start counting.

We recommend counting bottles using the “tenthing” method. Inspect each bottle and note how much liquid is left inside, separating it visually into tenths. For example, round a bottle that is a third of the way full to 0.3, or 30% full.

Repeat this for each bottle at the bar, including spirits, wine, bitters, etc. Count cans and full bottles as single units.

Pro Tip: Your inventory counts will be easier and more consistent if you start and finish counting while the bar is closed.

Pro Tip: Take note of any major spills or breaks to separate these from how much has been poured. In BevSpot, you can log spills as soon as they happen.

Spreadsheet vs. BevSpot

Spreadsheet: Take a look at your bottle and round to the nearest tenth in your spreadsheet.

BevSpot: With BevSpot, you can use the bottle slider and input calculator for faster inputs.

Step 3: Count kegs, cases, and bottles

Once you’re finished with the front bar, repeat steps one and two for your back bar, walk-in, storage room, or any other parts of the bar where alcohol is kept. In your spreadsheet, add another column for each additional storage area. It’s likely that these areas will contain kegs, cases, and wine bottles. Here are the best methods for counting these items:


Estimate a keg’s fullness with a flow meter or the “kick and shake” method. Convert this number to a percentage and enter it in BevSpot or your spreadsheet. Or, with a scale and a standard-sized keg, enter the weight straight into BevSpot or your spreadsheet. BevSpot will convert your weight to a fullness percentage.

  • Weighing
  • Tenthing


Whether you have a case of liquor bottles or a case of beer cans, it’s better (and more common) to count cases by the number of individual units they contain. Make sure to combine full cases and stray cans or bottles in your count.

  • Single-serve
  • Multi-pour

Wine bottles

If you sell wine by the glass, it’s best to use the “tenthing” method we used for counting liquor bottles. If you sell wine by the bottle, count by full bottles and combine with cases.

  • Sold by the glass
  • Sold by the bottle

Pro Tip: Keep product separated in columns for different storage locations in your bar, or different BevSpot storage areas.

Step 4: Add up your inventory totals for each product

Now that you’ve counted all the alcohol in your establishment, it’s time to add up the totals for each item across locations. This will help you calculate how much product you’re using. BevSpot does this for you, but if you’re using a spreadsheet, calculate the total for each product by adding the totals in each location column.

Pro Tip: Make sure to also keep track of any product you receive between inventories (you can do this with your order invoices). This will be necessary for step six, where we’ll calculate usage.

Spreadsheet vs. BevSpot

Spreadsheet: Make sure you get your formulas right in your spreadsheet.

BevSpot: BevSpot adds your totals for you, while maintaining counts for each storage area. Get a full view on your count summary page.

Congratulations, you finished your starting inventory count! You’re done for the day. You’ll need to come back in a week, two weeks, or a month, to take your next inventory. You should decide in advance how often you will take inventory and make sure to keep them consistent.

Pro Tip: For most bars, we recommend a weekly inventory count for accuracy.

Step 5: Take your second inventory

After some time has passed—a week, two weeks, or a month—take a second inventory by repeating steps two through four. It’s best to do this in the exact same way as before, either in a new spreadsheet or in a new BevSpot inventory count.

Your first count is the “starting inventory” and your second count is the “ending inventory,” the beginning and end of your first inventory period. Having a start and an end will allow you to determine your usage (more on that next).

Pro Tip: Take your count the same way every time. If you counted from left to right during your first inventory at the bar, you should always count left to right.

Step 6: Calculate usage

Now that you have a starting and ending inventory count, as well as a record of any product inventory you received during the period, you can calculate usage.

BevSpot can really help here: we’ll calculate usage for you. If you’re still using a spreadsheet, create a new sheet with the following columns: type, brand, name, bottle size, starting inventory (total of all locations from your first inventory), received inventory (all the product you received during the period), and ending inventory (total of all locations from the second inventory). Use the basic formula below to find this period’s usage.

Pro Tip: Save a ton of time and eliminate all the math by using BevSpot. As soon as you’ve got two finalized inventories, BevSpot will calculate usage for you at item-level.

Spreadsheet vs. BevSpot

Spreadsheet: Make sure your formulas in your spreadsheet are set up correctly.

BevSpot: BevSpot automatically calculates usage based on your starting, received, and ending inventories. See your product usage numbers on your count summary page or dig deeper in a usage report.

The takeaway

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to take inventory and calculate usage at your bar, and why they’re both important. Happy counting!

We can compare spreadsheets and BevSpot side by side, but only one is guaranteed to save you time and money. Start a free trial today to experience faster inventory, integrated ordering, and automatic usage calculation.

Ready to change the way you take inventory?

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