How Bartenders Steal & How We Catch Them

BARTENDER THEFT: Bar Theft, Palming Stolen Money, Stolen Money to Tip Jar, Underage Drinking, Dram Shop Concerns

March 3, 2014 18:35 by administrator

BARTENDER THEFT: Bar Theft, Palming Stolen Money, Stolen Money to Tip Jar, Underage Drinking, Dram Shop Concerns


Bartender Summary

The agent observed the following bartenders the evening of June 30th:

-Indoor Bar

·       Xxxxx: Caucasian male, 6’2”, medium build, short dark hair


·       Xxxxx: Caucasian male, 6’0”, medium build, short dark hair  

-Near Bar

·       Bartender 3: Caucasian male, 6’1”, medium build, short spiked brown hair  

·       Bartender 4: Caucasian male, 6’2”, medium build, short dark hair  

The agent initially approached the nearer of the two outdoor  bars at 7:17.  At that time, all three bartenders were doing their best to keep up with the demand, but from the moment the agent walked in, it was obvious that they were beyond the limit of how much business they could keep up with.  And while both of them were working gamely to do all that they could, it was six minutes before one of them was able to get to a given guest after her arrival.

This was not an isolated incident either, as the experience was typical of the average guest.  Even so, after initially speaking to the agent at 17:23, Bartender 3 was able to present the ordered beverage a mere two minutes later.  Though  it  is worth noting that no beverage napkins were used by either bartender at any point.  Of some additional concern, the agent noted that the bartender never actually rang the order in.  Rather, he approached the POS, and registered a flurry of screen touches that ultimately culminated in a “No sale” screen and the cash being split between the register and tip jar.  Again, this experience was sadly typical.  (see photo below from 8:20).

In addition to multiple “No sale” ring-ins, the agent also witnessed another common practice effective for hiding cash theft:  rather than create and close out each individual order, both Bartenders 3 and 4 had a tendency to leave a tab open at all times, which they would add drinks to and apply cash payments to repeatedly without closing out.  In addition to making the cash sales record a confused jumble, this also gives a readout less than a centimeter in size stating the change due back to the guest. Obviously, in a bar where the nearest guest is ten feet away, this is a serious problem.

Yet two additional methods of outright theft were observed.  At 8:07, Bartender 3 received a drink order and a stack of bills with a suggestion to “keep the change.”  Rather than ring the order in, Bartender 3 held onto it, palmed in one of his hands while going about stocking work, until he eventually dropped it directly in the tip jar.

Similarly, at 8:34, Bartender 4 poured two draft beers for a guest, quoted her a price of $10, then went to the POS, and rang it in for a single draft, pressing the cash button as quickly as possible so that the large “$5.00” display was visible for only a fraction of a second, and then dropped the remainder and tip in the tip jar.

Each of these theft methods relies on quoting a price, waiting for the guest to present cash, and then ringing in something unorthodox to disguise the theft of the overage.

One practice that would go a long way to eliminating these practices would be to insist that bartenders announce the price only after having rung in the items.  This would at least make the practices above more difficult, but the fact that bartenders feel free to just ring in “No sales” and drop in cash means that they are stealing with impunity.  A good way to address this problem would be to have surprise cash drawer changes at random and unannounced times, making it easy for management to prove that some bartenders have impossible overages.  Also, since theft was consistently observed only at the outdoor bars, this would be a way of extending management’s control over the satellite bars that seem to operate with a sense of impunity.

Given the profit motivation the bartenders displayed, it surprised the agent to never see either of them offer food to a guest or even try to upsell to a more expensive brand of liquor, easy ways to increase check and tip averages.

Also, paradoxically, the bartenders were very slow about offering additional drinks to those guests whose had gone empty.  Initially, they were very busy with guests, then with cleaning up and restocking, but after this period, they tended to wait around to be approached rather than offer new drinks to guests sitting there with empties.

The agent also never observed either bartender giving any guest a check for any cash order at any time.  They simply did not do it.  This was even true at the inside bar where rampant theft methods were not observed.

Additionally, other, numerous operating controls seemed to have broken down, especially the system for checking ID.  It is possible that the bartenders were under the impression that IDs were being checked at the door, because no bartender in the establishment or out was ever seen to ask for identification of any guest.  This is obviously a big enough risk for the establishment, but on top of that, much of the crowd that evening was young, including several people that were clearly under 30.  Additionally, by the end of the evening multiple guests made statements both to the bartenders and to fellow patrons to the effect of their being completely intoxicated.  Sure enough, both guests showed all the symptoms of visible intoxication, yet they continued to receive drinks from Bartenders 3 and 4.

Even more worryingly, at 9:27, the agent observed Xxxxx serving a Mojito and a Pomonat to two girls that appeared to the agent to be underage (pictured at left) .  What’s more, Xxxxx not only never carded them, he was also never seen to ring the drink in, meaning that he either delayed the ring-in considerably, or they were given away without being properly comped and accounted for. Agent never observed the drinks to be accounted for.

Obviously, it goes without saying that under New Jersey’s dram shop law, these are massive sources of liability to the establishment, as any damages caused to either any individual or any property by a minor who has been served in a restaurant can be considered the liability of the establishment, and can be recouped by litigation.  In fact, the law is so stringent, that even minors who have not been served on the premises, but have been seen to have been intoxicated on the premises and then go on to cause damages can be a source of liability for the establishment, as the establishment is legally obligated to stop the process.  This is why it is so essential that all guests be identified in terms of age upon entry to the establishment.  Of course, when it comes to intoxicated guests, the liability exists regardless of guests' minor status.

On the other hand, there were minimal problems with correct pouring controls at  both bars.  The only overpour was actually poured by a chef (see “Managers” section for details).

All bartenders appearance was always professional and hygienic, with no cause for concern with respect to their hand washing.  The agent did observe both outdoor bartenders and Xxxxx drinking from plastic cups though.

The outdoor bar farthest from the entrance was closed.

Manager Summary

·       Patio Manager: Caucasian male, 6’0”, short dark hair and goatee , average build, black short-sleeved collared shirt labeled “Baia,”  and black slacks (pictured at right)

·       Chef: Caucasian male, 6’0”, short light brown hair in a baseball cap, glasses, wearing a black chef’s uniform monogrammed with a name beginning “Sch”

For the most part, the agent only observed the Patio Manager.  He was generally busy and effective though.  He was first seen in conversation with the hostess outside the patio bar at 8:16, then was seen circulating around the patio, in one case talking to a guest.

Next, at several times between 8:50 and 9:28, he was seen preparing bar drinks and taking them outside, presumably to help the swamped bartenders.

The only negative finding about the Patio Manager is that he was just five feet away when Xxxxx was seen presenting the alcohol to the seemingly underage guests.

Finally, the Chef described above was briefly observed at 9:20 when he stepped behind the indoor bar, grabbed a goblet, poured himself an eight-count (>3 oz) of Grey Goose, emptied a can of Red Bull over it, and then walked back into the kitchen, taking a large gulp of the drink as he walked. It was not observed to be comped in the POS.

While the Patio Manager was doing a laudable job of assisting his staff, in the agent’s opinion, his time might have been better spent by inspiring a bit of fear of authority in his bar staff.

There were no guest problems at any point that required manager intervention.

Michael Zenner - CEO      

Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)

Hospitality Checkpoint

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299

Office: 480-777-7056

Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2014


April 26, 2012 06:09 by administrator


Bartender Summary                                                                          

  • Bartender:  Caucasian female with xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wearing a xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Agent took a seat at the bar and was greeted within seconds.  The bartender approached with a smile and a cardboard coaster in hand and asked what I would like to drink.  Agent stalled in an attempt to get an offer on the specials if any, but to no avail.  Agent did hear the bartender knowledgably list the numerous specials later in the evaluation after being asked. 

For best customer service, agent feels that bartenders should automatically offer specials particularly when the guest is unsure of what they would like.  At no time did the bartender ask agent if it was their 1st time at the establishment, nor was she overheard asking anyone else.

Agent noted that the bartender had her beer key shoved in the side of her bikini bottom directly against her skin which is an AZ Health Code violation.  Agent suggests strategically placing bottle openers behind the bar if they aren’t already.

When agent’s drink was about 90% empty the bartender approached and offered something new.  Throughout the evaluation the bartender was good about offering new drinks before the guest was completely empty which is an excellent practice.  Eye Spy suggests following the 75% rule which is to always offer a new beverage to guests when it is 75% empty because it helps prevent guests sitting with empty drinks if the establishment is very busy or the staff has a distraction.

During the evaluation agent observed the bartender eating at the north end of the bar standing behind it.  There was a guest eating the food, which appeared to be from Streets of New York, with her as well. 

The bartender was observed standing behind the bar doing what appeared to be texting and also holding her phone while speaking with a bar guest.  On one occasion the bartender and a different bar guest were doing what appeared to be comparing ring tones for about 15-20 minutes.  All the while, she was not observed looking around to check the status of other guests. 

Throughout the evaluation the bartender poured a minimum of a 4 count = 1.5 ounces to a 6 count = 2 ounce.  On one occasion the bartender was pouring a second round of caramel colored liquor on the rocks in 4ounce rocks glasses.  The bottle of liquor was nearly empty, but instead of saving the last shot for the next order and having a backup bottle ready, the bartender divided the remainder up between the 2 drinks that were already a 5 count pour. delivering more alcohol than what is prescribed by management is a form of bartender theft.

Each time the bartender served a guest who was paying cash, she would move immediately to the register with one exception.  The exception was an occasion when she prepared drinks for 2 different groups of guests and took payment for one of the groups, became distracted for about 3 minutes and then took the payment for the other drinks; however, there were guests at the bar who had a credit card tab running and on several occasions the bartender did not move to her pad of paper to account for the items served for between 3 and 15 minutes.  Agent has no way to know if each of the items were accounted for. because this was not observed being rung in correctly, agent scores this a possible bartender theft occurrence.

The bartender did wiggle her rear end while pouring draft beer, but was also observed waiting for a guest to finish drinking their beer so she could use the same glass which agent found quite lazy of her.  The guest was clearly annoyed by being pressured to finish the beer in the glass.

Throughout the evaluation the bartender was very lackadaisical about keeping the bar top clean.  Agent observed a guest leave and his glass stayed on the bar for over 2 hours after he was gone.  Three bar guests did a shot and the glasses were still on the bar when agent left an hour later.  Guests at a high top table did a round of shots and then ordered new shots.  When she delivered them, she did not clear the initial empty shot glasses.  In general, the only thing that the bartender would clear was empty beer bottles, but even they would be left for varying amounts of time.

The bartender was not playing pool or darts, but did play Wii bowling with a bar guest on the large television mounted on the south wall of the outside of the ladies room.

During the evaluation agent observed the bartender pour a blue liquid from a storm pourer into a 4 ounce rocks glass about 2/3 full.  She then used a straw to drink the entire contents of the glass.  She took the bottle to a group of guests along with 3 shot glasses and after some exchange, poured the same liquid in the 1 ounce shot glasses.  At this time agent became certain, but cannot substantiate, that the liquid was an alcoholic beverage.  The bartender drinking the shot while on duty, particularly the quantity that she did, was a severe ADLLC violation and can subject licensee holder to hefty fines.


4-244. Unlawful acts

12. For a licensee, when engaged in waiting on or serving customers, to consume spirituous liquor or for a licensee or on-duty employee to be on or about the licensed premises while in an intoxicated or disorderly condition.

Michael Zenner - CEO      
Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299
Office: 480-777-7056
Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2012


St. Patrick's Day Beer Vendor Thieves are Busted

March 17, 2010 20:09 by administrator


My Eye Spy crew is out and about at the Irish Bars today "fishing" for Saint Patrick Day Bartender Thieves and landed their first STEAL-head of the day:

Concession Summary:   We approached the beer vendor at beer tent #2. Agent used a pre-text to ascertain the vendors name and was told “George.”   Agent said that they were going to be at the venue all day and asked George, “Dude if I give you 20 bucks will you refill our beer cups all day.” George explained that he doesn’t usually work here and it wasn’t worth $20 to get busted. Agent then told him $50 if he would do it. George then winked at the Agent and asked my name and then directly pointed at the tip cup, inferring to put the money in the receptacle.  Agent laid two $20 bills and a $10 bill next to the tip cup (marked bills).   George delivered the beers and said “Dude, only come to me alright.” He scooped up the money and instead of placing it in the tip cup; he slid it into his left back pocket. Agent departed, discarded the beer into the trash and immediately text messaged the event coordinator of the integrity breech, as well as, that they would find the $50 in marked bills in George’s back pocket.

Michael Zenner - CEO  

Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299
Office: 480-777-7056
Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2010