Managing Bar Supply Chain During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Every bar manager experiences recurring nightmares of that one delivery day. We all know the one. It is the middle of the lunch rush and trucks keep showing up at the loading dock during times the restaurant has deemed inappropriate for deliveries. The cases of product continue piling up and floor management responsibilities are preventing the bar manager from vigilantly checking in each order. When the dust clears and a proper inventory of each order is finally manageable, the frustration of back ordered product sets in. How can the restaurant operate without a domestic light beer on tap? Does the bar just 86 top shelf tequila for the weekend? Reopening restaurants with current supply chain issues makes this once rare scenario seem to be a weekly occurrence.

With the increasingly frustrating variables in the current restaurant industry, beverage supply chain does not need to be the straw that breaks the camels back. With modified inventory procedures, increased communication and planning, and appropriate training, bar managers can rein in the uncertainty and provide their guests and staff with a consistent product.


Start with the basics of operating a bar. How often are you counting a detailed inventory? Most bar managers will cite a monthly inventory and order each week off either a product mix or visual count. The thought of increasing inventory to a weekly process is daunting and time consuming. The dilemma of limiting inventory counts is outweighed by necessity of knowing what the bar always has on hand and the inventory of comparable product in the event the restaurant runs out of a customer favorite. With the current supply snags, the concept of inventory can readjust to consider like products as a single count. For example, if you carry the same domestic light beer on tap as in a bottle, count them together and reconcile the number with your average weekly combined sales. Compartmentalize top shelf spirits into one count. The restaurant can use a strategy of guaranteeing an equivalent product is always in stock in the event a popular item is back ordered. Consider adding platforms like BevSpot or Barkeep to decrease the amount of time spent counting. Most modern POS systems such as Toast and Revel have built in Inventory options for operators looking to consolidate their programs.

With an inventory consolidated, look for holes in product areas. What products does the restaurant lack a comparable alternative? Are you able to stock up on inventory or bring on an additional alternative to prevent a menu hole? Do your sales reps have any feedback on short-term availability of the product?


Sales representatives from distributors are one of the most under-utilized resources in times of supply shortages. Distributors possess the ability to maneuver delivery days and are more than willing to provide restaurants with weekly warehouse inventories of kegs, wines, and other products. They are also in tune with estimated inventory shortages at the beginning of the week and can advise customers on alternate products. Keep in mind if a distributor is out of a popular product, the restaurant may need to seek a product from a different distributor. My recommendation to our clients is to order product on Mondays and move delivery days to Tuesdays. This provides an additional three days to work with distributors on off-day deliveries for any products that are out of stock and keep the restaurant well-prepared for volume weekends.


Training is the component that brings the tumultuous supply chain together. Staff appreciate transparency and frequent updates that prevent them from feeling the fool when they are unaware of lack of inventory. Maintain an 86 board that is easily available to all staff. A dry erase board in a well-traveled area works great. While it is tempting to scribble the 86’d item on the board, take the time to write out an alternative item. Secure time during lineups to cover the out of stock items and educate on the alternate options. Keep management proactive in updating the restaurant’s point of sale to reflect current inventory levels. Management will find consistent staff training and communication appreciated and reflected in staff morale. Bartenders and servers thrive on consistency and minimizing variables.

Implementing a solid bar strategy can reduce one of the larger headaches of reopening a restaurant during a pandemic. While most of management’s effort and focus is on sanitizing and maintaining a safe environment, it is common to neglect operational concepts such as supply chains. Curious about the state of your inventory or looking for assistance adjusting menu content/pricing to maximize your brand during these fluid times? Goliath Consulting Group can assess your current food and beverage menus/inventories and make recommendations to set your restaurant up for success. Contact us at


Published by Jay Bandy

Restaurant and Franchising Professional. President of Goliath Consulting Group. A restaurant consultancy based in Atlanta, GA

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