Bar Management Software: The Key to Effective Staff Scheduling, Inventory, and Payroll

Bar Management Software: The Key to Effective Staff Scheduling, Inventory, and Payroll
7shifts Staff

By 7shifts Staff

The demands of the modern bar are significant: inventory issues, demanding customers, volatile prices, and — perhaps the biggest of all — staffing, scheduling, and other labor concerns.

Bar management software is a tech-forward way to handle many of the elements necessary to operate a bar successfully. Depending on the solution you choose, this software could include features that help with employee management, inventory tracking, POS capabilities, payroll, and more.

This software isn’t just for bars — it’s ideal for any establishment that serves alcohol, like cocktail bars, nightclubs, lounges, taverns, and pubs.

Software helps automate and streamline many of these areas, reducing the strain on management and ownership and freeing up staff to serve customers better.

Benefits of bar management software

Unsure if bar management software will make a difference for your establishment? Those that adopt it stand to enjoy major benefits — from better efficiency to better financial management and everything in between.

Less human error

Across your operations, bar management software improves accuracy. From inventory management to employee scheduling, the right software solution can help you get the work done much faster with less rework or back and forth.

More data-driven decisions

Bar management software also typically collects all sorts of data on your operations and your customers. Take the customer-facing side of things, for example. By understanding when your customers come and go, what they do and don’t order, and what specials worked and which ones didn’t, you can better tailor your offerings and calibrate your staffing. And you can do it based on real data — not just your gut.

Using historic performance data is far easier with bar management software, helping you set staffing levels more accurately. This is a must, whether you’re running a standalone bar, pub, lounge, or any other business with a bar.

Greater focus on customer experience

When you can spend less time on behind-the-scenes details (like scheduling and manual inventory counts), you can focus more on what’s most important — your customers.

And it’s not just a matter of focus. Bar management software also improves the customer experience by helping your business be what customers want: always having their favorite drinks in stock, never understaffed, highly personalized, and so on. The right software makes these goals attainable.

More accurate financial management and reporting

In the hospitality industry, margins can be tight. Understanding where your money goes (and whether your inventory makes as much money as it should) is key to protecting your financial interests — it could even be the difference between ongoing success and shuttering your business.

Bars, lounges, and nightclubs that try to track this stuff on paper or in a spreadsheet quickly find that it’s tedious and leaves a lot of room for error. On top of that, these manual approaches frequently don’t surface problems until they’re already out of control.

Bar management software's financial management and reporting features give you an infinitely easier and more visible way to monitor profitability and make financially sound decisions.

Types of bar management software for effective operations

“Bar management software” is more of a category than a single thing. Many of the solutions on the market bundle several functions and features together, but truly comprehensive solutions are rare.

As you evaluate software options, pay attention to which capabilities a particular solution includes (and whether or not it integrates with any other software tools you use).

Employee scheduling and management software

Businesses with bars use employee scheduling and management software to eliminate handwritten schedules, text threads, unreliable communication, and countless other scheduling nuisances. It brings the entire process into an accessible digital interface where staff can see their schedule, indicate availability and preferences, negotiate swaps, and more.

Inventory tracking and management software

Bar inventory can be complicated, with hundreds if not thousands of bottles to tabs on. Inventory management software helps digitize your inventory. With this software, you can track how much of each product you have on hand, how quickly each one sells, and when you need to reorder. Some inventory management systems even allow automatic reordering based on set inventory thresholds.

POS system

If a business with a bar isn’t using any other kind of management software, chances are they’re at least using a digital point-of-sale (POS) system. Modern cloud-based systems are one of the most powerful technologies to hit the restaurant and bar scene.

POS systems, which range from legacy PC-style cash register stations to modern iPad or phone-based terminals, provide a convenient way for patrons to pay their tabs via credit card. Modern POS systems can handle contactless payments, support loyalty programs, and even speed up the ordering process (allowing customers to order without interacting with staff). There are also POS tools dedicated to bars and breweries, like Arryved, that include inventory management.

POS software handles payment processing, too. These systems also give any business with a bar a better way to manage day-to-day financial transactions, including reporting and sales data you can use for analytics.

Reservation and table management software

If your establishment takes reservations and sits parties at tables (like a cocktail lounge or club), then software is a great way to maximize customer load and revenue. This type of software gives bars a digital interface to understand which tables have guests, which are reserved, and which are open, reducing manual checks and eliminating wasted space.

It’s kind of like the “single rider” line for a roller coaster, except instead of merely shortening wait times, you’re increasing revenue (because empty seats don’t buy drinks).

Feedback and review management tools

An establishment’s online presence can be its greatest asset or its greatest liability. These tools help business owners take control of their online feedback and reviews.

There are a range of tools in this category, each with a unique twist. Some help you automate replying to reviews; others help you solve specific reputational problems or cull through reviews to identify common themes.

Live menu updating software

Beverage offerings tend to change over time, and depending on what you sell, they could do so frequently. This is true for small craft breweries, for example, who are always experimenting with new brews.

The tried-and-true “erase the chalkboard” method works, but live menu updating software (something like Untappd) works better. It’s easier to operate and easier for customers to read, and the good ones can integrate with your website, automatically updating your draft list there as well.

What to look for in bar management software

Finding the right bar management software for your business depends on several factors, including the way your business is structured, who your customers are, and what your biggest operational pain points are.

User-friendly interface

If you’re using the software for scheduling and employee communications, everyone will use it regularly. The interface matters, and it should be intuitive enough for everyone to use without weeks of training time.

Prioritize solutions that make sense. They should look like they were designed to solve the problems you’re dealing with — not those of a different type of establishment. Doing so will improve usage, reduce training time, and improve overall outcomes.

Reporting and analytics

Robust reporting and analytics features in bar management software can be easy to overlook. This capability might not seem like it will directly solve your most pressing challenges — but take a step back, and it becomes clear that data is everything.

With the right reporting and analytics, you gain a massive advantage in the form of data-driven insights for strategic decision-making.

Compliance management

Compliance in the hospitality industry is a big deal, and getting caught in a violation can cost you.

Restaurants caught underpaying employees and/or misusing the tip credit regularly get fined in the five- and six-figure range ($300,000+ for Aquarius Seafood in New Jersey, for example).

And any establishment serving alcoholic beverages can face a wide range of state-specific penalties for knowingly serving minors — even including jail time and loss of a liquor license.

There are a few tools out there that try to help with the latter, using tech to scan and screen IDs. And any bar management software worth using will include labor compliance capabilities that help ensure you pay employees appropriately and don’t run afoul of any employment restrictions your team members may have.

Integration capabilities

Pay attention to what other tools a solution can integrate with. Even though most bar management software platforms are wide-ranging, you’ll likely still use a few other products. Ensuring those products integrate well is key to creating a cohesive, efficient system.

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7shifts Staff
7shifts Staff

7shifts team of writers and experts in the hospitality industry.