As a new bar manager there are certain terms and vocabulary that you need to be familiar with so you can communicate effectively with your team. One of those pieces of vocabulary that you should develop and understand is the term “par”.

We’ll quickly cover what the term par is and how it applies to the bar and restaurant world, and then we’ll discuss one of its most important applications: the Par Sheet.

What are par and par levels?

If you play or watch with golf, then you’re probably familiar with this term. In golf it is how many strokes it should ideally take to move the ball from the starting position into the hole. In the bar and restaurant world, the “par level” means “how much of any given item you will use in a shift or another set amount of time (weeks, months, years).” We’ll cover this in a little more detail throughout this article.

“Par” is how much of any given item you expect to use during a set amount of time.

For an example, if you work on a busy Friday night and you know that you’re likely to go through 4 bottles of Ketel One, then your par for Ketel One would be 4. You can generate a “par” level for every bottle that you carry behind the bar – or  you can simply focus on the fast moving products.

What is a par sheet?

Now that you know what the term par means, we can talk about how it is tracked. Behind the bar, we typically track pars in what is called a par sheet, also called a stock sheet. The par sheet is simply a list of either your quickest moving items or your entire inventory with a par level associated to each item. In the example we used earlier, we said that the par for Ketel One was 4, we would record that number in our par sheet with the line that was associated with Ketel One.

Typical items on a par sheet include spirits, beer, wine, mixers and possibly kegs. This will help you keep in stock during your busiest times and allow you to help more customers instead of looking around, trying to fill stock during a shift. You can also include garnish, juice, and any other item that you carry behind the bar. There’s no need to list every single item, but if you always run out of thermal paper on a Saturday night, you may want to add it to your par sheet.

Par for Inventory vs. Par for the Bar

One common point of confusion is that there are often two “pars” that a bar should keep track of.

  • Inventory Pars: This is the total number of a particular item that you should have in inventory, across your whole establishment. They could be located in the well, on the backbar and in the stock room, but this is the number you have calculated to be the ideal amount of inventory for this product. (Again, it could be done weekly, monthly, or some other frequency. All that matters is that you adjust the number to reflect the frequency that you’re taking inventory.)
  • Par for the Bar (also called “stock” as in “Stock sheet”): This is what you need behind the bar before you start your shift. It does not include extra bottles in the stock room. The purpose of this number is to prevent you having to go to the stock room during your shift.

Both types of par sheets are incredibly useful and a well-run bar will use both. Typically the Stock Sheet will be used daily but the Inventory Par sheet will be used when calculating orders, typically weekly.

Creating Par Sheets

There are a couple ways you can create a par sheet. While it is possible to get very technical and data-driven, in this article I’m going to suggest a simpler approach that’s likely to get your par sheets created more quickly so you can use them right away.

How to Create a Par Sheet:

First, decide whether this par sheet will be used for checking the bar before a shift or for checking the full inventory. If you’re not going to use it for a full inventory then your sheet will likely be much shorter.

  1. Start with a spreadsheet of your inventory. (You should be able to export this from your POS).
  2. Label the first column “Item” and remove all other columns from the sheet. If not already, organize it into categories (Well, bourbon, brandy, liqueurs, etc.)
  3. Create a second column labeled “On hand” and third column labeled “Par”

Here’s a link to a template par sheet to get you started.

Estimating Pars

As I mentioned earlier, you can get pretty detailed with pulling data from your POS to try to estimate par levels, but I’ve found that you can get 80% of the way there simply through educated estimates. Ask the bartender who works your busiest shift how much of each item he / she would expect to go through on a busy night. In our example we used Ketel One and the par level we established was 4 bottles in a shift, because that was our estimate for what we’d use during our busiest shift.

If you use this method, it’s important to remember that the par sheet will need to be updated from time to time. Ask your bartenders to let you know if there are items they often run out of behind the bar – especially non-inventory items that wouldn’t otherwise be tracked. Typical items include:

If it’s an item that bartenders frequently need for service and running out would require you to run to the back room to grab more, seriously consider including it on your bar’s par sheet.

Using the Par Sheet:

The process for using par sheets is pretty straight forward. Either before and/or after a new shift begins, (either one works, but always do it at the same time) the barback or bartender will grab a new par sheet, quickly go over each item on the list and write down how many bottles of each spirit/beer or wine are needed in order to bring the bar back up to par. They will then hand off the sheet to whoever is in charge of restocking the bar. Now the person restocking the bar knows exactly what they need to pull from the inventory room for the shift.

In theory this will keep the bar stocked for the entire shift without having to keep running to the stockroom to pull bottles for service. Of course, your estimates are just that – estimates. They won’t be perfect every time but they should definitely reduce the mid-shift stock room runs to a minimum.

Par Sheet Pro Tips:

Along the way I’ve found a few tips that have made the process faster and more painless. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Your par sheet does not need to be in alphabetical order. (I know, it’s not as satisfying…) Instead, organize it according to the location of the various items behind your bar and / or in your stockroom. This will make it easier for you to simply go down the list without running all over the bar / room. (Of course, if you have already organized you back bar in alphabetical order, then I guess you’re in luck!)
  2. Leave a couple of blanks for items to be written in. The items that you carry behind the bar can change quickly and updating the par sheet could get overlooked during the change. This gives you some flexibility.
  3. If you have a cocktail menu, either put the spirits that you are using in their own category, or somehow highlight the spirits and liqueurs that are used in the cocktail menu. This way if the bartender is in a hurry, they will be able to prioritize filling out the well and cocktail menu bottles instead of having to go through the whole list. (While this isn’t ideal, it’s better than skipping checking pars altogether… and let’s be honest, it happens!)
  4. Make seasonal changes to your par sheet. This is obvious if you are doing a seasonal cocktail menu, but also drinking habits change when the weather changes. Even if you haven’t changed your cocktail menu, your summer par sheet is very likely to be different from what’s getting ordered and poured during the cold winter months.
  5. I touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating: if you are constantly running out of items during service, add them to the par sheet. Thermal paper was an example that we used, but this could also apply for cocktail picks, napkins, coaster or straws.

Now that you understand the basics of the par sheet, I hope you can see its value behind the bar. Just a little bit of preparation can make a huge difference in the number of times you and your bartenders have to leave the customer and go spend time restocking.

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.