Liquor Control Systems vs. Bar Inventory Apps – Which Should You Choose?

Still looking for the best way to manage your bar inventory? It’s maddening, isn’t it? All of the different options out there can be overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here. In this article, we’re going to help guide you to pick the best bar inventory system for your business.

First off, having a quality inventory system in your bar is a no-brainer. It’s going to help you in so many areas so you can run your business smoothly and profitably.

However, choosing the right system for your bar is easier said and done. There are so many options that by the time you’re done researching you want to lie under a jeep and wait for someone to back out of the driveway.

Ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point. 

What it comes down to is that there are loads of liquor control systems and liquor inventory apps on the market, and almost all of them can help you with your restaurant operations in one way or another.

However, not all of them are suitable for your situation. Some of them will fit perfectly with your bar and staff, while others might just make your operations more complicated. 

So to help you avoid that, let’s talk about the difference between liquor control systems and liquor inventory apps so you can make the right choice for your bar and restaurant.

Which is Better – Liquor Control Systems or Liquor Inventory Apps?

Though you might not think so, liquor control systems and liquor inventory apps are two different beasts, which is why it’s important to understand the difference between them before you start choosing. 

Both systems will help you save money and lower your pour cost percentage, but there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both. 

If it all seems a little confusing, keep your shorts on. That’s what we’re here for though, so you don’t have to hurt your smart brain thinking too hard.

Having said that, let’s now start by understanding what a liquor control system is. 

Liquor Control Systems 

As the name suggests, these help you control the liquor pours in your bar, but in a very different way than bar inventory apps. Most liquor control systems are considered to be electronic in nature. 

In general, these liquor inventory systems come with some sort of a device that “controls” the portion amount of liquor that will be poured in a glass. These devices come in the form of pour spouts or guns in the pouring stations. 

The different liquor inventory control systems can be broken down into three categories: 

  • Wireless Control Systems
  • Remote Liquor Dispensing Systems
  • Bottle Pouring Liquor Control Systems

If used properly, the control system will help you measure the profitability of each liquor bottle. This allows you to calculate pour cost percentages. 

Let’s go over each of them quickly:

1. Wireless Control Systems

There are two types of wireless control systems for pouring liquor:

  • Electronic Free Pour Spouts

These are connected wirelessly to a receiver that calculates how many seconds the pour spout is dispensing the liquor. You are then able to (theoretically) calculate over-pours with the software included.

  • Portion Control Spouts

These have no electronic device attached. Instead, you calibrate the pour spouts to pour a predetermined amount and then with the ball-bearings build in, the liquor is cut off.

Pros: The portion control part is good. It will save you time and money because 

bartenders will not be able to over-pour, or even if they do over-pour with the electronic 

free pour spouts, the software will be able to detect the variance.

Cons: Any liquor that has sugar, like liqueurs and cordials, will clog the spouts, so they have to be constantly cleaned. In addition, liqueurs and cordials have different viscosity, so for the wireless control systems, a three-second pour won’t be the same as say a vodka pour. Let’s not forget that both of these options are extremely expensive, costing more than $100 per pour spout. 

2. Remote Liquor Dispensing Systems

These look just like your soda guns in your bar. The way it works is the company installs liquor pumps hooked up to your liquor bottles in a back room or out of sight somewhere. Just like the portion control spouts, the portion amount is predetermined and will shut off after that amount has been dispensed.

Pros: Again, portion and cost control is always a pro, as well as the “no-think” process for the bartenders.

Cons: First, customers don’t like to see any system that doesn’t have a chance to give them a little more alcohol. The fact that they can see that their portion is being limited, puts them off. Most people might expect it in a casino, but not a regular bar. Also, once again, these are extremely expensive, ranging from $2,000 – $15,000.

3. Bottle Pouring Liquor Control Systems

These systems use what is called an activator ring, which allows the bartender to pour the liquor from a set of predetermined spouts that have different portion amounts. Each time the bartender pours, he/she has to grab the activator ring and place it on the bottle. The ring is able to read which brand it is, as well as control the portion amount.

Pros: Same old story here. Controls portions and controls costs.

Cons: Bartenders hate these. They have to constantly grab the activator ring and place it on whatever bottle they are pouring. In addition, the customers hate it as well. And oh yeah, they’re expensive.

Overall Disadvantages of Using Liquor Control System

Don’t get us wrong, using liquor control systems will provide benefits, like saving time and money. However, keep in mind the overall disadvantages you’ll have with them:

  • They’re Expensive – The cost of setting up a liquor control system is going to cost you a big sack of gold. Usually, the installation process alone could cost around $8,000 and this would only cover basic systems. That price could go up depending on the size of your bar. 
  • Customer Visibility – More often than not, the flow meters attached to the bottles and pouring stations will be visible to your customers. This can give a negative impression and it will drive away your customers. Remember, everyone likes to get a little more for their drink, or at least the hope that they will. 
  • Doesn’t Always Give Accurate Data – Some liquor control systems come with management software that gives you a detailed report of your inventory. The inventory control system can tell you about the losses but it won’t give you specific details of when and where losses occurred.
  • Can’t Count or Do Ordering – Liquor control systems can’t count your inventory, or help you with ordering and invoicing, which makes them a one-trick pony. You would have to have another system in addition just to do this, or do your counting old school (blech!).

Some Liquor Control Systems & How Much They Cost (Not Including Installation)

  • Eclipse Liquor Control System – $2,995.00 
  • BARVISION Liquor Monitoring Solution – $295/month 
  • Drinker Octopus IP 256 RFID – $3,295.00
  • BAR SPECS Spy Pro – $2,500.00
  • Easy Bar – $14,500.00

The Liquor Inventory App 

bar patrol app

Of course, we are biased. Don’t let us deter you from doing your own research and purchasing exactly what you want, but with that said, we feel like it’s a no-brainer when choosing between a liquor inventory control system and a bar inventory app.

A quality inventory app will help you manage your inventory, lower cost percentage, help with ordering and invoicing, recipe costing and identify losses and best sellers.

Here are the main differences between the liquor control systems and the bar inventory apps:

  • They Can Count Your Inventory – As cool as it is to have an electronic system that can control the portions being poured, you need to know your sitting bar and food inventory. Liquor control systems can’t do that.
  • They Can do Your Ordering & Invoicing – Quality bar inventory systems will be able to tell you how much to order and then be able to send off that order automatically. Then when the order comes in, you are able to approve the invoice in the app with a single click of a button.
  • They Can do Recipe Costing – Having everyone of your menu items costed out so you know exactly how much your costs are and how much to price each item is an invaluable feature that the liquor inventory systems simply do not have.
  • They’re Mobile – There’s nothing more convenient than having your bar inventory system right on your phone and tablet. You can take the system anywhere with you and it’s right in the palm of your hand.
  • They Are Relatively Inexpensive – Bar inventory apps normally come as a monthly subscription. Some are more reasonable than others, but most of the apps have similar features, so we believe that you shouldn’t be fooled by expensive bar inventory systems just because they say they are better.

Some Things to Consider When Shopping For Bar Inventor Apps

  • What is Their Method of Measuring – Most bar inventory apps either use a little slider to determine how much is in the bottle or point-counting. Both of these have about a 8 – 12% margin of error. The best inventory systems use a liquor inventory scale, preferably a Bluetooth scale, which makes it fast and convenient to weigh the bottles, and only has a 2% margin of error.
liquor scale
  • Do They Have All the Features You Want – As we mentioned, most of the apps are very similar, but some offer additional features beyond inventory, including accounting integration. Make sure to see what you’re getting.
  • Cost – Once again, for the most part, they provide similar features, so don’t get taken by a bar inventory app company that claims they are so much better just because they are priced so much higher.

Some Bar Inventory Apps and How Much They Cost

  • Bar Patrol App – $69/mo.
  • Wisk – $146/mo.
  • Partender – $165/mo.
  • Bevinco – $175/mo.
  • Bevager – $200/mo.
  • BevSpot – $219/mo.

There you go. Liquor control systems and bar inventory apps broken down for you. Whatever you chose, make sure it’s what’s best for your bar/restaurant.

If you have any questions, comments, rants, raves, or otherwise, send me a message and we’ll make sure to help you out.