Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Insider Theft Can Have a Major Effect on Bar Profits

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Tue, Sep, 27, 2011 @ 15:09 PM
By Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing

bartender theftThis is an alarming fact: most types of beverage operations lose a crippling percentage of profits through insider theft. The vast majority of employees in the beverage industry are honest and hardworking; it is the small minority of staff that can ruin your business through dishonesty. Insider theft can often escalate if there are weaknesses in the following general areas of the operation:

  • Lack of supervision. Theft from behind the bar, storeroom or storage areas is a major problem. Curb losses by increasing supervision, either in person or by means of strategically positioned security cameras.
  • Proprietor attitude. Don't make matters worse by treating all employees with suspicion. Get the honest staff on your side.
  • Weak management. Unfortunately, some beverage managers compound the issue of insider theft by turning a "blind eye" and simply increasing prices to cover "shrinkage." Owners need to question unwarranted price rises.
  • Pouring costs A common danger area. These costs need to be carefully monitored, especially in relation to bartender productivity.
  • Inventory records. This is one of the easiest areas for dishonest employees to "fiddle the books." Tighten up your record keeping. Never leave inventory control to one person. Double-check.
  • End-of-shift cash count. Another prime target area for insider theft. Never let a bartender reconcile the cash in the register at the end of his or her shift.


Bartender Theft: Top Ten Ploys

Controlling theft behind the majority of bars is no mean task; eliminating it altogether is virtually impossible. Temptation is a fine thing, and unfortunate­ly, the opportunity for bartender theft is overwhelming. However, in the interests of long-term survival, you have no choice but to tackle the problem head on. Be wary of the following top-ten common ploys:

  • Open theft. A bartender pours a drink, doesn't ring the cash register and puts the cash in a "holding" place, such as the tip jar.
  • Overcharging. Bartender pockets the difference. A variation is to charge regular prices but ring up "Happy Hour" prices and, again, pocket the difference.
  • Ringing "00" on the cash register. The bartender simply steals the value of the drink.
  • Overpouring. Bartender hopes to get a heavy tip.
  • Underpouring. Bartender keeps a mental note of the number of half measures poured throughout the evening and then thieves the equivalent value in drinks, gives them away or drinks them him-or herself.
  • Rounds of drinks. Bartender rings up for a "round" rather than separate items. It makes it easier to inflate the overall price of a round of drinks, particularly if guests are unfamiliar with individual prices.
  • Shortchanging. Common variations include: counting aloud while handing the customer less money, distracting the customer by sliding the change along the bar, and giving change for lower -denomination bills (while keeping the difference).
  • "Soft" inventory. Bartender neglects to charge for the mixer component of a drink.
  • Substitution - bringing in own liquor. This is often done with vodka because it is odorless and looks like water. Dilution is another similar ploy.
  • Padding the tab. The bartender pencils in an inflated total and later erases it, replacing it with the correct total. Warning! Ban pencils from behind the bar.


Less Common (But Equally Damaging) Employee Theft

The more experienced the dishonest employee, the better equipped he or she is to manipulate the system. Thieving members of staff are quick to detect exactly how much an owner really understands about the business. In the beverage industry, take nothing for granted. Alert yourself to the following, somewhat extreme, possibilities.

  • Reusing closed tabs. The bartender appears to ring up the drink price but, in actual fact, only halfway enters the tab into the register. He or she then hits "0" to give the impression of ringing it in.
  • Over-ringing. When the customer isn't looking, the thief over-rings an amount on the tab and then re-rings the tab for less than the amount charged.
  • "Paid outs." The bartender claims that the money was refunded for various reasons, such as faulty cigarette machines.
  • Jigger substitution. The bartender brings in his own shot glass that looks identical to the official jigger but is actually smaller. Several short measures over a shift add up
  • Changing shifts. It is easy for the thief to make, serve and collect several drinks during a busy "hand-over" period.
  • Deliberate mistakes. Drinks are then returned and resold or given to a friend.
  • Breaking empty bottles and pretending they were full. Full bottles are then requisitioned to replace the "broken" empty bottles.
  • Substituting water in the drip tray. The bartender pretends he or she had to waste a pint to clear the lines and then pockets the difference.


    This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Controlling Liquor Wine & Beverage Costs, authored by Elizabeth Godsmark, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

    Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: bar inventory levels, bar business, Bar Management, Reducing Costs, bar control, Control

A Successful Bar Begins With a Quality Staff

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Jun, 15, 2011 @ 10:06 AM
By Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Part 1: Recruiting a Security Staff

securityKnowing when and how to recruit security staff is an important part of any popular bar operation. Should you hire your own or deal with a security firm? If you hire your own people, what rules do you set for them? How do you avoid getting sued if someone is removed forcibly? Many venues utilize outside security firms to provide security on busy nights, and most do so as a means of simplifying their security needs and reducing liability issues. But an outside contractor doesn't always make things easier:
  • Outside contractors. This means you don't need to concern yourself with compensation, holidays, sick days, wages, etc. However, it also means that your level of control over the standard and selection of those who work at your venue is reduced. Also, with security firms costing more per hour than individual contractors or staff, your bottom line can suffer. Consider hiring one or two of your own staff who you can use on regularly busy nights and filling in any gaps with contractors that may come up.
  • In-house employees. While harder to find, train, and do background checks on, they are usually more loyal and tend to stay longer than contractors. If you want to have complete control over how your security behaves, how they deal with customers and their loyalty to the company, there can be no better way to work than to simply employ the best people you can find.
  • Security personnel. Hiring security and calling them independent contractors to avoid liability and payroll taxes is a tactic some bar operators employ to make the process simpler and cheaper. But this can bring more problems than it solves. If your security "contractor" does injure someone when removing him or her from the premises, are you confident that your "contractor" won't claim she is an employee? Do you need that kind of a fight?
  • Rules. Security guards need ironclad rules of engagement that dictate what they can and cannot do. Ensure that rules are in place that every security employee knows and signs. So, if there is a liability problem down the road, you can point out that your rules were broken and that you were not in any way negligent in your duty of care to the client.
  • ALWAYS do a background check on your potential security staff. It may cost a little and extend the hiring process, but if you don't want a 300-pound cocaine addict to be throwing your customers around a back alley, you'll want to make sure you're not hiring any 300-pound cocaine addicts.
  • Attorney involvement. Talk to your lawyer about drawing up any and all papers you'll need to ensure that your organization is completely covered and doing everything it can to ensure your security staff behave responsibly. Spending a hundred bucks today on legal fees can save you thousands down the road. Similarly, check with your insurance company to confirm your legal liability responsibilities to your security staff.
  • Subcontracting security staff is a legitimate means of filling a need. This works if you really don't have the time to micromanage your security concerns, or to fill in during times when your regular staff is unavailable or inadequate in number. You can subcontract individuals as long as you give them a Form 1099 for any cash paid over the $600 mark; this will, in turn, keep your workers' compensation bill down.
  • Equip your security staff for their job. Spotting fake IDs isn't always easy. If you have 200 people waiting to go through your door, your security staff can't spend five minutes with every person, but there are tools available that can help. An electronic ID-checking unit will read the magnetic strip on any state driver license, verify that the license is valid, and display the holder's exact age - not to mention point out if the document is a fake or has been tampered with. These systems are small, inexpensive to purchase and limit the chance that your staff will let in an underage drinker. Talk to Intelli-Check ( by calling 800 444-9542.


This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Bar & Beverage Operation, authored by Chris Parry, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: Bar inventory, NightClub Management, bar business, Bar Management, Nightclub Consulting, opening a bar, bar control, Control, inventory control

Controlling Food Inventory to Generate Maximum Profits

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Fri, Apr, 29, 2011 @ 10:04 AM
By Douglas R. Brown
Atlantic Publishing

Part 5: Purchasing and Ordering--Procedures and Practices

Purchasing and Orderingfood purchasing

What exactly is the difference? Purchasing is setting the policy on which suppliers, brands, grades and varieties of products will be ordered. These are your standardized purchase specifications; the specifics of how items are delivered, paid for and returned. These specifications are negotiated between management and distributors. Basically, purchasing is what you order and from whom. Ordering, then, is simply the act of contacting the suppliers and notifying them of the quantity you require. This is a simpler, lower-level task. Here are the basics:

  • Develop a purchasing program. Once menus have been created that meet your customers' satisfaction and your profit needs, develop a purchasing program that ensures your profit margins.
  • An efficient purchasing program incorporates: Standard purchase specifications based on standard­ized recipes, and standardized yields and portion control that allow for accurate costs based on portions actually served.
  • Keep in mind: Purchasing more than you need usually results in poor portioning, excess spoilage, waste and theft. Not buying enough can mean paying retail prices, or using a more expensive substitute.
  • Purchasing procedures. These procedures should include creating written purchasing specifications for every product and selecting good, reliable purveyors. Your purchasing procedures should do three things:
  1. Allow you to purchase the required items at prices that meet your food cost goals.
  2. Maintain control over your existing inventory.
  3. Establish a set of procedures to be sure that you receive quality product at the best price.
  • Purchasing responsibility. Either take on the purchasing yourself or assign a specific employee to do it. Make sure that this person keeps current with ever-changing food prices.
  • Price checks for different vendors. Sometimes you may find that one vendor is less expensive than another for a while, and then this may shift. Keep current with competing vendors' prices.

Purchasing Specifications

By creating purchasing specifications, you can control which items you purchase and you can maintain product consistency. This information is extremely important if you have more than one person that does ordering in your operation. You need to record the following basic information:

  • Purchasing specifications. They state the exact requirements for the amount and quality of items purchased. These specifications should include:
    1. Product name
    2. Quantity to be purchased (designated with correct unit such as pounds, can size, etc.)
    3. Indication of grade, if applicable
    4. Unit by which prices are quoted
    5. What the product will be used to produce
  • Meats. Meats should be inspected by the USDA or
    other appropriate agency. The parts or packaging
    should carry a federal or state inspection stamp.
  • Eggs. Eggs should have a USDA grade; frozen and
    dried eggs should be pasteurized.
  • Shellfish. Shellfish should be purchased from
    suppliers that appear on public health service Food
    and Drug Administration lists of Certified Shellfish
    Shippers or on lists of state-approved sources. The
    control tags must be available if live shellfish are
  • Introduce a record sheet. Make it readily available for all your employees. They need to be sure that they're ordering the correct items in the correct amounts. You're also more likely to attain your desired food cost by keeping these records and maintaining purchasing controls. Keeping your food cost down will help you to maximize profits from your menu prices. The following form illustrates an example of a purchasing specification form:

Purchasing Specification Form



This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Controlling Restaurant & Food Service Food Costs, authored by Douglas R. Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: inventory, Restaurant Inventory, food inventory, Control, Hospitality, inventory schedule, inventory counting, controling costs, purchasing, inventory control

Controlling Food Inventory to Generate Maximum Profits

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Apr, 27, 2011 @ 10:04 AM
By Douglas R. Brown
Atlantic Publishing

Part 4: Purchasing BasicsPurchasing Power

The goal of purchasing is to obtain wholesome, safe foods to meet your menu requirements. The operation must have food to serve customers when needed. The food needs to be the right quality consistent with the operation's standards and purchased at the lowest possible cost.

  • Vendors and food safety. Food safety at this step is primarily the responsibility of your vendors. It's your job to choose your vendors wisely.
  • Suppliers must meet federal and state health standards. They should use the HACCP system in their operations and train their employees in sanitation.
  • Delivery trucks. Delivery trucks should have adequate refrigeration and freezer units, and foods should be packaged in protective, leak-proof, durable packaging. Let vendors know upfront what you expect from them. Put food-safety standards in your purchase specification agreements. Ask to see their most recent board of health sanitation reports, and tell them you will be inspecting trucks on a quarterly basis.
  • Delivery schedules. Good vendors will cooperate with your inspections and should adjust their delivery schedules to avoid your busy periods so that incoming foods can be received and inspected properly.
  • Your inventory system is the critical component of purchasing. Before placing an order with a supplier, you need to know what you have on hand and how much will be used. Allow for a cushion of inventory so you won't run out between deliveries. Once purchasing has been standardized, the manager simply orders from your suppliers. Records show supplier, prices, unit of purchase, product specifications, etc. This information needs to be kept on paper and preferably computerized. Purchase food items according to usage. For example, if you plan to use tomatoes by blending and mixing them with other ingredients to make a sauce, purchase broken tomatoes as opposed to whole tomatoes. However, if you intend to use tomatoes to decorate a dinner plate or as a topping, opt for high-quality produce, such as baby plum vine-grown tomatoes.


This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Controlling Restaurant & Food Service Food Costs, authored by Douglas R. Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: inventory managers, Hotel Inventory, Restaurant Inventory, food inventory, Control, inventory schedule, inventory counting, controling costs, inventory control