Bar theft is a serious problem in the industry. And sadly, according to the National Restaurant Association, employees are behind up to 75 percent of it.
Even if you reconcile your cash drawers carefully at the end of each night, you’re not out of the woods. Your employees may not be grabbing tens, twenties, and fifties from the cash registers, but they may be practicing more subtle types of theft— things like giving away drinks and over-pouring. These insidious practices occur under the radar but they add up over time, causing serious damage to your bottom line.
Your business is your livelihood. You work hard at it. You’re often the first one there and the last one to leave— as often as seven days a week. You need to have a solid plan in place to reduce product loss and keep costs down so the business will survive and you can earn the good living you deserve.
Here are 10 ways to prevent theft and waste at your bar:
1. Hire the Right People
The backbone of any hospitality-related business is an experienced, trustworthy team that understands how their actions affect the establishment from their first day on the job. These are the people you can rely on to learn your rules and pour accurately while building great relationships with your existing customers and welcoming new ones.
So where are these unicorns? They’re out there. And the best way to find them is by talking to the people who already work for you. So talk to them. Get referrals. This will provide you with a pre-screened pool of applicants. Regardless of who they are or how you heard about them, be sure to check all potential employees’ references carefully.
Have your bar manager go through each of your drink recipes— from a basic gin and tonic to the house signature drink. Demonstrate your average pour size, point out variance, and explain the cost of each. Make sure they understand what happens to the bar when you experience loss. In other words, if bar sales suffer, the establishment will likely fail— which means they’ll lose their jobs.
Let your employees know that your top priority is to preserve your business, safeguard your livelihood, and preserve their jobs. Tell them that one of the best ways you’ve found to do this is to implement a plan to prevent all kinds of theft, including over-pouring and offering free drinks. When your staff knows there are security and monitoring measures in place, they will be less likely to “color outside the lines.” Be clear about the consequences of stealing. When one staffer is terminated for stealing, your other employees will get the idea quickly.
4. Create a Fulfilling Work Environment
It’s common sense: your employees will be less likely to steal from you when they feel valued and important to the business’s success. It’s up to you to craft an environment in which each staff member feels integral. Ask them for their opinions. Involve them in creating a new drink list, and allow them to pour a certain number of complimentary drinks each night. Let them know you appreciate their work by awarding cash bonuses or merchandise rewards, or by hosting an after-hours event.
5. Enforce a Pour Policy
To reduce over-pouring, choose one of these three methods to get make the alcohol in your drinks consistent and within the recipe’s ideal ranges:
6. Ring up Every Product
Your managers should train your bar staff to ring up drinks before they begin to pour to help ensure that nothing accidentally goes unrecorded or paid-for. Spills happen, and on-the-house drinks for regulars is often good practice. Just encourage staff to ring up everything in your Point-of-Sale (POS) system so that your inventory is accurate. An inventory control system will assist you in tracking how much alcohol has been used, how much is left, and how much has gone missing.
7. Routinely Check Tabs
Your POS system has an “admin” setting that allows you to check any of your bartenders’ tabs at any time. Doing so will give you a good idea of what’s being served as compared to what’s actually being rung in. Say you notice one of your bartender’s friends spends most of the night drinking at the bar. If the POS shows he only rang in 2 beers but you definitely recall a martini or two in his friend’s hand, obviously drinks were given away without being recorded as comps.
8. Hire Secret Shoppers
When your staff knows you use a secret shopper service like Barfly, they’re more likely to be on their best behavior— adhering to policies, observing bar protocol, and avoiding sketchy behaviors.
9. Lock up the Extra Supply
Lock up your extra inventory in a secure room for which each employee has a different code so you can know who is gaining entry to the locked rooms and when. Your bar taps can also be locked to prevent unauthorized use, ours are as simple as sliding on the lock and turning a key.
10. Install Security Cameras
When employees and even guests notice cameras, they’re less likely to indulge in shady behaviors. Position them in vital areas— overlooking the cash registers, near any safes, and in view of the liquor storage areas.
Make no apologies for running a tight ship at your bar. Preserve your profits with a carefully thought-out and enforced loss reduction plan.