March 3, 2021

How to Manage Your Restaurant Inventory System the Right Way

Managing inventory the right way not only prevents losing track of supplies and catching theft but also provides invaluable customer insights.
Ciprian Rarau

When it comes to a restaurant inventory system, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to manage it. Inventory on its own is a pretty simple concept. For one, it ensures your remaining stock is in accordance with your invoice and sales records. However, bar inventory tends to be trickier than that as liquor is sold by the shot rather than the bottle.

Given the inherent complications in liquor inventory, it’s incredibly important for restaurants and bars to manage it efficiently. Managing inventory the right way not only prevents losing track of supplies and catching theft but also provides invaluable customer insights. With this, you’ll be able to improve your menu items, pricing, service, and more.

4 Best Practices for Maintaining your Restaurant Inventory System

While there are many different ways to keep stock of your beverage inventory, none are as quick and easy, nor as beneficial to future sales, as using comprehensive inventory software. The following list will provide you with some restaurant inventory best practices and answer key questions that you can use to manage your liquor inventory system correctly.

1. Train your employees to conduct inventory correctly and take stock consistently

Inventory management in the restaurant industry requires consistency and well-trained employees to be successful. To start, pick a few employees to train as this will minimize differences in counting and other inconsistencies.

Most importantly, your employees should be trained on how to measure the amount of liquid in each bottle and how to account for incoming orders (since the last inventory check). In addition, utilizing a scale to manage your restaurant inventory system will go a long way to ensuring accurate measurements across employees and bottle types. Beyond using the same techniques, instruct your employees to do inventory at the same time of the week and day. Next, give each their own login to your bar inventory application or software for tracking.

For example, if you have three employees trained to take inventory, you must ensure that if one takes inventory on Monday at 3pm, then they all take inventory at Monday at 3pm. This is incredibly important whether inventory is taken once per week or once per month. As a result, you’ll be able to avoid any gaps in calculations, costs, or missed products.

2. Integrate inventory systems with your other software and processes

Integrating restaurant POS systems with inventory software is one of the best ways to streamline the inventory process and avoid mistakes. In fact, integrating all the systems or applications you have at your disposal allows you to automatically update your stock levels based on each sold drink. Because of this, you’ll save yourself time and hassle.

In addition to tracking the drinks that you sell, integrating with your POS system allows you to thoroughly track profit made off different drink recipes. This is done to better maximize what you make and which type of liquor to use for your most popular drinks.

Also, using additional restaurant management systems like EatApp, an application designed to make organizing online reservations easier, in combination with your other software is something you seriously need to consider if you want to ensure a successful establishment overall.

Trying to keep track of sales information without integrating software requires accurately tracking stock, customers, purchase orders, and beverages that sell each day. It also involves regularly updating your spreadsheets very carefully with full attention to detail. Clearly, it’s much easier allowing your software systems to do all the hard work for you.

3. Pay attention to customer wants and seasonal trends

Even the best-kept spreadsheets and most advanced inventory systems aren’t much help if you don’t take the time to learn from the information made available to you. On a day-to-day basis, study your customer’s habits and preferences to go with the most cost-effective liquor for your mixed beverages. In other words, you should go with the liquors which will give you the best ROI (return on investment). Good restaurant inventory management software should help you accomplish all of these things and more, without needing to invest significantly more time or effort.

Another effective strategy is to look into previous sales data and current restaurant trends to gather useful information. This will help you predict when you’ll need additional inventory or might experience increased demand for specific products. For instance, you wouldn’t want to go into a holiday like Cinco de Mayo without ordering extra tequila or guacamole.

4. Keep profitability in mind

The last and most important of the restaurant inventory techniques is to always keep an eye on profit. It’s not only critical to minimize any loss of profit, but also to maximize sales.

In the world of liquor inventory, there are several negative aspects to be aware of. The first one is shrinkage, which means any inventory that goes unaccounted for from spills, over pouring, free drinks, misplacing product or simply miscounting. Next is employee theft, which can be counted as a part of shrinkage but requires its own unique, delicate strategies to solve. Another significant risk is dead stock, or product that takes more than six months to sell.  

At the same time, managing your restaurant inventory system the right way provides information that allows you to maximize profit. When using inventory software, you can accomplish intelligent ordering and anticipate your future inventory needs more accurately. Ultimately, you should use your inventory data to optimize drink prices, create deals and promotions, and more.  

Now that you’re equipped with best practices to manage your restaurant inventory system, we’ll answer a few common questions and clear some potential roadblocks.

How do you take inventory in a restaurant?

Liquor inventory in a restaurant or bar setting revolves around tracking supplies to ensure existing stock matches invoices and sales. That’s why frequency is key– so you’re not overstocking perishable items, excessively giving away free drinks, or over pouring. The process for taking inventory works like this:

First, break up your alcohol stock into categories. For most restaurants, these categories will be beer, wine, and liquor. Liquor should also be divided by major types such as vodka, whiskey, rum, etc.

Next, count the number of bottles of each brand currently on hand and check them against your sales records. This is where a POS integration with your restaurant inventory management app comes in handy! If you have no reason to suspect theft, and are not working to make up for past inventory mistakes, then conduct inventory on a weekly or biweekly basis. If theft or miscounts are suspected, you should do inventory more often until the situation is resolved.

It’s important throughout the inventory process to account for shrinkage. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to avoid losing small amounts of alcohol in a restaurant. To help account for lost stock when possible, train employees to report significant spills or broken bottles.

How much liquor inventory should a restaurant carry?

Evidently, a restaurant needs to be equipped with enough alcohol to meet its customers needs without running out or without even coming close to running out. However, you also want to avoid overstocking as unused supplies can be a drain on your bottom line.

So, how much liquor inventory do you need and how much is too much? To find out, you’ll need to calculate your usage. In order to do this, you must take your starting and ending inventory count and your record of any product inventory you received during a given time period.

Then, you will need to use a relatively easy formula: starting inventory + received inventory - ending inventory = usage. Usage will tell you how much liquor your restaurant used in a specific time period, allowing you to order accurately for the future and plan for busy or slow periods as well. (Note: most inventory software will calculate usage for you).

How do you calculate ending inventory?

Your ending inventory, mentioned above in the usage formula, is how much liquor your bar has used since the last inventory check. So, every time you take inventory after the very first time will give you an ending inventory.

It’s calculated by subtracting the amount of liquor you have on hand from your final number at the previous count. This is not including any additional purchase orders during that time.

Why do you need restaurant inventory management software?

If it wasn’t already clear, there is a LOT of work involved in conducting inventory the right way. Software makes the whole process easier. The more features your software has, the easier the process is.

From predictive analytics to an integrated scale and automated purchase orders, there are many factors to consider when making the decision for which software to choose. You’ll need to go with the one that makes the most sense for your business and its needs. To do this you should consider the number of users available, total cost, and whether it integrates with your existing systems.

The solution? WISK.

There’s clearly a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a software to manage your restaurant inventory system. Luckily, there’s one that has everything you need to run a successful business and it’s WISK. Our team is made up of restaurant owners, so we understand your business and what you need.

Above all, WISK is the right move for your bottom line. Our software is proven to decrease inventory time by 80 percent and minimize over pouring by 90 percent. Interested? Check out our current happy customers and book a demo online to experience it for yourself. Please visit for more information.


Taking inventory should not take hours.