Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Bar Management Tips: Identifying and Improving Areas of Vulnerability

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, May, 13, 2013 @ 10:05 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

 

Part 1 of 2: Improving Profitability Through Proper Planning and Quality Control

describe the imageMoney losers in a bar come in many forms, and you will want to check your financial records carefully to make sure that you are not being affected by one of these:

  • No plan. Many bar owners have no clear plan of where their bar is headed and what they need to purchase and do to get there. Many say "I only want to run a bar." However, running a bar, like anything else, is a goal, and goals always require a plan. You should know where you will be expanding and how. You should know what products you need to order and when. Keeping everything on paper in the form of a business plan and purchase orders can help make it clear to you.
  • Lack of local products. Many bar managers will justify their lack of local beer by stating that their bar's style or type does not call for local beer. In fact, local beer and local food products are often the best-selling items in any bar. Many customers like or support the local beer, and visitors from other areas are often eager to try the local fare. Always offer local products, even if your bar has a uniquely international or exotic theme. As an added bonus, local products are often easier and less expensive to ship and buy, ensuring higher profit on your initial investment.
  • Spoiled food and drinks. Spoiled product is lost profit. In some cases, such as a major power disruption, this can be hard to avoid. In most cases, though, spoilage is caused by ordering too much. This is avoidable. Keep track of your inventory and past purchasing patterns and buy those products that you need in the quantities they were needed in the past. Frequent checks on inventory tell you when you are running low and when you need to stock up on certain products.
  • Cutting corners on quality. Many bar managers use a variety of ways to reduce quality. In many cases, they do this not to consciously deprive customers, but out of the mistaken belief that low quality costs less. They think that offering less for more will result in larger profits, when, in reality, cutting corners usually keeps customers from coming back. Quality products—be it fresh fruit in drinks, generous portions of drinks, or pleasant bathrooms—will bring the types of repeat customers who will ensure that you make money.
  • Staffing problems. There are many staffing problems that can cost you money. Hiring or keeping unqualified or unproductive staff (because they are friends or family members, for example) is terrible for your bottom line. Selecting the wrong staff is a problem that can cost you a lot of money.
  • Poor storage, wrapping, and handling of liquor and foods. Beer that is left out to get warm, meat that is thawed and allowed to spoil, and food and drinks that are incorrectly handled can mean waste or even food poisoning for your customers. You do not want the health department investigating your bar for poor management of food and drink. Make sure that you control how food and drinks are stored and handled. Food and drink preparation areas should be clean, and staff should keep all products that need to remain cold in the refrigerator or freezer. Food and drinks should be stored and served at their appropriate temperatures to ensure that your customers stay safe.
  • Poor attitude or atmosphere. Customers want a place where they can relax and get great service. If your bar is unpleasant, you will lose money by losing customers. You need to make sure that your bar is an inviting place not only to drink and eat, but also to linger.
  • No customer concern or no customer market research. Bar managers are busy people, and while they may not overlook customers on purpose, far too many lose sight of bar patrons as they worry about the many other elements of running a bar. Not catering to customers, however, can ensure that a bar will lose a lot of money. Not only will unsatisfied customers not return, but they will often share their experiences with other people—potential patrons. In order to avoid losing money, it is important for bar managers to not only please customers, but to impress them enough to make them wish to return. Regular market research will reveal not only who your bar's customers are, but also what they want.

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: Bar staff, bar profitability, NightClub Management, bar business, Bar Management, Increasing Profits, Hospitality

Promote Your Bar By Providing Alternative Types of Entertainment

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Dec, 10, 2012 @ 12:12 PM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing
 

There's More to Offer Than Music & Dancing

Karaoke BarMany bar operators like to keep their patrons entertained with a variety of eclectic means and don't mind spending a few dollars to do so. In fact, major sporting venues have been employing these kinds of halftime entertain­ments for years and finding great results. If your bar can offer unique and appealing entertainment, chances are very good that you will have plenty of clientele. Better yet, if your bar develops a reputation for providing great entertainment, customers will always be dropping by your bar to look at your latest entertainment options. Consider the following:

Trivia nights. A handful of questions, a few slips of paper for answers, a running score, and $50 worth of vouchers for food and drink to give away—it all makes for a big night of entertainment. More venues are seeing the value of trivia competitions—luring customers in with the offer of freebies. These contests vary from huge nights run by live presenters to computerized interactive trivia games, where patrons compete against bars around the country via satellite. Either option does one important thing: brings people back.

Food tasting. People love food, and if you offer free appetizers or snacks with your beverages, you will draw a crowd.

Theater. Traditional theater (or mystery theater) gives customers a chance to look at something and encourages people to stay for an entire performance.

Karaoke. The Japanese tradition of karaoke has come on in leaps and bounds in North America in the last ten years, but there's still a big difference between quality karaoke and most karaoke. It's far more than simply putting up a bunch of old songs with some fuzzy video. Your karaoke enthusiasts need variety in the music selection. Hire a good karaoke host who can keep things moving and draw a big crowd of listeners.

Board games. A Scrabble or Monopoly night might be a simple idea, but it also works! Quieter nights of the week are an excellent time to try out a board game tournament. It instills a sense of community amongst your patrons.

Stand-up comedy. It's more than possible for you to find four or five stand-up comedians who will keep your audience laughing without costing you more than a hundred bucks total. Live comedy is a great draw, and it tends to keep an audience planted until the finish. Try an open-mike night and see what you find!

Live Entertainment. Eventually all bars consider live entertainment. Few things draw in crowds like a live band. However, knowing which bands to book is not always easy— or affordable. If you have a small bar, consider open-mike night and opening your doors to local bands that need a venue to practice. This will bring some entertainment to your bar at no cost—and entertainers often bring their friends along. For more ambitious booking, you may need to contact managers and publicists of more established entertainers. Prepare yourself by having the stats of your bar—how many customers you can draw, and what the crowd is like—ready. You should give the manager or publicist the reasons why your bar is a great place for the entertainer to perform.

Celebrities. Even celebrities will sometimes appear at smaller venues if there is a good reason for them to do so. If a celebrity will be in your area, contact the their publicist and give them the most compelling reasons you can for appearing at your establishment—be it a charitable cause or some other motivation. Celebrities tend to draw a crowd, and if your bar gets a reputation for celebrity sightings, you can expect a good crowd on any given night. Be sure to give them the ultra VIP treatment, and ask for an autograph that can be prominently but discreetly hung behind the bar.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: NightClub Management, bar business, Bar Management, Nightclub Consulting, opening a bar, Bar Promotion

Coin-Operated Entertainment: An Extra Source of Revenue for Your Bar

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Nov, 28, 2012 @ 08:11 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing
 

Bar ArcadeCoin-operated entertainment machines are a great source of extra revenue for a bar. The eclectic nature of most bars means that coin-ops of all styles, sizes, and functions can fit perfectly within your surrounds while adding to the fun and flavor of your establishment. The profits that coin-ops generate can be huge; they can also run a lot deeper than just the money inserted into the machines.

Coin-ops increase traffic, generate great repeat business, and keep people in your venue far longer. Coin-ops also give people who arrive alone a chance to do something as they sip their drinks. From high-tech games to virtual reality to pool tables, anything that gives your customers added entertainment is a good option, especially if it will bring you higher profits. These machines are cheaper than renovations but can contribute nicely to your profits.

  • Profit-based coin-ops. Some coin-ops don't have to cost you a cent, but they can bring in a good source of revenue. Simply open the phone book and look under "Coin-operated" and you'll find a slew of companies that will bring you games and entertainment for your customers for no charge—other than a share of the profits. This kind of a deal can only be good for your business. No maintenance worries and you get a new machine whenever an old one stops earning money—all free of charge.
  • Deal directly with the machine manufacturers. In a scenario like this, your venue will handle most of the daily maintenance required of the machines and the manufacturer's repairperson comes out only as needed. While this limits your selection of game alternatives, when you want to switch games, it's only a matter of changing a couple of computer chips. The actual game casing stays the same, but a completely different game appears, keeping your customers from getting bored with their options.
  • Don't forget change machines. If you are going to offer coin-ops, make it easy for your customers to use the machines without taxing your staff too heavily for change. One change machines is all that is needed.
  • Responsibility. If the machine is on your premises, take responsibil­ity for it and either return the customer's money or see to it that your supplier can fix the malfunctioning machine A.S.A.P. There's nothing worse than wanting to play a machine and finding it switched off— again.
  • Photo-machines. Customers put up to five dollars into the machine and step in to have their photo taken. In a few minutes, they can have their image on stickers or postcards; they can even pick a background. These machines are huge moneymakers and can even incorporate an ad for your bar within the picture. Your local phone directory will list plenty of suppliers.
  • Lottery machines. If your state allows them, they can be a great source of revenue. The latest machines work much like slot machines in Las Vegas, allowing customers the chance to win big.
  • Retro arcade machines and video game machines are very popular and go well with bars. Many people love these games and gladly spend extra time at a bar in order to play them.
  • Dancing machines. Patrons throw a dollar into the machine and step onto a stage that features a series of lights. They then try to step on whichever lights flash to keep in time with an on-screen dancer. These machines can be very addictive and often draw a large crowd—which can't hurt your bar's takings. Again, any amusement machine vendor in your local phone directory should be able to supply this machine.
  • Virtual reality (VR) sports are becoming a reality. More and more bars are installing VR golf ranges, VR batting cages, VR racing games, VR bowling alleys, VR hockey games, and VR boxing machines. These machines are the same as any other coin-operated gaming machine, except they cost the customer more and deliver a superior product. While they take up more room, they give you far greater profitability and extensive replay value.

Coin-operated games come in many varieties. Just about any game you can think of has a coin-op version available. Football, air hockey, video games, shooting games, skee-ball, basketball games, even video poker and blackjack machines that fit into your bar-top—it's all available and it's all going to bring in a newer, younger customer for a minimum investment or no investment at all.

And let's not forget the old stalwarts--pinball and darts. Going old school nowadays can seem fresh and new. Retro is in:

Pinball Machines

PinballThe trusty pinball machine has been around since the late 1800s yet still uses the same formula as the pinball machines of old. Lights, sound effects, the bounce of the ball, the sound of the flipper, and the lure of a high score. With a little smart thinking, your pinball machines can earn you a lot of money.

  • Install a pinball machine in your waiting area. If you keep the noise levels down so nearby customers don't get annoyed, they can be a great moneymaker. Vendors can bring you the latest pinball machines for free and will split all profits with you at the end of the month. At 50 cents a game, a machine only needs to be played ten times a day to bring you $75 a month in profit sharing. Not a bad return on zero investment!
  • Vintage machines. Invest in a vintage pinball machine rather than getting a coin-op company to bring in a high-tech modern machine on which you'll have to split your profits. Older machines cost far less to buy and a lot less to maintain, and the appeal of an old machine will bring back memories for your older patrons. Machines such as these can be purchased through online auctions such as eBay (www.ebay. com).
  • Outright purchase. If you choose to purchase your own pinball machines, look in the classified ads in the newspaper or at local auctions for the best deal. Of course, purchasing your own machine will mean you're responsible for its maintenance, so look for a machine that either comes with an array of spare parts or that has been fully serviced recently. The older the machine, the tougher it becomes to track down spare parts when the time comes to repair them.

Darts


Long a bar game institution, the old dartboard has become high-tech.

  • Darts at a BarNew technology. Look at what's available on the market today. The dartboard has received a technological boost. Coin-operated dart systems not only keep score for your patrons, but they also bring in a new source of revenue. Turnkey systems can be purchased or brought in under a profit-sharing deal.
  • Dedicated area. Even if you can't be bothered with a coin-op version of darts, it still pays to set aside an area for a dartboard. Tournaments and leagues can bring in a steady flow of new customers.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: bar profitability, NightClub Management, bar business, Bar Management

Maximizing Your Bar's Profits

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Nov, 14, 2012 @ 10:11 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing
 Maximizing Bar Profits

Once your bar is open, it will start making profits on each drink sold. However, in today's competitive marketplace, a profit is not always enough to keep a bar in business. In many cases, you need to focus on getting more per drink in order to make your bar a success. There are several ways that the bar can help ensure a larger profit:

  • Offer your bar staff incentives to make sure that you are getting the business you need. Your staff can help customers find a venue (your bar) for functions or can promote a drink that is a known profit maker if they know that they will get more money for it. If a staff member books an event that brings in $500, a $50 incentive for the staff member is well-spent money indeed.
  • Know which drinks make the most profit and advertise them. Knowing which drinks can help bring in the money is key. Once you have figured out which items bring in the most money, make sure that you advertise them. Have staff mention these drinks by name, and make these drinks more visible and more visually appealing. In many cases, suppliers will help by providing you with coasters, posters, or other items that advertise certain brands.
  • Make sure your customers get value. Too many business owners (and bar managers) cut corners, thinking that spending less means more profit. Studies have shown that the opposite is true—if the customer thinks they are getting more than they can expect, they will often respond in kind by patronizing the bar and bringing their friends. 
  • Make it easy to linger. Have interesting television on in the background. Have your staff ask "How about a round of coffee?" rather than "Would you like the bill?" The longer people linger at your pub or bar, the more they will buy. Also, if your bar has some people in it, it will be more appealing and lively to other customers. Customers are valuable—never rush them out.
  • Stay flexible. Keep eyeing the crowd, and if you notice shifts in the crowd, be flexible enough to change to suit the crowd. Did a bachelor party just come in? Adjust by running a one-off special on beer or by turning on dance lights. Is there a more sedate crowd tonight? Bring things down a notch with softer music and lights. Your customers will appreciate the extra touch and will be more likely to stay if your place is just what they're are looking for.
  • Make sure that there is always someone on staff who can make executive decisions. If there is a profit to be made and a customer to be satisfied by veering from the ordinary (by preparing special drinks or booking special functions), be sure that someone on staff can make the right decision for the bar, fast.
  • Cut down on how often you say no. There is no way to satisfy each customer, but do try to keep a variety of things on hand so that you can make the drinks and snacks customers demand. Don't spend lots of time or money trying to buy every item, but do stock up on items that can be used in the near future (sodas, non-perishables). Make sure your staff know what is on hand and have them suggest an alternative when the customer asks for something that is not available. Whenever someone at your bar says no, they are giving a patron an excuse not to return.
  • Consider merchandise. A great logo on T-shirts, pens, golf shirts, baseball caps, key chains, lighters, and glasses takes up little room but can bring in as much money (or even more) than your beverage items.
  • Consider vending machines. Vending machines are easy places for customers to get anything from antacids, breath mints, phone cards, bottled water, condoms, feminine products, snacks, to cigarettes. Vending machines allow you to make a profit without taking much effort. Your local Yellow Pages can easily put you in touch with vending suppliers near you. You can even place your snack vending machines outside the bar proper so that you keep earning money while the bar is closed.
 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: Bar staff, bar profitability, NightClub Management, bar business, Bar drinks, Bar Management, Nightclub Consulting, bar design

Monitoring Your Bar's Performance: The Closeout and Audit

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Nov, 12, 2012 @ 08:11 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

 

Bar Sales PercentagesAt the end of each month, it is important to close out all expenses and sales and balance all accounts. This process ensures that finances are being monitored and helps prevent financial problems down the line. It also lets you, the bar manager, see whether the bar is making a profit or not and what changes (if any) need to be made to operations.

Closeout actually depends on what goes on financially in your bar all month. It is essential that all expenses are recorded each day. Not having a reliable list of expenses incurred is sure to result in inaccurate bookkeeping and many problems at audit time. You need to record all expenses—including those that are prepaid or those for which you get a bill.

Monthly Audit Procedures

On the last day of the month:

1. Gather the completed inventory forms for food, liquor, wine, and operational supplies.

2. Using current invoices and past inventories, cost out the Inventory Form. The unit cost (or price) entered on the Inventory Form must correspond to the item and unit in the actual inventory. Correct prices are ensured by continual evaluation of invoices and/or contact with the suppliers.

3. Ensure that the employees organize and clean the storage areas and walk-ins so that the ending inventory may easily be taken the following morning. Combine all containers and bottles. Organize and label all shelves.

4. Schedule the bookkeeper and the employees involved in taking the physical inventory—the assistant manager, kitchen director, bar manager, and general manager—to arrive early in the morning prior to the start of business on the first of the month.

5. Schedule the preparation cooks to arrive an hour after the inventory crew so that you may inventory the food areas without disturbing them.

On the following morning, the first of the month:

6. The bookkeeper should arrive as early as possible in order to complete all of his or her work prior to management's completion of the inventory:

A. Reconcile and record all the transactions from the previous day, as
usual.

B. Enter the information on the Daily Sales Report Form. Total,
double-check, and verify all the columns.

C. From the employee time cards complete, total, double-check, and verify the Labor Analysis Form.

D. Ensure that all purchases are recorded in the Purchase Ledger. Complete, total, double-check, and verify the Purchase Ledger for each company. Total the purchases in each expenditure category: food, liquor, wine, and each individual operational category.

Ensure that all paid-outs entered on the Cashier's and Bartender's Reports have been posted into the appropriate Purchase Ledger categories. Total the cash paid-outs. Add this figure into the purchase total for each expense category.

Computation of Key Percentages


 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: Bar inventory, NightClub Management, bar business, Reducing Liquor Costs, bar control

Bar Management Tips: How to Mind Your Money

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Nov, 05, 2012 @ 08:11 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

Financial FilesNew bar managers, especially those who have never owned a business before, often find the process of caring for money matters quite daunting. There are a number of ways to make the process easier:

  • Keep excellent records. Staying organized and holding on to all receipts is crucial. Invest in a filing cabinet and make sure to file all your receipts in a simple method that makes sense to you. Ideally, you want to be able to find any financial paper within minutes.
  • Set aside a time and place for money matters. Each day, you should spend time considering the financial side of business. You should look at and file receipts, make payments, tally profits and debts, etc. This will make staying organized a habit. It will also prevent a buildup of financial matters that seems insurmountable.
  • Consider an accountant. An accountant can help you by showing up once a week or once a month to help you complete your financial statements. Hiring an accounting service will mean an additional bill to pay, however. You will also want to go over the accountant's work on your own, to see how the financial side of things works. In general, it is a mistake to leave the entire financial management of your operation to another person. If you hire an accountant, stay involved in the financial work of your bar. An accountant, however, can be handy in the beginning, when you are just starting to learn the ropes.
  • Get tax help. One place you will want help is in taxes. Tax laws are so complex that you will likely miss write-offs and other items if you do them yourself (unless, of course, you are a pro at doing taxes for business).
  • Consider financial software. There are many titles out there that are made especially for small businesses, and they make managing money very easy. You can use the software to print checks, keep track of profits and debts, and you can even scan receipts right into virtual file folders—all without bulky filing cabinets. If you know your way around a computer, financial software can help make taking care of profits a snap. Here are a few well-known and relatively inexpensive financial-software suites designed for small businesses:

◊ Sage 50 Complete Accounting is easy-to-use and comes with screen-level security and automatic accounting checks that give you confidence in the integrity of your information. Plus, it's installed on computers that you control locally.

Intuit Quickbooks Pro. The most popular version of America's #1 small business financial software helps you save time and get more organized. New features show you exactly where your business stands and save you time so you can focus on your business.

◊ AccountEdge is powerful small business accounting software for Mac and Windows.Sales and purchases, inventory, payroll, time billing and contact management just scratch the surface of what AccountEdge can do for your small business.

◊ Bookkeeper provides you with the accounting functionality you need to easily manage your business finances. From check writing, payroll and credit card processing, to billing, invoicing, tax preparation, reporting and more, Bookkeeper eliminates the hassles of day to day bookkeeping and frees up your valuable time so you can focus on growing your business.

  • Have a backup plan in case you suddenly can't use your cash registers. Power failures and sudden mechanical problems can cost you a lot of money and always seem to occur at the worst time. Keep paper receipts and a calculator or small manual register under the bar so that staff can continue to serve customers, no matter what.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: Technology, NightClub Management, Bar Management, opening a bar

Maximizing Bar Profits Without Sacrificing Quality and Integrity

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Tue, Oct, 09, 2012 @ 14:10 PM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

 

Making the Most from Sales

Bar PromotionThe savvy bar manager knows how to maximize profits and get the most sales possible without sacrificing ethics or drink quality. You can do the same if you follow a few simple tips. One simple way to maximize profits is by offering promotions or discounts. The small cost factor involved in initiating these promotions make them a good promotional vehicle.

"Happy hour," for example, a period of time when drink prices are generally reduced, can be an effective means of increasing bar sales. However, to be substantiated, it must draw a large volume of customers. "Happy hour" is most often run prior to opening the dining room, usually between 4 and 6 p.m. Drinks are sold at half-price or at a substantial discount. Hors d'oeuvres and salty snacks are often served, which will induce the customer's thirst.

In order to offset the enormous increase in the cost of sales due to the lower drink prices, total liquor sales must be increased substantially. A restaurant that lowers all drink prices by 50 percent during "happy hour" will be simul­taneously doubling its cost of sales. When analyzing the feasibility of a "happy hour," you must also consider the additional cost of labor during a non-operating period; the food cost of hors d'oeuvres and other snacks; and any variable costs, such as the use of additional utilities.

The gross profit margin during any "happy hour" is small, though it can be substantiated with sufficient sales. An increase in revenue, small as it may be, will be created where none had previously existed.

There are other possible benefits from initiating a "happy hour." Lounge customers will be exposed to the restaurant and may wish to return at a later date to try the dining room. Customers may stay past the "happy hour" period and purchase cocktails at the full price or remain for dinner.

Employees will also benefit from a "happy hour" by an increase in income through increased hours and tips. This point is an important consideration, as employees may become discouraged during periods of slow or seasonal business. A "happy hour" that may not provide the restaurant with the desired profit may be deemed worthwhile for increasing employee morale and decreasing job turnover, eliminating the costly expenditure of rehiring and retraining new personnel.

Bar Tabs

Bar TabsAnother way to maximize spending, and your bar's profits, is with bar tabs. Bar tabs make it easier for customers to spend without hassle, encouraging multiple orders of drinks. To allow bar tabs or not is a policy that can be debated from both sides with sound reasoning. Many bars and restaurants have been victimized by customers who walk out and do not pay their tabs. A policy of no bar tabs will alleviate the initial problem, but it will certainly be inconvenient—and possibly insulting—to some customers.

A bar tab should always be run if a customer so desires. The lounge is a place where the customer may relax and enjoy a cocktail before dinner. He should not be inconvenienced by paying for each drink order as he goes along. Drinks should also be automatically added to the dinner bill unless the customer wishes otherwise.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: bar profitability, NightClub Management, bar business, Bar Management, Bar products, Increasing Profits, Bar Promotion, liquor products

Don't Let Bartenders Rob You Blind

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Oct, 01, 2012 @ 12:10 PM

By Bob Johnson

Part 2 of 2: The Recipe for Theft

It takes a highly disciplined individual with a strong sense of high personal values to avoid the "natural" tendency of theft available to a bartender. Where do you find them? Hire through referrals and references whenever possible and remember, the best deterrent to bartender theft is the manager's watchful eye.

THE RECIPE FOR THEFT

Four basic conditions that make up the environment for bartender theft:

Opportunity

When bartenders see that little to no effort is being made to control the inventory, i.e., no weekly counting of liquor, beer, wine, no draft beer controls in place, no documentation for waste (waste sheets) and free drinks, allowing bartenders to "Z" their own register, allowing "free pour", wrong glassware, and more, then you have created the opportunity for theft. The fewer the controls, the greater the temptation to steal, and the easier it is to steal. Most owners/managers are fooled by sales. You think everything is just fine when you see big numbers coming in through the register, but it's not sales, it's the costs that ultimately determine the amount of profit. Would you rather make ten cents on the dollar, or forty cents on the dollar? Without controlling your costs, you're probably making the former.

 

Need or Greed

Drugs, gambling, excessive indebtedness, lavish lifestyle, kids needing college tuition, vacations, little display of self-discipline and basic values, few outside interests, constant partying, etc., creates a need for extra income. When hiring, it's best to call previous employers, do a background check that includes credit and criminal history, confirm previous jobs and conduct a thorough interview that includes testing before hiring. Do not rely on your "gut feeling" about a bartender applicant. Our industry has a lousy record of checking backgrounds before hiring.

 

Emotional Justification

If you are not a well-liked or well-respected manager, you may find that your theft problem is even bigger than you thought. The bar staff will steal to get back at you. They’ll use "emotional justification" to rationalize the theft. For example, "I worked 2 hours extra the day before and covered a shift last week on my day off and he never said thank you."

 

Lack of Knowledge

If owners and managers have little or no knowledge of bartending, some bartenders will find it difficult to respond to their direction. You might be telling them what to do, and you might be their boss, but you don't know what you're talking about - or you can't explain it very well - because you lack the necessary experience and knowledge. When bartenders become aware that they are smarter at what they do than their managers and owners, they now have more control of the business. This is not a good position to be in. If the bar is a big part of your business and you're not up on bartending techniques, perhaps some bartender training will serve you well.

 



Bob Johnson is a nationally recognized Beverage Management consultant who specializes in multi-unit management of nightclubs/bars and bartending. He is a 50 year veteran of the bar business and is known for creating America’s first certification program for bar managers, “CBM” (Certified Bar Manager). Mr. Johnson has taught at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, serving as Professor of Beverage Management.

Mr. Johnson can be contacted at:

Website: BobTheBarGuy.com

Email: [email protected]

Tel: (800) 447-4384

Loss Prevention: Don't Let Bartenders Rob You Blind

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Tue, Sep, 25, 2012 @ 12:09 PM

By Bob Johnson

Part 1 of 2: Do Bartenders Steal?

bartender theftDo bartenders steal?  I've worked with some outstanding bartenders over the years, men and women who are honest, hard-working, team/family-oriented and loyal. I'd like to think all bartenders are like that, but according to some, I'm misguided.

Joe Motzi of Entrepreneur Consultants in New York wrote an article on the subject for Restaurant Hospitality magazine, in which he said: "The theft is incredible! In the past three years we ran across only one bartender who wasn't stealing from his employer. That's out of about 1,000 clients! Only one bartender went by the rules of the house!"

Employee Service Reports in Fort Myers, Florida, a surveillance service to restaurants and lounges since 1950, reports that more than 50 percent of bartenders surveyed are not recording sales. That's a polite word for stealing. After weeding out the undesirable employees, the theft problem goes away - at least until after the new hires are comfortable with taking advantage of management.

A Michigan bar owner I know fired her last nine bartenders for stealing - in just one year. The owner of the Au Main bar in New York City has filed a $5 million lawsuit against 12 former bartenders and his chief financial officer for "working together (collusion) against the house, not recording drink sales and splitting the money amongst them for the past 8 years". The CFO changed the numbers in the books to cover up the missing inventory.

The temptation for a bartender to steal, and the ease of doing it, is scary. Receiving cash each time you sell a drink creates the temptation to keep the money (is anyone watching?). The drink sale is simply not rung up. The money for the drink goes straight into the cash register drawer by hitting "00" (No Sale), or they work out of an open drawer. They keep track of how much they are "over" by using a type of abacus system - 3 match sticks in a nearby empty glass equals $30, or a black sneaker mark on the floor equals $20 (3 black marks and they're up about $60).

The bartender takes the "over" out of the cash register drawer before turning in their money. Selling a cup of coffee or a "virgin" daiquiri (non-alcoholic) increases the temptation for bartenders or servers to take that money, too. Most bars do not inventory non-alcoholic type drinks, and most do not require their bartenders/servers to issue a receipt for each sale.

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While taking from you, there's a good chance they're also cheating your customers. Your bar might feature "tooters", which are 24 shots of liquor served in a one-ounce tube. The bartender is supposed to sell them for a buck apiece, but decides to charge the customer $2 - and pockets $24 at the customer's expense. Of course, the house gets hurt when the customer discovers the scam.

The theft process starts when first hired. The bad bartender usually looks for areas where management is lax. They run little "spot tests" - seeing what will work and what won't. Once it's established what works it's full steam ahead.

Another type is the overt thief - one who steals openly, thinking no one, including the customer, realizes what he or she is doing. Professional spotters describe this type of bartender theft as "wide open". These people fear no one - customer or management.

This is reason enough to use professional surveillance companies, or spotters, routinely. Spotters are hired to watch for, and report, any act of theft by a bartender, waitress, manager, or any employee working on the premises.

However, there can be problems with spotters. Many don't understand a bartender's organization, motion, or actual transactions. Many are also "minimum wage plus expenses" employees of a local security company and have never tended a bar before. The best spotter is one who has bar experience and can detect a discrepancy in another bartender's work routines.

 

Bob Johnson is a nationally recognized Beverage Management consultant who specializes in multi-unit management of nightclubs/bars and bartending. He is a 50 year veteran of the bar business and is known for creating America’s first certification program for bar managers, “CBM” (Certified Bar Manager). Mr. Johnson has taught at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, serving as Professor of Beverage Management.

Mr. Johnson can be contacted at:

Website: BobTheBarGuy.com

Email: [email protected]

Tel: (800) 447-4384

Topics: liquor inventory, inventory managers, Bar inventory, bar inventory levels, bar efficiency, NightClub Management, managing liquor inventory cost, Bar Management, Nightclub Consulting, Loss prevention, bar control, inventory counting, inventory control

Bar Management Tips: Keeping Up Appearances

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Thu, Sep, 13, 2012 @ 11:09 AM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing
 

Outdoor Areas Deserve Focus

Most customers will be people who have passed you by in the past and decided to try your venue. In order for this to happen, you need to pay far more attention to the exterior of your venue than most bar operators do. Here are some easy ways to spice up your outside areas:

  • A graphic projection lighting system. Also known as a "bat light," this type of system can provide a highly effective way to advertise your bar to passersby. It also looks great when used on the inside of your establishment. Bat lights use a light and optic setup to project your logo or other related graphics onto any surface, including walls, ceilings, the outside sidewalk, and more. They can be purchased or rented for far less than you might think. 
  • Bar Neon SignSignage. From how far away can your bar be seen? If you can't be seen at least a block away, consider increasing your outside signage. While this is not a small expense, there's no point in hiding the fact that your bar is nearby. If you talk to your distributors, you might find that one of them is prepared to subsidize the cost of your signage, in return for mention of their product.
  • Neon works! Why do you think every bar has neon beer signs in the window? The answer is simple: because people notice them. An impressive neon sign is a local landmark. Think of those huge neon signs in Times Square and how many tourists know of them and send photos of them home to their family. You don't have to go to quite that scale, but a small investment in neon will bring people in to take a closer look.
  • Don't discount the appeal of a nice paint job. Is your exterior freshly painted? A new paint job isn't just about aesthetics. The outside of your venue is usually assumed to reflect the inside. Consider asking your staff to come in after-hours and paint the walls for you, in return for a bonus. Most bar staff could use a few extra bucks now and then. It'll be a lot cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Landscaping isn't a luxury. Just as your exterior walls say a lot about your interior, so, too, do your grounds. If all you have outside your venue is a gravel-covered parking lot and a few beat-up pickup trucks, you're not going to attract a broad demographic, no matter what you offer inside. Plant some hardy greenery outside that will survive any weather extremes (choose varieties that will not need constant trimming and watering). This will soften the outside of your bar exterior. A few trees around the outside of the parking lot won't hurt, and some up-lights underneath them can offer a particularly breathtaking look, for not a lot of money.
  • Keep things neat. Remove snow in the winter, have an awning to protect patrons from the elements, and make your entrance attractive to ensure that more people will peek into your bar.
  • Who is greeting your customers? Is someone making them feel welcome right away or are they being greeted only by a suspicious security pterson? Do not give customers an excuse to walk away after they have made it all the way to your bar's door. Make them feel welcomed.

Add a Touch of Class

Formal SilverwareSometimes the only element that separates successful bars from those that fail is in the small professional touches of excellence. This extra effort implies that tremendous thought has been made all around to attain the highest level of quality possible. Professional bartenders and courteous cocktail waiters/waitresses can be found in any well-managed restaurant. However, it is the small, un-demanded touches and extra procedures that separate good lounges from superb ones. Described in this section are some simple, inexpensive suggestions that will give your bar the extra touches—the finesse—that will separate yours from the rest.

Simple signs of quality that make a big difference include:

  • Real napkins and table linens.
  • Fresh ingredients, real fruit juices, and high-quality garnishes.
  • Elegant presentation of drinks—garnishes, fancy napkins, and pretty glassware can turn even ordinary drinks into extraordinary ones.
  • Elegant cutlery and dinnerware.
  • Fresh flowers and candles.
  • Quality tables, chairs, and seating. Comfort is always appreciated.
  • Entertainment. Giving patrons something to do or something to look at while drinking is appreciated, especially by those customers who arrive alone.
  • Beautiful bathrooms. Many customers judge a bar by the bathrooms. If yours are beautiful, clean, and offer extras such as a sofa and breath mints, your bar will seem all the more impressive and wonderful to your customers.    
  • Elegant decor or a unique ambience. Even sipping a beer in a visually exciting place seems more interesting and fun than staying at home. Lights, colors, and artwork can easily create ambience on a small budget.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company
Amazon.com

Topics: Bar trends, NightClub Management, bar business, Nightclub Consulting, opening a bar, bar design