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Restaurant Resource Center

Bar Cost Control: 6 Bar Accessories & Practices That Save You Money

Bar Cost Control: 6 Bar Accessories & Practices That Save You Money

It's not enough to charge the right price to cover the cost of making and serving drinks. Successful bar owners know they can save money and cut expenses by carefully choosing bar accessories and bartending equipment, and by instituting cost-control policies like these:

1. Set up a POS System

“A point-of-sale system is the heartbeat of any successful bar,” says Ken Pisarcik, co-owner of the Las Vegas Lounge in Philadelphia. “Not only does it act as your cash register, but it allows you to track sales and identify ideal inventory levels and compare those to your actual stock, which can reduce shrinkage.”

2. Take Inventory Regularly

The best way to reduce shrinkage (or loss) is frequent inventories and spot liquor checks, according to Mattson Davis, president and CEO of Kona Brewing Company, headquartered in Kailua-Kona, HI. “The register may say one thing, but make sure the liquor count matches up with how much was sold,” he says. “Also have a proper par and pull system in place. For every liquor bottle that leaves inventory there should be an empty bottle.” The “par” level isn't about your golf game. It's the total amount of each item to be kept on hand. Monitoring it helps avoid running out or overstocking.

3. Choose the Right Drinkware

If you serve bigger drinks, your costs are bigger, too, and may not be accounted for in industry-standard margins. “Most bars' margins are set up to sell 4.5- to 5-ounce drinks, but if you have a 10-ounce glass, it's not going to fill up with that,” cautions Gary Crunkleton, owner of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, NC. “Get your pours matched up with the size of your glass.” And be sure you have enough glasses. Run out of drinkware and you run out of opportunities to sell.

4. Stock Smart

One of the biggest money losers is liquors that don't sell. “It's important, especially for a small bar, not to have too broad a selection,” says Jean Pierre Leroux, general manager of Waterleaf Restaurant in Glen Ellyn, IL. “If you have a customer who says, ‘why don't you have this particular vodka or gin, and nobody drinks it except them when they come in once a month, you're losing money. You want product that moves, not money on the shelf.”

5. Use Spouts/Pourers & Jiggers

A heavy pour may make bartenders popular with patrons, but it kills your margins. The humblest of bar supplies, the pour spout ensures faster and more consistent measuring, avoiding the dreaded over-pour, or the “make it again, Sam” under-pour, both of which cost you money. Avoid cork spouts that deteriorate quickly. Rubber or soft plastic spouts are preferred. Train bartenders to hold one finger on the pourer when dispensing, just in case the spout's seal is loose. This prevents dumping liquor in an expensive accident.

Jiggers are recommended for premium liquors (pourers “cheapen” the experience). “Jiggers help bartenders avoid over-pouring expensive, top-shelf spirits, which have a lower profit margin,” says Jennifer Benedict, assistant general manager of Sip Tasting Room & Rooftop Lounge in Greenville, SC.

6. Choose Equipment Carefully

Properly chilled beer and wine keeps inventory fresh and customers content. “Beer served at a colder temperature with proper air pressure can increase the yield on a keg from 70 percent to well over 90 percent,” Pisarcik says. “This can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a week, depending on your volume. In addition, customers will be happier with a colder beer, which means more repeat sales.” Select bartending equipment that meets your beverage requirements. And if you stock fine wines, invest in wine bottle chillers or coolers so you can serve at the appropriate temperature.

Don't let bad pours and other pitfalls drink up your margins. Use these bar accessories, bartending equipment and expert insights to ensure your bar makes money.

Carrboro, NC-based Margot Carmichael Lester grew up in a gourmet grocery and parlayed that into a career writing about food, drinks and business for a variety of outlets, including in-flight magazines, consumer titles and Web sites. She has owned her own business, The Word Factory, for two decades. A devotee of dining at the bar, she favors sparkling wines and anything with bacon.