Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Loss Prevention: The Bar Manager's Key to Quick Profit Growth

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Thu, Aug, 16, 2012 @ 13:08 PM

How Keeping Close Tabs On Your Liquor Supply Can Both Cut Costs & Generate Revenue

Inventory ControlIndustry studies have consistently shown that a full 25% to 30% of a bar's liquor inventory never converts into registered sales. That is the equivalent of about six to eight 1.25 oz portions per bottle (which should yield at least 25 portions.) This loss of liquor volume--due to unauthorized comps, over-pouring, spillage or theft--should be of great concern to any bar manager. 

While losing 25% of a $25 bottle may not seem like a very serious problem--an unavoidable cost of doing business--the true cost is much greater than that $6 or $7 per bottle. The question you need to ask yourself is: Where is this lost liquor going? And how is it affecting sales? For instance, if your bartender is not pouring 1.25 oz portions, but is instead pouring 2 oz portions (say, perhaps, to curry favor with clients and receive a bigger tip), you're not just losing liquor volume, you're also losing potential sales. Where the customer may have been disposed to buy three drinks (3.75 ounces), he may now be content to buy just two 2-ounce drinks. Your bartender's actions, in this case, haven't merely cost you a dollar's worth of liquor, they may well have cost you $6-$8 in lost sales revenue (depending on how you price your drinks). And that's just for one customer buying two drinks. How often is this occurring? What if your bartender also happens to be giving away free drinks without your knowledge or authorization? The point is: "shrinkage" does not only affect supply costs, it can also affect revenues in a big way. 

That's why loss prevention is so important. The profitability of your business depends on whole bunch of variables--the location of your establishment, the overall economy, ever-changing customer tastes.... Achieving profit growth can be difficult and can rarely be accomplished overnight. Increasing the price of your drinks is risky, and can prove more harmful than helpful as far as your bottom line is concerned. And growing your clientele usually takes time. The best way to increase profits in the short-term, therefore, is not to try to fiddle with pricing or to increase your client base. (Of course, this is something you should always be doing. But it is not easy to do in the short-term.) The quickest way to increase revenue is to make the most of the clients you're already serving. And one way to do this is to improve operations by getting tighter grip on your inventory. Loss of liquor supply at double-digit levels is not an "unavoidable cost of doing business". It is "bad business". And it is entirely avoidable. Put simply, loss prevention can pay big dividends. What's more, it can be achieved quite quickly through the implementation of a quality liquor inventory control system.

Topics: liquor inventory, Bar inventory, bar inventory levels, bar efficiency, bar profitability, Bar Management, Liquor cost, Liquor Inventory savings, alcohol cost, Increasing Profits, Reducing Liquor Costs, bar control, inventory control, managing liquor costs

Myths About Managing a Bar That Could Hurt Your Business

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Thu, Aug, 02, 2012 @ 16:08 PM
By Douglas Robert Brown
Atlantic Publishing

Myth: Bartending School Is Vital for a Bartender

FalseMany of the best bartenders learn most of their useful trade while at work. This is because bartending schools vary widely in quality. Some emphasize the preparation of rarely requested drinks without stressing useful skills such as bar management, customer satisfaction, and customer safety. If you are hiring a bartender, you should consider the school he or she has attended, but testing practical skills will give the best clue of how many useful skills the person has for waiting on your bar. If you are considering attending a bartending school, investigate the school to make sure that you will be taught skills such as organization and techniques of serving. A good bartending school or course will emphasize dealing with customers. Be wary of a bartending school that is more of a "drink mix" school, stressing mixing many types of drinks without teaching anything besides drink preparation. There are many of these sorts of schools out there, which claim that a bartender's greatest asset is knowing how to mix an endless variety of drinks. Learning to mix the latest drink is relatively simple once one looks up the recipe, and most patrons will order the most popular drink of the moment rather than some obscure mix. A bartender with a good grasp of people and basic bartending techniques is usually more useful than the bartender who only knows how to mix hundreds of drinks from memory but has few skills besides. In some cases, an employee with a hospitality degree is better able to handle the bar job than someone who has attended a bartender school.


Myth: If You Hire Experienced Employees, There Is No Need to Train Them

 You still need to train your employees to ensure that they understand what you want them to do. In cases where an employee has worked at another establishment for a while, you may actually need to provide additional training to allow the employee to get used to the way you want things done versus how they did things at their previous job.


Myth: Hiring Younger Serving Staff Is Best

Many bar managers mistakenly believe that hiring young female servers will help ensure a high customer loyalty. This is based on the belief that middle-aged men are the main patrons of bars, which is no longer the case. When hiring servers or other staff, you should consider experience and skill over age or physical appearance. In most states, hiring based on age or appearance is discriminatory and can lead to lawsuits.


Myth: The Customer Is Always Right

Bar managers want the customer to be happy enough to return and satisfied enough to recommend the establishment to others. It is never wise to argue with a customer, and if the difference of opinion is something quite small, it is better to humor the customer in order to avoid making him or her feel embarrassed. On the other hand, if the customer insists that he or she is not intoxicated and can drink more, for example, then they should be refused further drinks.


Myth: Security Staff Is Vital in Today's Bar

Security does add a certain peace of mind, but at many establishments, it is still the bartender who acts primarily as the security force of the bar. Where your security comes from depends on your location and bar. If you decide you do not need a separate security staff, however, make sure that the bartender or some other personnel are willing to help customers in case of an incident.


Myth: To Run a Successful Bar, Just Serve Great Drinks

While quality drinks are a key to bar success, many people go to bars to spend time with others. If you serve good drinks but offer exceptional atmosphere and service, you are likely to do well. In today's competitive world, great drinks alone are not enough. Bar managers need to have good financial planning and careful advertising and marketing and offer great customer service in order to be a success.


Myth: You Can Cut Corners to Increase Profits

Reducing costs or cutting corners (reducing the size of drinks or firing staff) is unlikely to help. Customers expect more from bars than ever before. Offering them less is unlikely to bring you the results you want. If you are just starting out, it may take months to see a profit. If you have been in business for a while, increasing customers and getting more from each customer by encouraging spending and lingering are far better strategies than downsizing in order to make a profit.


Myth: You Must Keep Expanding in Order to Make a Profit

Many bar managers think that in order to make a large profit, they need to dabble in everything. For this reason, many bars spend large amounts of money setting up dance floors, live acts, larger establishments, and restaurants. When you are just starting out, though, it is often best to keep things simple. Do not expand randomly, assuming that spending more money will bring in more money. Only expand after careful research and weighing the potential risks and benefits. You do not want to get into debt for a venture that is unlikely to work for your 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

Topics: Bar staff, bar profitability, NightClub Management, bartenders you can trust, bar business, Bar drinks, Liquor cost, Bar products, drink recipe, liquor products

Making the Most of Your Liquor: Extracting an Extra Ounce of Profit

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Jul, 18, 2011 @ 11:07 AM
By Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Upsizing is EssentialSaving on every ounce of alcohol

When you go to the movies, quite often you can buy a double-sized popcorn for only $0.75 more than the $3.50 regular size. This would seem to be an astonishing bonus for the customer, so why does the cinema operator push this "up-sizing" so hard? Quite simply, because they're selling about $0.04 worth of popcorn for that extra $0.75. That second portion might not bring as large a profit margin as the first, but it's still profit. Your drinks run the same way - if you can get another buck out of a customer selling a drink that costs you $0.45 to prepare, it's worth doing.

  • Consider the cost per ounce of your well spirits. Let's assume you're using El Cheapo brand tequila at a base cost of $7.54 a liter. That would mean that an ounce of that spirit is costing your establishment $0.22, while a more-expensive brand of tequila, let's say Cuervo for the sake of this example, might come at a base cost of $14 per liter, or $0.41 per shot. Common thinking might lead you to say that by using the cheaper tequila you're saving yourself $0.19 on every drink sold. But, if you consider the alternative of up-selling the more expensive spirit for an extra $0.80 or so, you're actually making an extra $0.61 profit on every up-sized drink.

  • Offer your customers a discount to spend more than they planned. This works in other areas, too. Turning a single into a double for an additional dollar, or selling half-price burgers with every shot of a specific brand of spirit, brings you more money per order, while bringing your customers added value. Your profit margin might not be as high, but you'll be extracting more money from your customers than they might otherwise have spent - a definite win-win.

  • Up-selling. Most bar customers will bring out more money than they initially want to spend -just in case - especially those that don't have easy access to it through ATM machines and credit cards, so it's imperative that your staff don't let those customers walk out the door having spent less than they planned. Incentives for up-selling are commonplace in the theater and fast-food industries, so why not offer your staff an incentive to up-sell and watch your better staff earn a few extra dollars while earning you hundreds?

  • Incentives. For example, if a member of your staff engages someone in conversation and discovers they're looking for somewhere to hold a private function, birthday party, girls' night out - any large gathering of people - there's certainly no harm in making it worth their while to bring that prospective client to you. Twenty dollars here, $50 there - even a percentage of the bar take - if you offer the incentives, you'll be surprised how far people will go to bring you new business.



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: NightClub Management, bar business, Bar drinks, Bar Management, Liquor cost, alcohol cost

Pricing Your Drinks: The Need for a Structured Approach

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Jul, 13, 2011 @ 11:07 AM
pricing drinksBy Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Structuring a Price List


Guesswork just won't do in today's corporate world. Figuring that if your scotch costs you $14 a bottle you can sell a shot for $3, is just a little hit-and-miss when you take in all the other potential costs, like rent, insurance and wages, that your establishment has to cover over the course of a month. It's possible you might be able to charge less than $3, but it's also possible you should be charging way more. Take these factors into account when making your next price list adjustment:

  • Market positioning. Take a look around at what your competitors are charging. Figure out if you need to undercut them or match their level. Does your establishment give added value enough to increase your prices and still draw a good crowd? Are you a level above them in terms of services and product? Are you evenly matched? Are you looking for a more "low rent" crowd? Price accordingly.
  • The competition. They're not always right, but if they've been around a while, your direct competitors probably have a good gauge of what your local customers are prepared to pay for a drink. Take the time to look around and take particular note of any specials they offer on certain nights.
  • Customer demographics. Are your patrons blue-collar workers? Are they white-collar? Do they have families to get home to or are they likely to stay all night and spend every penny? Are they young adults or senior citizens? These all impact what you can charge without losing clientele, and you should have the information already from your market research.
  • Embrace simplicity. It's far better for your customers and staff to have to deal with a simple pricing structure as opposed to forcing them to break their brains over an intricate maze of differently priced products. Set across- the-board levels of prices; for example, well spirits might cost $3, middle-shelf $3.50 and top-shelf $4. Of course there's always going to be the occasional variation, but for the most part, a three-tiered system gives you flexibility in pricing without your staff continually needing to check a price list or hand out handfuls of change.
  • Include tax in your pricing. There's nothing worse than getting $0.84 change from a five- dollar bill on every drink you buy and getting home with a pocket full of silver and copper. If you're going to set your prices at a round level, include the tax in that price so you can use price levels to your advantage. If your alcohol tax rate is 10 percent, the non-tax price for a shot that costs your patrons $3.50 would be $3.18 ($3.18 plus tax of $0.32 equals $3.49). Let your accountant do the math, not your bar staff. Sales tax is a complicated matter that varies dramatically from state to state. Prior to estab­lishing the net price inclusive of tax, discuss the issue with your accountant and state Department of Revenue. Don't find out later in a five-year audit that you've been calculating the tax incorrectly.



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 business, Bar drinks, Bar Management, Liquor cost, alcohol cost, drink recipe

Reduce Bar Costs By Streamlining Issuing Procedures

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Mar, 07, 2011 @ 13:03 PM
By Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing

Part 5 of 6: Reduce Costs By Streamlining Issuing ProceduresLiquor inventory Streamlined

Revise your existing issuing procedures. You'll be surprised at how much cost trimming you can achieve in this area. Issuing procedures are particularly vulnerable to employee theft and wastage. Establish a simple issuing procedure that focuses on reducing costs. Keep the following basic records:

  • End of shift. Bartenders need to record the name of each liquor, wine and beverage emptied during their shifts. They should also note the number of empty bottles and the size of the bottles. Make bartenders responsible for this activity. They will feel accountable.
  • Manager authorization. Managers should check empty bottles against the beverage requisition form at the end of each shift. It is much easier and more cost-effective for resolving any problems immediately than letting minor queries develop into major problems at a later date.
  • Issuing replacement stock. Either the manager or the bartender is the best person to return empty bottles and the completed requisition form to the storeroom. The person replacing the empties should check all the information on the requisition and issue replacements, bottle for bottle.
  • Breakage. It is important to account for breakage each time the requisition form is completed. Not only does it give you tighter control over cash flow, it also helps identify potential (and costly) problem areas - sooner rather than later.
  • Daily cost keeping. Calculate, on a daily basis, the total cost of inventory issued. This should be viewed as a separate management or administrative function. It provides an essential "cross-check."
  • Computerized issuing. A manual issuing procedure works well in many small establish­ ments. But, if you have the resources, opt for a computerized system. It will quickly repay your investment. For information about computerized solutions, contact:

Topics: NightClub Management, Liquor cost, inventory control

Better Inventory Management Equals a Better Bottom Line

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Mon, Feb, 21, 2011 @ 09:02 AM
By Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing

Part 1 of 6: Establishing Good General Inventory Procedures Can Reduce Costs

General Inventory ProceduresLiquor inventory costs

Minor overall changes can result in major cost reductions. Take a fresh look at your existing inventory system. In every establishment, there is general room for improvement. For minimum effort, you can get maximum value out of your stock.

  • Timing. Move all drinks to a designated storage area as soon as they arrive. Don't let stock hang around. Drinks (and wine especially) need to be stored in an ambient environment, or their quality can deteriorate rapidly - and so can your profits! Also, unattended drinks, languishing in receiving areas, present a great temptation. Liquor is high on any thief s hit list.

  • Faulty goods. When receiving merchandise, look out for cracked and chipped bottles, mislabeled boxes, outdated or cloudy beer, correct type and vintage of wine, raised corks, leaking and weeping bottles, damaged labels and wrong-size bottles. Contact the supplier immediately about any dis­ crepancies.

  • Storage area. Your storage area must be fit for its purpose. Poor storage conditions can result in poor quality, breakage and escalating costs.

  • Security. Basic, but obvious. A good security system removes temptation and reduces the risk of external break-ins.

  • Rotate stock. First in, first out. This is important and avoids wastage, overstocking and running out. Pay special attention to beers: their shelf-life is limited. Most beverages, also, have no longer than a month before the sell-by date.

  • Control. Large or small, every drinks outlet needs some form of control procedure. Track your products from the moment they arrive at your premises to when they are sold. While this doesn't have to be complicated, the key to any good control system is to make sure that all the liquors, wines and beverages are located in the right place at the right time and are being rotated properly.

Make the Most of Your Storage Areas

Where and how you store your liquor, wines and beverages can make a big difference in turnover and profits. Once you have taken delivery, treat your inventory with respect - it has the potential to make or break your business.
  • Location. Define storage areas. Are you using the most convenient areas for storage? Rethink. Centrally located storerooms and walk-in coolers make ideal storage areas. Easy access saves time and money.
  • Other storage areas. "Storage" means more than an area for dumping received goods! Storage locations include shelves, workstations, reach-in refrigerators and behind the bar. Keep all these areas accessible and clutter-free. It speeds up your operation and reduces breakage.
  • High-value wines. Consider separate cellaring for prestige wines, somewhere away from the busy "shop floor" environment. As turnover of such wines is slower, accessibility is not top priority. More important is security and perfect storage conditions (even vibrations can affect the quality of good wines!).
  • Extra security. All drinks should be stored in a secure area. Organize the layout of storage areas to offer maximum security for liquor and high-value wines. Only personnel who need keys should have them.
  • Quantity. Drinks can be stored in bulk in the main storage area. Drinks in general storage areas, such as behind the bar, are better stored in the units or quantities in which they are sold.
  • Environment. Know your product and store it accordingly. Maintain proper temperatures, humidity and ventilation. Wine is particularly sensitive to environmental influences. It can easily absorb odors from nearby food storage areas. Poor storage practices can quickly reduce the quality of stored inventory - and nothing affects profits like quality!

Topics: Bar inventory, Liquor cost, inventory counting