For starters, let me make it perfectly clear that it is not lost on me that I am posting an article on how to choose a liquor inventory system on a website that is selling a bar inventory app. I am perfectly aware of how self-serving this appears to be, so no need to inform me.
I created the Bar Patrol Inventory System based on these 7 factors, so though it will seem biased, unlike my competitors, I've taken thousands of inventories in my lifetime because I offer full services as well.
In the end, you should definitely find a system that aligns with what YOU want and what’s best for your bar or you won’t be happy when it’s all said and done.
FACTOR 1: IT SHOULD BE FAST AND EASY TO USE
What does that mean exactly? It means you shouldn’t have to haul around a laptop or a bunch of other equipment as you’re counting, but mostly it should be fast because all of your products should be appearing in a logical, organized pattern that moves you through quickly, and then all of your data should be syncing directly to your online account so you don’t have to re-enter the data into spreadsheets.
How fast should it be exactly? 40 - 70%. That's it.
Any company who claims that you can do inventory in 15 - 20 minutes with their systems--unless it is a small inventory--are flat out liars. In fact, I have a standing challenge to those companies who make that claim to come take inventory for one our clients and finish in 15-20 minutes, and if they succeed I will give them $50,000. Yep, putting my money on the table. I’d like to see them back up their product with the same confidence.
The bottom line is, if the inventory system you’re looking into isn’t fast and easy, move along little doggie.
FACTOR 2: IT SHOULD BE ACCURATE
Seems obvious, I know, but software that does not have the option to weigh bottles means they rely on point-counting, which is a flawed and inconsistent measurement of your inventory. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but someone else’s 0.6 is going to be different from your 0.6. A good, accurate scale takes all the guess work out and allows you to feel confident that your numbers are dead-on. Take it a step further and find a system with a bluetooth scale and it is not only accurate, it adds to that whole speed and ease of use thing we just chatted about.
However, if you still want to point-count old-school, the software should do that too.
FACTOR 3: IT SHOULD NOT HAVE A SCANNER
No, you didn’t misread that. I feel so passionate about this element that it gets its own factor. I know having a scanner seems super bitchin’, but let me help reform and guide you. It’s not. When people call about our software, they often ask, “Does it come with a scanner?” the answer is a resounding NO.
Why do they suck so bad? 1) You have to hold a scanner the entire time which ties up one of your hands. 2) It’s extra hardware you have to pay money for and keep track of and keep from breaking. 3) You spend half your time lining the laser up with the UPC code trying to get it to register until you find yourself shaking it as hard as you can and cursing at the top of your lungs. 4) It’s just not necessary, and in fact it slows you down.
FACTOR 4: IT SHOULD BE AFFORDABLE
Let me say this: just about every inventory system, no matter what one you choose, is worth the money because it is going to get you your money back and then some. Not to mention it’s going to save you time, organize your business, eliminate your paper trail and simply help you run a smarter business.
I wonder every single day: In this day and age would anyone keep doing inventory the old way? You don't have a flip phone or dial-up internet do you? Once you have this system in your hands, you'll never go back.
But I digress. There are quite a few systems and softwares out there that can do the job, and you don’t need to spend a ton of money. The cost of software can range from $0 if you’re using a spreadsheet to $10,000 up front if you’re putting in those electronic rails that weigh the bottles as the bartenders work.
The truth is though, most of them can do the job, so you need to find one that has all of the factors listed in this article, AND doesn’t cost you $300 - $400 per month. For $75 - $125 per month you can find top of the line software and it’s going to save you $5,000 - $6,000 per month on average. That’s about 55 to 1 ROI. Your booze gets you back about 5 to 1, and you thought that was good. What is there to think about?
FACTOR 5: IT SHOULD BE ABLE TO AUTOMATICALLY ORDER FOR YOU
Some systems are better than others. Some are built right into the accounting system you might use, which means you will probably pay a little more, but that might be worth it to you to streamline.
In the end, what the system needs to do is read your pars, how much you have on-hand and simply tell you how much to order each week so you don’t have to think about it. Features like this further organize your business and save you time. Make sure your system does.
FACTOR 6: IT SHOULD BE ABLE TO UPLOAD SALES DATA FROM YOUR POS
If you want to find out how much your bartenders are over-pouring, you will want this feature.
If the system you’re looking at doesn’t have a way to measure the sales vs. the usage, or you have to manually input the sales data instead of uploading instantly from your POS, run like starving Rottweilers are chasing you. That’s going to take you 30 minutes at least and we’re trying to streamline here and save time, not add more.
FACTOR 7: THE COMPANY BEHIND THE PRODUCT SHOULD PROVIDE FANTASTIC SUPPORT AND SERVICE
This is a soap-box factor for me. One thing that will cause me to stab myself in the neck repeatedly with a fork is when companies charge me money and then they disappear. If you don’t get a good feeling from the company right from the start, it’s not going to change, so cut them loose early.
Don’t be an abuse victim and claim that they apologized and said they’d never do it again.
As a "sub-factor" to #7, I believe part of good service and support is setting your account up for you for free, as this is one of the most difficult and time-consuming endeavors of any inventory management system. It can be confusing at first, so if they offer to set you up, especially for free, they get a gold star in service in my book.
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Cheers, until next time,