BevSpot – Serving Up Smarter Bars

by Francine Cohen

An Interview with BevSpot Co-Founder Rory Crawford and Park South Beverage Director Ted Kilpatrick

BevSpot, the bar management tool co-founded by former tech banking and investing professional and Harvard Business School student Rory Crawford, finally brings the beverage industry into the 21st century. 

Not familiar with how it works? It's shockingly simple. Instead of bar management the old-fashioned way (counting bottles by hand, transcribing the numbers to a computer, manually placing orders with wholesalers), BevSpot streamlines the entire process with easy-to-use technology accessed through any device including your computer, cell phone or tablet.

Crawford, who credits the genesis of the platform to his experiences gleaned while launching an online wine club, frames it this way: "When I was introduced to the beverage space, I began to understand how inventory and purchasing were tracked and how distributor relationships were managed. It amazed me that despite these big businesses everyone still showed up to manage purchasing on pen and paper or Excel." 

Access to BevSpot is equally good news for beverage managers running multiple venues. For Mike Wyatt, General Manager and Beverage Program Director at Boston's famed Ward 8, using BevSpot expedites his workday. He's now able to collect real-time data on sales variance and profitability right from his cell phone. While it wouldn't be fair to say Mike was skeptical when BevSpot first approached him, he did admit that he initially agreed to an introduction and appointment with Crawford simply to be courteous. He's glad he did. 

"I'd been looking to make inventory management a little easier and more streamlined, but nothing out there worked, nothing was user-friendly," said Wyatt. "Rory offered to onboard us for free and test out the software with no strings attached. We found the biggest difference was that we no longer needed to take out the clipboards for the count then go from there to the computer. I can have three people working on inventory on the computer at once, so you don't have to go from what you wrote down by hand to transcribing into an Excel spreadsheet—it's now all in one place. Bevspot made it so much easier and saved us countless hours." 

Ted Kilpatrick, Director of Beverage and Service for Cushman Concepts, oversees three high volume on-premise venues (Roof at Park SouthO Ya RestaurantCovina Bar Restaurant and Cafe), which require weekly inventory management. He echoes Wyatt's praises towards the platform. "I do inventory once a week, which means I do three inventories once a week. I've done inventories that can take 8 to 10 hours. For just one inventory in a single hotel, costing and ordering can take me 6 plus hours, but now, I can do inventory with people who have never seen these bottles before. BevSpot enables them to just type in the name of the bottle and then the information gets entered in real time. This releases the monotony of transposing from handwritten to online. And, in addition—and this is maybe the easiest part—there's a smart cart that populates and automatically sends the orders to all your distributors." 

Kilpatrick added, "I can do it in 30 seconds; as soon as my inventory is done, I see the orders and have them placed less than a minute after inventory is finished. Or, I can start it one night, finish it the next morning, figure out costs, identify each bottle, and BevSpot produces a report, zips it out, and puts out a purchase order that I can send to our receiver and accountant to make sure that we are all on the same page." 

Keeping everyone on the same page and making sure money doesn't evaporate is another problem BevSpot solves. As Barbara Sibley of Holiday Cocktail Lounge and Church Bar points out, "Doing inventory is the only way to really know your cost of goods sold (COGS). Done weekly, it allows you to keep better track of price fluctuations." Jessica Sanders of Austin's Drink.Well. agrees that fluctuating COGS is a nightmarish reality of the business. "Even after your counts are done, polishing the data entry on prices that may have changed since your last inventory is a pain," she said. 

Alleviating that pain satisfies Crawford and his staff of 75 who are busy serving over 400 customers worldwide. He says, "The single biggest constant we compete with is inertia. We are trying to convince people to try something new and to change. The liquor industry is unlike other industries that have been touched by technology." 

BevSpot combats inertia by going much deeper than just inventory counting. Crawford remarks, "Inventory is just a module in our broader solution. We also offer pour costing and other services. We want to help the trade move away from just the process and solve their business challenges using analytics. By utilizing technology, what we allow our customers to do—place orders, track data, etc.—is behavior we can replicate on a computer, and we can show managers real-time metrics so they can see that if they swap out these products or re-price them, they'll have a better week next week." 

A better week for Kilpatrick means that BevSpot is responding to his needs. He says, "I can call them and get a real person on the phone and ask for help, such as assistance creating categories for sake and wine, etc. Within a day, it's in there for me. They're growing at a speed that lets them remain very customer reachable and customer-service focused. They're very nimble. I think it's being cloud-based that helps; it’s not like you have to re-download an app." 

Moving fast through inventory and having a reliable partner in BevSpot, leaves more time to fill those hours with enjoyable and profitable tasks. Tasks like preparing for service or research and development, and those important things you should be spending your time on when you run a bar: making drinks and making money. 

Read more from Advice.

Read more from Bartenders and Business.

Read more from Highlights of tending bar.

Read more from Hospitality.