Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Unveiling Employee Theft in Bars

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Tue, Feb, 27, 2024 @ 13:02 PM

Discover the hidden ways employees may be stealing from your bar and how to prevent it.

Understanding the impact of employee theft in barsBar theft

Employee theft in bars can have a significant impact on the business, both financially and reputationally. The stolen items or money can result in immediate losses for the bar, affecting its profitability. Additionally, employee theft can damage the trust and loyalty of customers, leading to a decline in patronage. It is crucial for bar owners to understand the negative consequences of employee theft in order to take appropriate measures to prevent it.

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Common methods of employee theft in bars

There are various common methods that employees may use to steal from bars. One method is skimming, where employees take cash directly from the register before it is recorded. Another method is over-pouring, where bartenders pour excessive amounts of alcohol into drinks and pocket the difference. Employees may also engage in undercharging, where they deliberately charge customers less than the actual price of the items. Additionally, theft of inventory such as liquor bottles or food supplies is another common method of employee theft in bars.

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Signs to look out for in detecting employee theft

There are several signs that bar owners can look out for to detect employee theft. One sign is a discrepancy between the amount of cash recorded in the register and the actual cash on hand. If the numbers don't match up, it could be an indication of theft. Another sign is a sudden increase in inventory shrinkage or missing items. Unexplained changes in employee behavior, such as a reluctance to take time off or a sudden change in personal appearance, can also be red flags. It is important to be vigilant and observant to identify potential signs of employee theft.

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Preventative measures to combat employee theft

To combat employee theft in bars, there are several preventative measures that can be implemented. First and foremost, it is important to have a strong hiring process in place, including thorough background checks and reference checks. Implementing a system of checks and balances, such as having multiple employees involved in cash handling and inventory management, can help deter theft. Regular inventory audits and surprise cash register counts can also help identify any discrepancies. Proper training and clear communication of expectations can also play a crucial role in preventing employee theft.

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Legal implications and consequences of employee theft in bars

Employee theft in bars can have serious legal implications and consequences. Depending on the severity of the theft, employees can face criminal charges and potential jail time. Bar owners may also pursue civil litigation to recover damages caused by the theft. In addition to legal consequences, employee theft can result in termination of employment and damage to the employee's professional reputation. It is important for both bar owners and employees to be aware of the potential legal ramifications of employee theft.

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Topics: bar profitability, managing liquor inventory cost, bar theft, bartenders you can trust, Reducing Liquor Costs, managing liquor costs, liquor inventory system, bar inventory app

Safeguard Bar Profits: Introduce Basic Theft-Reduction Procedures

Posted by John Cammalleri on Mon, Oct, 03, 2011 @ 11:10 AM
By Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing


Safeguard Liquor AssetsTheft reduction policies and procedures are no good unless they are strictly enforced. Employees must be made clearly aware of the dire consequences of flouting house rules. There can be no gray areas. New members of staff should be asked to sign a confirmation that they have read the rules and fully understand the implications.

  • Prohibit bartenders from totaling the cash at the end of their shifts. This policy also protects honest bar staff.
  • Prohibit bartenders from both on- and off-duty drinking. Off-duty drinking leads to fellow bar staff overpouring, giving away free drinks or undercharging.
  • Prohibit bartenders from taking part in physical inventory counts. Ideally this should be a management-only function.
  • Bartenders should not be involved in ordering, receiving or issuing inventory. Again, this should be a management-only function.
  • Security. Enforce security procedures for all liquor, wine, beer, spirits and any other high-value inventory. Also, only key personnel should have access to the storeroom.
  • Require bartenders to record post-shift bar par readings. This refers to the number of bottles behind the bar at any given time. Bartenders should take a bar par reading at the end of the night shift.
  • Prohibit bartenders from recording more than one transaction per drink ticket. If bartenders are allowed to use a "running" ticket, they can easily neglect to record all the drinks they have actually sold.
  • Enforce voiding procedures. Bartenders should request managerial approval before continuing with a void. 


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: liquor inventory, Bar inventory, bar inventory levels, liquor theft, bar theft, Bar Management, bar control, inventory counting, inventory control

How to hire bartenders who won’t steal at your bar

Posted by John Cammalleri on Mon, Jun, 27, 2011 @ 12:06 PM

by Bob Johnsonbartender theft

  Over pouring, free drinks for buddies, grabbing an extra few beers or R e d Bulls—Is bartender theft inevitable?  No, says bar management expert Bob Johnson. Here, Johnson offers six ways to ensure that you’ll hire an honest barkeep.
My first book about bartender theft, written five years ago, was called “The 45 Ways Bartenders Can Rob You Blind.”  Now it’s up to 51!  Just when you think you’ve uncovered all the ways bartenders steal, they come up with new ways.  A bartender was caught recently at a casino inAtlantic Citywith a hypodermic needle injected into an overhead liquor line from an electronic inventory control system, sucking out the liquor into a six ounce vial which he was going to take out to his bartender buddy at the pool bar.  He was found with three vials in his pocket already.  This is an advanced method of “bringing in your own liquor” (theft technique #14 in my book). Not all bartenders are thieves, but I’ve caught so many bartenders stealing, I’m beginning to wonder.  I am told there is no solution; that, in essence, you’re always going to have bartender theft.  But I disagree. I believe you can keep the theft to an absolute minimum if you simply hire right.  Get the right people on board to begin with and you will have fewer problems with theft.  But it’s a full time job keeping your people honest. 
The majority of employee theft is created by owners and managers who know little to nothing about running a bar.  There’s probably no inventory control system in place.  No controls means bartenders now have the “opportunity” to steal unabated.  If bartenders are never held accountable for their performance behind the bar and what they do with each and every drink, and how it is accounted for, then they’re free to do whatever they want whenever they want.  Inventory control should be a daily regimen. It’s the biggest and most important part of a bar manager’s job.  Therefore, if there is no daily accounting, bartenders have nothing to fear.  They can give away beers/ drinks, take the money for a drink and put it in their pocket, etc., because there’s no way for anyone to know for sure what’s going on.I’m going to share my ways of controlling bartender theft.  It’s taken me three or four decades to put all this together.  The methods I use work well for me and it works for the clubs I’m operationally involved with.  It will never be 100 percent, but I’m pretty close to it!  Controlling bartender theft starts with the hiring process.

Topics: bar theft, bartenders you can trust