10 Must Ask Interview Questions For Hiring the Perfect Server or Bartender

Here’s a fact: In the past three years I have asked approximately 50 owners and managers what their #1 pain point is in running their business. I’d say 45 of those 50 stated that managing and motivating employees was their top pain-in-the-ass issue that they wish would just go away.

If you are an owner or manager, you are nodding your head right now with a bitter sneer because we’ve all had to manager those employees that drive us insane.

“Really? You didn’t notice that table six’s Cokes have been empty for 10 minutes? You weren’t sure if it was your job to refill all the ketchups before you left?  Tell me again how much you hate kids because they’re messy, and about the 10% tip you received. And if you could please, please, please explain to me how it is that you’re entitled to a 25% tip every time someone sits at your table based on the impressive way you stand there and text your boyfriend, I would LOVE to hear it.”

(By the way, I’m aware that bitching about people who bitch is both an oxymoron and hypocritical, yet I choose to ignore it because it’s my blog).


The bad news: the turnover rate in the hospitality industry is 85% higher than other industries, mostly because bussers, servers and bartenders are just stopping off on their way to a “real” career, and also because a lot of managers simply hire knuckle-heads because they don’t want the hassle of interviewing candidates. Translation: they don’t want to do their jobs properly.

The good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. If you know what you’re doing, finding a good staff is absolutely a reality you can enjoy. The key is to hire better so that you can hire less, and in the process you will have fewer ass pains in the day-to-day operations of your business.

After all, this is your front line. These are the people who are marketing your business and building its reputation. No matter how good YOU are with people, you’re only one person. Everyone needs to be putting a good face on the business or it will get branded with a black-eye, and those are very hard to come back from.

So, the better you get at asking the right questions, the better you will be at finding the cream of the crop employees, which leads to the less turnover and less interviews.  But make no mistake about it, hiring is just a way of life in this industry, so stop whining, hike up your big girl panties and get over it.


I am now going to give you my best interview questions that I have crafted and chiseled over time until I found what works. You are welcome to form your own, and you can too, as long as you follow this one philosophy: Create questions that reveal the candidates personality and level of empathy. DO NOT ask the same canned questions you find on the Internet that are geared toward experience and things like, “If your last boss were to describe you with three adjectives, what would they be?”  ARRRRGGHHHH! Lame!

Remember, personality is king, with intelligence and hard-work close behind.

1. Who is your best friend? Why is she (he) your best friend?

Seems like an odd question, but here we are looking for statements of caring, sentiment, a big heart, and perhaps some story telling ability. Do his/her eyes light up with passion and love? Or are they like a deer in the headlights? We want to see if they can carry a conversation here.

2. What excites you about this business or this industry? Why did you choose it?

This business can often be perceived as “beneath” real jobs and careers, so I often see candidates show some hesitation about declaring their excitement about serving food and drinks. We want to see if they come back with a positive response or if they show any hesitation. Throw the hesitaters out.

3. You have a guest who is angry with the service/food/music, etc. and claims they won’t be coming back. How do you solve this issue?

Any situational question is good because we can test their common sense and experience at the same time.

4. What’s something you have done in your life that you are particularly proud of?

This one is a bit cliche, but it’s still a good one. We want to see how confident they are sharing things about themselves, and to find out if they’ve ever actually done something noteworthy. If they can’t think of anything, it’s not likely that they are going to start doing noteworthy things at your bar/restaurant.

5. When you think about this bar/restaurant, what are your impressions of it? What do you like? What would make it better?

Simliar to #2, but the 3rd question in this set, “What would make it better?” gives you a chance to see if you have a visionary or a thinker on your hands. Anyone who has ideas to make this industry a better place for both the work environment and guests is gold.

6. Why should I hire you as opposed to the 10 other people that are interviewing for this job?

This question has been around forever and should never go away. You are asking them point blank: Sell yourself to me. If they can’t, then they don’t really have that much confidence in themselves and a red light should be flashing bright warning signs to you.

7. What are your aspirations for the future? Do you have a field that you are interested in pursuing or do you have career in mind?

It’s true that you would like to know if they are going to graduate in three months and leave you, but they’re not going to tell you that anyway becaue they want the job. More importantly, this question finds out if they are a motivated person. If they say, “Ummmm, not really sure right now. Just sort of playing it by ear,” tell that person thanks for coming in, now get the hell out.

8. If you saw a fellow employee giving away free drinks or stealing, what would you do?

The #1 problem in bars/restaurants today? Employee theft and dishonesty. This should be a “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb” question. If they hesitate at all or dance around the question or give you any other answer than, “I would report it directly to you,” then say good day to you and show them the door. Bar dishonesty and conformity is an epidemic that is contagious. Don’t let them in your house.

9. If we hired you, how many people do you think you could get to come in each week? How would you do it?

I recently started using this question because I realized that some of my most valuable employees were the ones bringing people into the bar. It’s like having a built-in ad agency. And it’s free. Many candidates will be thrown by this question, I’ve noticed, but the ones who don’t hesitate aren’t bullshitting. They know how many friends they can get in there, and the idea actually excites them.

10. How do you think you could you make this place more successful?

Another vision question that gets them thinking and talking. If they have a good answer to this question, there is value to be mined here.

My best advice to owners and managers when it comes to the interview is to ask yourself if every question you are prepared to ask gets them talking so you can evaluate their personality and intelligence. Some of the questions you really want to know the answer to (Fellow employee stealing), and some of them are set up to see how they interact with you in a stressful situation.

Best of luck, and cheers, until next time.

The RB

1 Bar and Liquor Inventory App From Bar Patrol

Inventory sucks.  No argument there. And a good inventory system will definitely make it easier so you can run your business more efficiently and profitable, but the problem is that bar and liquor inventory software is sprouting up all over the place, overrunning our industry like a legion of ants converging on a sticky counter top. So where do you begin trying to find the right bar and liquor inventory software for your bar and restaurant?

Since Bar Patrol was founded in 2011, we have seen a couple dozen or so inventory apps/systems emerge during that time and scramble to tell the bar industry how amazing they are, even though the people behind the curtain aren’t necessarily “bar industry legit”. Turns out many of them are just a bunch of Silicon Valley tech geeks jumping on the good idea wagon.

And so how do you choose one that’s right for you? As an owner or manager, implementing new procedures for you and your staff is overwhelming enough, let alone having an array of systems to choose from.

As a result, many of you will eventually throw your hands up in disgust and simply stay with the routine you know and are comfortable with: the old clipboard and tally mark routine. But that’s not good for your business. Or for you.

In the end, you must find a bar liquor and inventory system that is the best fit for you, because all these companies are claiming that their system is the best thing since the Snuggy, which is a total lie because the Snuggy is flat-out awesome.

When it comes down to it, there’s a lot to consider:

Are you a small bar or are you a mega-huge nightclub with 11 satellite bars.

Do you want you something more complex with lots of hardware, including laptops and scanners? Or do you want the ease of a mobile device and app?

Do you need exhaustive analytics that can tell you how many oz. Sally poured 9 seconds ago and the weather report for the next 3 days? Or do you just want to count your inventory faster so you can do your ordering and figure your pour cost percentage? Or somewhere in between?

That’s what I had to figure out when I first founded Bar Patrol and had to determine what type of software I was going to create for me and my clients. And after trying several other systems and software out, and after taking literally thousands of inventories for my business, I still wasn’t sure what owners and managers wanted. And that’s because I thought they wanted and needed their inventory system to have as many features as possible.

As a result, when I first started designing the skeleton of the Bar Patrol App for my developers to create, I told them I wanted it to produce every report you could imagine and integrate with every piece of software that the restaurant industry had to offer and bake me a lasagna while it was at it.

But the more features I added, the more complicated it got and the more difficult it was to train the owners and managers on how to use it (not to mention the cost I was incurring to my developers to have all these features added). Eventually the owners and managers just got frustrated and wouldn’t use it.

So I eventually stopped what I was doing and I got smart. I went out and spoke with more than two dozen owners and managers face-to-face about what they would want in an inventory system, and the same answer kept coming back. 1) They wanted inventory to be faster, 2) They wanted it to be easy to use, and 3) They didn’t want to spend a lot of money to get it. That’s it.

Message received.  And so I went back to the drawing board and came up with the new vision: Fast, simple and affordable.

After all, I realized, we’re bar managers. We’re smart enough, but we’re not accountants or micro-biologists. We have employees to lead and guests to take care of. We don’t have time to figure a bunch of shit out. We just want the systems we use to work and make our lives easier and help us do our jobs better. Is that so much to ask?

When the new app and software was finally finished, I took it back to my clients to try out and I had them use it for a month. At the end of the month, the feedback was very positive. Some of them actually HUGGED me, which is good unless you’re like Rainman and you start screaming at the top of your lungs whenever someone touches you.

Since then, the vision has remained intact. Fast. Simple. Affordable. And that’s the way it should be, considering the mile-long list you have to attend to on a daily basis.

This is not the article to list all of the benefits and features of our app and online system, so if you’d like to learn more, visit Barpatrol.net and see if we’re a good fit for you. After all, that’s the most important factor in any area of life, isn’t it? Your relationships, your clothes, the car you drive, the services you subscribe to…they all have to be a good fit for you.

We all have different tastes and needs, and what works for one person/company does not work for another. So find what works for you, and then take the action to implement it into your business so you can be more successful. And sane. That’s all we can ask for.

Best of luck.

Cheers, until next time,

Dave, The RB

Bar Inventory in 15 Minutes, My Ass!

Partender inventory

I have a standing challenge to any bar inventory software company who claims their app and software can count inventory in 15 minutes: Come do inventory for one of my clients and if you can do it in 15 minutes, I will give you $50,000. I’m not kidding. And not with 6 people using 6 devices. Anyone can do that. It still adds up to 90 minutes of labor and bars aren’t going to have 6 people taking inventory for them.

Why the challenge? Because companies like these are the result of modern-day inflated marketing tactics and an over-exaggeration of the girth they’re carrying under the hood, which always leads to a very unsatisfying experience for the user. This leads me to believe they are compensating for something.

The fact is, inventory software makes counting MUCH faster, it’s true. 50 – 70% faster, which is Awesome with a capital “A”.

But 6 hours to 15 minutes? That’s your claim? Bring it on. I’d love to see that. Can you also sell me a car that takes driving from L.A. to New York from 7 days down to 5 hours? Because it’s the exact same thing.

Here’s the truth: the inventory software you use is simply a tool for counting inventory. Like a hammer. So this would be like promising: Build a house in 3 days using our amazing hammer, but then you come to find out upon viewing the blueprints that the house is the size of a port-a-potty and that in order to build a 2,000 square foot house it will actually take 3 months or 30 guys with 30 hammers (i.e. multiple devices).

I have no problem with creative marketing, but I am extremely wary of who I crawl in bed with when choosing a product or service that I will be relying on for an extended period of time, and when wild promises are made that are direct fabrications, I wonder what else they will promise that they will not deliver on.

Perhaps I’m just being a drama queen. Perhaps I’m over-emotional because my daughter just turned 13 and I’m having sympathy hormones, but I’m all about being upfront about what your client will get and then over-delivering on the promises we make, not under-delivering and then hoping they won’t notice and will keep paying us money every month.

Like I said, $50,000. Standing challenge. Be a company that backs your promises with real action and I will pay up. Will you do the same?

Cheers, until next time,

Dave, The RB

15 10 Greatest TV and Movie Bartenders of All Time

Someone emailed me the other day and asked me who I thought the greatest Hollywood bartender of all time was, and seeing as I have chosen to unearth and report all things bar-related in the industry (and perhaps occasionally outside the industry), I decided to do better than simply name the single greatest silver screen bartender, and rank, categorize and index the greatest ten.


What I found disappointed the shit out of me.  Of the ten listed, only two of them show any evidence of ever getting laid.  These are bartenders, for Christ’s sake!


Even so, after 18 hours of deliberation and shaking my head in disgust, here is my list for greatest television and movie bartenders of all time.  At the end, I would love to hear your opinions, but please don’t tell me that Jackie Gleason or the guy from A Wonderful Life belong on this list or I will have to bang my head on my keyboard for the next six hours.  Those characters only had sex to procreate and I’m not having it.  Here’s how I see it:


#10  Danny Trejo as Razor Charlie  in From Dusk Till Dawn

Danny Trejo

Not a big role, but anytime a bartender turns into a vampire, you have to put him in the top ten list or he might climb through my window at 4:00 a.m. and t-bone my neck.  Trejo was also the bartender in one of my other favorites, Anchorman, which must also be mentioned simply because it’s one of  my favorite scenes in the movie:


Trejo: “You know, times are changing. Ladies can do stuff now. And you’re gonna have to learn how to deal with that.”

Ron: “What? Were you saying something? Look, I don’t speak Spanish.”


#9  Joe Turkel as Lloyd in The Shining

Creepy Lloyd

I gotta be honest, if I was forced to choose who to go one-on-one with in a dark closet, I’d take on Razor Charlie the vampire any day before I mess with Lloyd.


He is flat out SHUDDERSOME!  That deadpan face and his calm, polite replies are dead giveaways to a dark satanic power you don’t want to fuck with.


There’s something about calm people that scare the shit out of me, because it always seems like they know something that I don’t, something dreadfully bad that has to do with me.  There’s little doubt in my mind that Lloyd could reach over the bar and separate your chest plate to extract your heart anytime he wants to  (shiver).


#8  Frank Santorelli as Georgie the Bartender in The Sopranos


Georgie is the mafia’s personal bartender at the Bada Bing and could be the older brother of Lenny from Of Mice and Men.  Though not quite as dimwitted, Georgie is amiable and harmless but the mis-timed comments that come out of his mouth are a trigger for Tony to beat the tar out of him with nearby objects:  phones, ice trays, cash registers, chains, you name it.


Georgie is a pee-on and doesn’t really represent us very well as bartenders, but he is on one of the most popular series of all time, so he makes the list.


#7  Cheech Marin as the Short Bartender in Desperado

The Short Bartender

This is one of my favorite bartender scenes ever and my second favorite role by Cheech since he and Chong did Things are Tough All Over.  Cheech and Steve Buscemi get involved in a conversation that includes an entertaining, if not drawn out joke, from Buscemi as well as his witnessing the Mariachi’s murderous rampage at a previous bar.


Cheech, who at first regards Buscemi’s character with the same respect as a cockroach, suddenly gets very interested.

Bartender:  “So the bartender lived? (laughing) The bartender never gets killed.”

Buscemi:  No, man.  Bartender got it worse than anybody.

No amount of weed could save the short bartender, and he soon suffers the same fate.


#6  Ted Lange as Isaac Washington on The Love Boat


Isaac basically makes the rest of us bartenders look like a bunch of pricks. He smiles enough to make you think that he’s winning an Oscar every second of his life.  If he were a dog, he’d be a labrador, jumping on your lap and licking your face.


You might call him cheesy, but this extremely benevolent bartender from The Love Boat whipped up Pina Coladas and Mai Tais while solving all of the passengers’ problems in a single hour.  Though we know that Isaac isn’t one of the two bartenders on the list getting laid, when you think of great television bartenders, you gotta think of Isaac.


Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity

Kick-ass Assassin

Yeah, shut up, I know he’s not a bartender, but he’s Jason Bourne!  He gets to be on any top 10 list he wants.


#5 Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in Cocktail

Brian Flanagan

I know, he’s a turd, and though many think that Tom Cruise and rabies are kin, Cocktail did for flare bartending what Rounders did for Texas Hold ’em.


In the movie Brian Flanagan drops out of college to start bartending and with the help of his mentor, Doug Coughlin, Flanagan is spinning bottles like a Vegas veteran after about 7 minutes of training.


The movie is typical 80’s which means it’s awkward to even watch again, but the flipping bottle scene in the movie is totally tubular and lands a place for Cruise in the top 5 of this list.  Plus, he is one of the two bartenders on the list getting down with the ladies.


#4 Woody Harrelson as Huckleberry Tiberius “Woody” Boyd on Cheers

Woody singing “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly”

With the exception of #1 on this list there probably isn’t a more entertaining character on television than Woody Boyd.  There isn’t nearly enough room on this post to even try and express the belly laughs Woody gave me throughout the years.


The naive hick from Hanover, Indiana (voted smartest in his class) never met a conversation that wasn’t over his head.  All jokes, concepts and direct orders are misunderstood on a massive scale, which only contributes to his persona as “most lovable bartender ever”.


Woody once wrote a song for his girlfriend, Kelly, in which her name constitutes 90% of the lyrics.

Best Woody Quote:

Sam:  Is it me or is that woman gorgeous.

Woody:  You look nice, Sam but I’d have to go with the woman.


#3 Ted Danson as Sam Malone on Cheers

The Master

Oh, Sammy!  With a black book containing more names than there are words in the dictionary, you are to be worshipped and revered like the womanizing man-beast you are.

Sam, of course, is the other bartender on this list getting laid.  A LOT!  Sam is funny, athletic, a great bartender, and a ladies man worth his weight in gold (I resemble 3 of these 4 qualities; don’t ask me which one I’m not).


#2 Moe Szyslack on The Simpsons

Moe Szyslack

My wife said to me, “How can you list Moe so high in your rankings? He’s a cartoon.”  Are you kidding me?  How can you NOT?  He wields a shotgun behind the bar and wears an extension cord for a belt.

Moe’s character is so complex I probably need an entire post just about him.  Moe’s gargoyle-like features give all ugly people a glimmer of hope at ever becoming a bartender in this industry.


Despite his bar being in constant threat of going under, Moe always seems to have something in the works, usually shady and illegal, such as running a casino and a speakeasy, keeping African bees in his back room, smuggling pandas, hosting Russian roulette games and serving liquor even though his license expired in 1973 and is only valid in Rhode Island.


The comedy is endless and brilliant, and his incompetence as a bartender and business owner creates enough hilarity to push Moe all the way to #2 on the list.


Best Moe quote:  (At the drive-thru with a date) I’m not cheap baby. I’m embarrassed to be seen with you. There’s a big difference.


#1 Ian McShane as Al Swearengen in Deadwood

Al Swearengen

And the winner is…

That’s right, Al “Fuck, Shit, C-Word” Swearengen of Deadwood.  Nobody can match the brains, wit or brutal verbal and physical bashings that this guy can administer.


Tony Soprano is a titanic pussy compared to Al.  His name says it all, because Swear-engen curses more than Courtney Love who curses more than Al Pacino in Scarface, and that’s a fuckload. The worst part of the show is when Swearengen gets a kidney stone and almost dies.


He can’t speak for three episodes and I thought I might stab myself in the neck if I had to watch one more minute without that gorgeous mouth of his tearing new assholes faster than a stop sign goes up in America.


The show itself is decent, but Swearengen makes it more awesome than Jedi knights with lasers on their heads.  I love you, Al! Congrats on your number one TheRealBarman ranking.  Fuck yeah, motherfuckers!

Best Al Swearengen quote:  God rest the souls of that poor family… and pussy’s half price for the next 15 minutes.

P.S.  I lied, Swearengen also gets laid, but it’s such filthy (literally) sex and since it’s from his own prostitutes, it hardly counts.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:  People who made a dent, but not the A-list

Jim and Mike from the Regal Beagle on Threes Company – Any bar that has Jack Tripper drinking there while juggling sexual misunderstandings with redheads, blondes and his two female roommates, gets both Jim and Mike a mention here.

The girls from Coyote Ugly – Why did the girls from this god-awful film make the list, you ask?  They’re chicks dressed in skirts the size of dinner napkins. Duh!


Nicholas Colasanto as Eanie “Coach” Pantusso on Cheers – An elderly version of Woody.  They were both great, but there’s only room for one dipshit bartender on the list.


Glenn Strange as Sam Noonan in Gunsmoke – He was on a show as a bartender way too long not to get mentioned here.  Plus he carried a rifle behind the bar.


Bryan Brown as Doug Coughlin in Cocktail – Brian Flanagan’s mentor.  I just loved the way he said “Cocktails and Dreams” in his cool British accent.

Why is Bar Inventory SO Important? 3 Hard Truths You Need to Look at

I know you really don’t want to open up and read this article, because if you find out just HOW important your bar inventory is, it means you won’t be able to ignore it anymore. And yes, you’ve been ignoring it. That lazy count you do once per month on your clipboard is having the same impact as those shoes you buy that are supposed to shape your butt.

Problem is, everyone thinks that their business is failing for a variety of reasons, and while that is sort of true, there is really only one real reason, and it’s because they choose to ignore the issues that need to most attention.

Neglecting to monitor your inventory will have the same result as leaving your dog in the car with the windows rolled up in July.

Yes, I’m aware that is a very graphic metaphor, and despite the angry PETA emails I will receive, I need this to sink in.

Did you know at 7-Eleven stores that the franchisees are personally responsible for all of their inventory? The franchise head-honchos come in once per month and count everything, and whatever is missing, the franchisee owner has to pay for it out of his/her own pocket. Do you know why?


In fact, the average losses in the retail industry due to theft and losses is 1 – 2%.

Bar industry? Yep, you already know it. Or you’d better. 25%. You already pay the government 30% in taxes. Why are you allowing your bartenders to bleed another 25%?

I call it the Truffula Tree epidemic. The bartenders keep chopping your profits down until one day you look up and there’s no more green. Instead, your bar is a desolate wasteland of Gluppity-Glup and Schloppity-Schlopp and everyone packs up and goes home because you’re out of business.


I’ve said it time and time again, but let’s quickly acknowledge again that pour cost % measures your gross profit. That’s it. It does not show what’s missing. With pour cost as your major method of monitoring your bar inventory, it’s like you are looking through a keyhole when it comes to seeing how much your bartenders are raping you.

Bartenders LOVE pour cost % because they can do whatever they want and you won’t be able to pinpoint where the losses are coming from.


This is before taxes. That means if your bar brings in $1 Million in sales, you will clear $20,000 – $60,000, and THEN you’ll have to pay taxes. Hell, your bartenders are making $60,000, and 25% of that is supposed to be yours.


Yep, since the bartenders are making the rules they’re making the money. If you’re not paying attention to your bar inventory, you can kiss one-fourth of it good-bye. Basically you’re the franchisee guy at 7-Eleven: you too are paying for your lost inventory every month. The only difference is, you don’t have someone coming in and holding your hand out to collect.

Instead, your bartenders are collecting thousands extra per month and pulling up to work in a new Acura.

Yes, I know I’m preaching like a Baptist minister. But the point of this rant is that I know that deep in your soul, you KNOW that tracking your bar inventory is important, and yet you slack on it because it’s a pain-in-the-ass and you don’t want to manage and confront your staff.

So you make excuses that you don’t want to get a better bar inventory system because it’s another expense. But your biggest expense is the money you don’t make. Your current bar inventory system is costing you $50,000 because it doesn’t track what your bartenders are doing, which is ridiculous when you can find a good system for $1,200 – $1,500 per year. That’s ROI you can’t ignore anymore.

What it comes down to is: you can make money or you can make excuses, but you can’t make both.

Cheers, until next time

Dave, The RB

What is Pour Cost Percentage and How to Calculate it

bar management

For those of you new to this whole bar managing thing, or if you’re a bartender who keeps hearing, “Goddammit, the pour cost percentage is too high,” and you find yourself nodding and pretending to know what that means, I’m here to help. In fact, we’re not only going to go over how to figure your overall pour cost percentage, but how to figure it for individual products so you can price them properly. So let’s go ahead and find out exactly what this pour cost percentage crap is all about.


Pour cost % measures the gross margin of profit on your products and goods. “And what the hell does that mean?”

That means if your pour cost % for your beer, liquor and wine is 21%, that the bar made 79% in gross profit from those products.

In five-year-old terms: At 21% pour cost, for every $1 you sell, the bar gets $0.79.

Got it? I hope so, or you should stop managing bars, or be allowed to participate in society as a citizen in general anymore.


Chances are many of you at least have a notion of what pour cost % is and what it measures. Calculating it can be a bit more tricky if you have never done it before, so let’s dive right in.


Being able to figure the pour cost % for individual products is extremely valuable in helping you set your pricing. The good thing is once you have figured out the pour cost % for one product, it will apply to many of your other products as well, so you won’t have to do math for every single brand you carry.

In other words, all 1 liter bottles that sell for $8 per shot will have the same pour cost, so you only need to figure the cost for one bottle with that price point.

Once you have your individual products  figured out, you can determine if you need to raise or lower the price to meet your goal pour cost %.

With that said, let’s get to calculating.

The formula for figuring pour cost percentage for a single product is simple:

Wholesale Price / Retail Price x 100 = Pour Cost %

In order to figure the  pour cost %, we must know the wholesale cost and retail price of a product, which is easy, but you must make sure to use the same quantity for both. In other words, figure the cost and price for an entire bottle or figure the cost and price for an oz. of that product, but be consistent.

I find doing the entire container is easier, so this is the way I will teach you.

Figuring the wholesale price is the easy part: simply retrieve that information from your invoices.

Figuring the retail price of the product takes a little more effort, which I’m sure you’ll be happy to put forth because you are such an awesome, hard-working manager, so let’s go ahead and discuss what we need to figure the retail price of a single product.


To figure the retail price we must know:

  1. The size of the container in oz.
  2. The portion size of the product being served
  3. The retail price of that portion

That’s it. So here are some common containers and how many oz are in each:

1 Liter Bottle = 33.81 oz.

750 ml Bottle = 25.36 oz.

15.5 Gallon Keg = 1984 oz.

7.5 Gallon Keg = 960 oz.

5.16 Gallon Keg = 660 oz.

Now let’s go over an example of how to figure the pour cost percentage of the following:

1 Liter Bottle of Grey Goose

750 ml Bottle of BV Cabernet

½ Barrel Keg (15.5 Gallon) of Coors Light

Grey Goose → Wholesale Price = $38

Now for the 3 things we need to know

Bottle Size = 1 Liter

Portion (Shot) Size = 1.5 oz.

Retail Price = $9 per shot


Figuring Retail Price of Bottle

33.81 oz. / 1.5 oz. = 22.5 shots per bottle

$9 x 22.5 = $202.50

Pour Cost % = WS ($38) / RT ($202.50) x 100 = 18.77%


BV Cabernet → Wholesale Price = $9

Bottle Size = 750 ml

Portion Size = 6 oz.

Retail Price = $8 per glass


Figuring Retail Price of Bottle

25.36 / 6 = 4.23 glasses per bottle

$8 x 4.23 = $33.84

Pour Cost % = WS ($9) / RT ($33.84) x 100 = 26.60%

Coors Light Draft → WS Cost = $129

Keg Size = 1984 oz.

Portion size = 16 oz

Retail Price = $5


Figuring Retail Price of Keg

1984 / 16 = 124 pints per keg

$5 x 124 = $620

Pour Cost % = WS ($129) / RT ($620) = 20.81%

Make sense? Good. Let’s move on to figuring pour cost percentage for your entire bar using your inventory process.


The formula for figuring overall pour cost % via your monthly inventory is:


Beginning Inventory + Purchases – Ending Inventory

                                                                _________________________________________     x 100

                                                                                                    Monthly Bar Sales


Remember, anytime you are doing pour cost %, whether individually or overall, it is wholesale value / retail value or sales.

Let’s give a quick example:

June 1st – You take a full inventory of beer, wine and liquor and the wholesale value = $12,743

During the month of June, $11,500 worth of products are delivered

July 1st – You take another full inventory and your wholesale value = $12,158

Monthly Sales for June = $50,649

So let’s do the math:

                                                   Beg. Inventory ($12,743) + Purchases ($11,500) – End Inventory ($12,158)

                                            ________________________________________________________   x 100

                                                                                            Total Sales ($50,649)


That’s all, folks. If you don’t know what your pour cost % is for each of your products, as well as your monthly percentage, you aren’t managing and running your business like a professional.

If you would like to read deeper into how pour cost percentage works, read What Should Your Pour Cost % Be?

Cheers, until next time,


Bartending Schools: The Real Truth From TheRealBarman

The following article is based on a survey I did four years ago in which I asked 47 bar owners and managers what they thought about bartending school and how relevant they are to finding a bartending job.

And without my knowledge, the results of this post showed up in a Consumer Affairs article online, which I was a bit shocked by, as Consumer Affairs of course is one of the biggest online websites out there. Who would have thunk it? You can read the article here:

Are Bartending Schools Really Necessary? by Daryl Nelson.

If you want to watch an updated video on what I think of bartending schools today, check it out here.

Should You Go to Bartending School?

 As I take on this ever-increasing (and quite frankly, unexpected) role of helping people obtain a bartending job, I find that people can’t let go of the idea that going to bartending school is the answer to all of their prayers.  


Despite my warnings and admonishments and downright lobbying against bartending schools, I receive weekly and daily emails from people asking me, “Should I go to bartending school?”


And let me be clear about something: paying for a training course is a GOOD thing if it helps lead you to the job you are going after. I simply have a problem with how they leave students hung out to dry after teaching them the skills and history of alcohol.

So let’s answer your question right here. Or more specifically, let’s allow these 47 managers to answer the question right here. I put all my biases and preconceptions to the side and let the professionals answer this question. I hit the pavement and did some research to find out how helpful bartending schools really are.

The first thing I did was track down all the bar managers and owners that I know (and there’s a lot, over 40 of them), the same managers and owners I interviewed when I wrote my book to help people find a bartending job.  


The same bar managers and owners who told me exactly what they look for when hiring a bartender and what answers they want to hear in an interview.  


It was time-consuming, but I eventually contacted them all and presented them with a questionnaire, and I asked them to be honest so that it would be helpful to all of you reading this.  


Here are the questions I asked 47 bar managers and owners and the results of that survey:


1.  How important is it to you that someone you’re hiring went to bartending school?

A)  Very important

B)  Somewhat important

C)  I could go either way

D)  Not important at all

E)  I will not hire someone who went to bartending school

Results:  A = 0; B = 1; C = 18; D = 23; E = 5


Summary:  46 of the 47 bar managers/owners could care less or do not think bartending schools help at all.


2.  When someone mentions the term “bartending school”, what comes to mind?

A)  I wish all of my bartenders would have attended bartending school

B)  I have no real feeling either way

C)  What a joke

D)  I will crumple up any resume with the words “bartending school” on it

Results:  A = 0; B = 21; C = 21; D = 5


Summary:  Again, no one wishes they could hire bartending school graduates. Waste of time, and more importantly, money.


3.  In all your years in the business, how many bartending schools have contacted you about helping their graduates land a job as a bartender?

A)  Zero

B)  1-5

C)  6-10

D)  More than 10

Results:  A = 47; B = 0; C = 0; D = 0

Summary:  WOW!  What helpful schools!

4.  As a bar manager/owner, would you recommend bartending school to students looking to get a bartending job?

A)  Yes

B)  No

C)  Maybe

Results:  A = 0; B = 39; C = 8


Summary:  That’s all you really need to know right there, from the professionals who hire you.  0% yes’s, 82% no’s, and 18% who are indifferent.


Here it is in a nutshell:  Most Bartending schools and online courses are a WASTE of your time and money. They charge you $50 – $1,000, but it’s not the amount of money they charge. Hell, colleges costs $130,000 for 4 years and half the time it leads to a job that makes less than bartnders.


But these schools and courses teach you bartending skills and that’s it.


And remember this: bartending isn’t molecular biology. Memorizing drink recipes, pouring liquid into a glass at the right proportions, pouring beer and wine, these are all simple tasks that bartending schools have depicted as impossibilities without their help. They are taking advantage of an industry that is highly coveted, and they are raking in the dough because of it.


Do you really want to succeed?  Make a plan.  Bartending schools WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET YOU A BARTENDING JOB!!! Creating goals and a plan and a system for finding a job is where the schools and most people looking for a job fail.


Best of luck to you. If you have any further questions or need any advice along the way, send me an email and I’ll respond as quickly as I can:  Dave@TheRealBarman.com. And if you want to learn more about How to Become a Bartender by following an actual plan CLICK HERE.

I do wish you all the best and if you ever come into my bar, let me know that you found me on my blog and I’ll buy you a drink.

Happy job hunting, and cheers until next time.

The RB

4 Steps to Setting Pars in Your Bar

In a previous article we talked about determining how much stock you should have on-hand using the 15% rule, and now we’re going to talk about how to set your pars to keep those levels right where they should be week after week so that you can free up capital and run lean numbers month after month.

I find that many managers I work with have a vague idea in their heads what needs to be ordered for the week, but as I mentioned in the last article, these same managers are screwing this process up because they believe they need more on-hand than is necessary. WAY MORE.

Don’t take this process of setting up pars lightly. Setting pars can be a bit time-consuming, but it is a process that needs to be set-up if you want to run your place like a business and not just a bar.

If you have a quality inventory management system, setting pars is easy, but even if you don’t, you can view the spreadsheets you use to take inventory to determine how much usage your bar goes through for each product. If for some reason you don’t keep good inventory records (which you’d better start), you can go to your POS back-office and run a sales data report to see what has been selling the best.  This can be a bit trickier because you will have to figure out how many drinks per bottle and then divide to figure out how many bottles you went through. In order to figure how many bottles used based on drinks sold, use the following examples:

1L Bottle of Stoli = 33.81 oz.
Portion size = 1.5 oz.
Shots per bottle = 22.5
Sample sales data for Stoli for past 12 weeks = 983 sold
983 / 22.5 = 43.69 bottles sold

750 ml bottle of Kendall Jackson = 25.36 oz.
Portion size = 6 oz.
Glasses of wine per bottle = 4 (approximately)
Sample sales data for Kendall Jackson sold past 12 weeks = 228
228 / 4 = 57 bottles sold

15.5 Gallon keg of Coors Light
Portion size = 16 oz.
Pints per keg = 124
Sample sales data for Coors Light sold for past 12 weeks = 4,135
4,135 / 33.35 kegs sold

Figuring usage by POS sales data is more time consuming than using your inventory data, but as you can see, it is still possible.

As per the example above, you must determine how much product you are going through per week in order to set up accurate pars. I recommend taking the past 12 weeks, as this allows you to go far enough back to get a big picture of what is being used while at the same time seeing recent trends.

Using the math in examples above, we simply need to divide by 12 to figure out how many containers per week are being used.

Stoli = 43.69 / 12 = 3.64 bottles per week
Kendall Jackson = 57 / 12 = 4.75 bottles per week
Coors Light = 33.35 / 12 = 2.80 kegs per week

This depends on your comfort zone. Some managers I work with can’t stand the idea of running out of anything, so they need some cushion in order to sleep better at night. Others are fine running out once in awhile, as long as it doesn’t happen over and over.

My recommendation is to right down the middle and multiply your weekly usage of each product by 1.75, but let’s say you are a nervous Nelly and want to have plenty on hand, 2 times your weekly usage would be plenty, yet most bars have products with 10 times their weekly usage on-hand and it’s just plain unnecessary.

So again, based on the above examples, these would be your pars for Stoli, Kendall Jackson and Coors Light if you multiplied by 1.75:

Stoli: 3.64 x 1.75 = 6.37 bottles → Round to 6
Kendall Jackson: 4.75 x 1.75 = 8.31 bottles → Round to 8
Coors Light: 2.8 x 2 = 4.9 kegs → Round to 5

This does not always work perfectly when you need to order by the case. For example, wine and bottled beer is almost always ordered by the case, so for Kendall Jackson, you par might be 8, but if you have 4 on-hand, you can’t just order 4 bottles, so although it isn’t a perfect science, it will help you be more efficient, which leads us into the final step.

Setting the re-order point for your products is not detrimental, but it’s definitely helpful. What is a re-order point? This is the point your stock reaches that alerts you it’s time to order more product. Again, good inventory systems have this built in, but you can still do it manually and it will make your life easier.

Using Stoli from the above example, we have determined that the par for Stoli is 6. You might say that once the count for Stoli reaches below 3 that it is time to order more. I used 3 here because this bar is going through 3.64 bottles per week, so you want to make sure the levels don’t get too low before you order. So here, 3 would be your re-order point for Stoli.

That’s it, now go get started on setting your pars. It’s time-consuming, but it’s your job, so take action. If you use Bar Patrol, we set it all up for you, because that’s our job. Either way, let’s do our jobs and run our bars lean and mean like successful businesses do.
Best of luck.

Cheers, until next time.


4 The 21 Laws of Owning and Running a Bar

To all of the owners and managers online who have been emailing me, you can stop pestering me now. It’s finished. You can buy on Amazon it by clicking HERE  and download it to the Kindle app for the price of a Grey Goose and tonic. But unlike vodka, this will save your business and reduce your next day headaches.

Happy reading. Feel free to contact me for a chat anytime.

Dave, The RB

How to Determine Optimal Inventory Levels For Your Bar

Bar managers love their giant inventory. They must. Why else would they have $20,000 of inventory on-hand when they’re sales are only $60,000 per month?

I assume it’s the variety. Like owning a stamp or coin collection. It’s fun to show off your array of rare whiskeys and Scotches to people who walk in, which for some bars is fine because that’s their main theme. For instance, if you’re a whiskey bar and people are expecting a wide range of whiskeys, then you sure as shootin’ better have a nice selection. I get that.

What I don’t get are the mainstream bars that employ a bar manager who manages based on his whims. Just last week he went to this “totally awesome” classic cocktail bar he visited in Manhattan, and so now he’s inspired to create an iconic mixologist cocktail menu, and so he orders unique inventory to create this menu.  In the meantime, the bar he is managing, The Six-Shooter Country Lounge, attracts clients with skin tight Wranglers and shit-kickers. This, of course, makes this particular manager a total moron.

I work with all sorts of bars: sports bars, dive bars, lounges, corporate restaurants and upscale places, and even though all of these themes are drastically different, the inventories they carry are all tragically similar when it comes to an over-inflated inventory. Why is this exactly?  5 Reasons:

  1. Very little training is offered when it comes to learning how to manage a bar, let alone in the area of how much inventory to carry.
  2. Managers think they have to bulk order everything in order to save money.
  3. They accumulate free bottles from vendors that eventually turns into a forest of dead stock in the storage room.
  4. They feel the need to order excessive back-ups for every brand they carry so they don’r run out.
  5. The feel like every week they need to order something, even if there’s nothing that needs ordering.

The first and most basic step to improving your bar business numbers is by managing your inventory, but I’ve also found it the hardest area to tackle because owners and managers have an ego when it comes to helping them run their bar more efficiently. Every time I tell them they have too much inventory on-hand, they go into great detail defending why they need 15 bottles of Blue Curacao on-hand even though their usage numbers show that they go through about 0.5 bottles per month. And just when I think I’m making progress, another case of Creme de Menthe shows up on a Tuesday delivery. At this point I put my hands on my hips in a scolding pose while the manager slumps down and gives me that darty, shifty-eyed guilty look of a dog who just ripped the couch to shreds while I was out shopping.


The first step to getting a grip on your inventory is to determine how far away you are from your goal. After 5 years in business and approximately 2,000 inventories that I have personally performed myself for clients, this is the formula I have created that will tell you how lean or fat  your inventory is. It’s simple, yet telling:

Total Inventory Value On-hand ÷ Total Sales Per Month


Total Inventory Value On-hand for June = $15,000

Total Sales for June = $75,000

Ratio = 20% (15,000 ÷ 75,000)

If these were your numbers, they wouldn’t be horrible, as I’ve seen MUCH worse, but it’s still too high. I just took on a new client last week who’s ratio was 43%!!! That was a forehead slapper for me.

The inventory ratio that I recommend for optimal inventory is 15%. So if your sales were $75,000, you should have about $11,000 – $11,500 of inventory on-hand. In this case, that would mean you would need to cut your inventory by about $3,500 – $4,000, which is a big difference.

Figuring out this ratio couldn’t be easier, so no excuses. Simply go back and look at  your inventory on-hand (assuming you take accurate inventory and have your prices updated) and then run a P-mix report to see what your bar sales were for the same time period, and then use a calculator to determine the ratio, unless you went to MIT and can run numbers in your head like Rain Man.

Once you get this number, then we can work on setting up your par levels to get that number down. Don’t know how to figure out your par levels? That too is a formula. Give me a shout out at Dave@therealbarman.com and I’ll happily provide it for you.

Cheers, until next time.

Dave, The RB