How Bartenders Steal & How We Catch Them - Hospitality Checkpoint is a Bar Theft & Service Staff Evaluation Company. We spot Bartender Theft & Evaluate Service Staff Standards.

Insider Theft Can Have a Major Effect on Bar Profits

September 29, 2011 19:10 by administrator
By Elizabeth Godsmark
Atlantic Publishing

This 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

Michael Zenner - CEO      
Hospitality Checkpoint  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

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

© hospitality checkpoints Inc. 2011

10 Tips to Curb Employee Theft

March 1, 2011 16:58 by administrator

Sunday, February 27 2011

The Restaurant Blog

By John Foley

Fraud, missing cash, disappearing draft beer, and voided Vodka sales are all signs you may have a few unprofessional employees.

One perplexing observation: You can't assume your most professional employees are necessarily the most honest. True career professionals are honest. But there are also employees who seem professional but only have their own best interests in mind.

Any time you mix cash, booze, and food and leave the items unsupervised or unlocked you are going to have some degree of problems. If you add opposite sexes into the mix -- with even the slightest attraction towards each other -- it is the perfect formula for a party. It's just human nature. Owners need to accept the responsibility to address the problem.

Here are ten tips to help curb employee theft and fraud.

1). Announce your position on theft early on. During the first employee interview make sure you let potential employees know that you have a section in your employee manual dealing with theft. They need to read it and initial it. Simply stated – you prosecute. Now, do you send someone to the crowbar hotel for eating a steak? Probably not. But if they just happen to take a whole rib-eye out in the nightly bag of garbage and return later to pick it out of the dumpster, bye-bye.

2). Credit card fraud in any amount is considered a felony, and you will immediately call the police. Today, nothing is worse than being intentionally double-charged for a meal on a credit card. It revokes the trust the customer had with the restaurant and the employees.

3). Inventory is the road to financial success. Lock your liquor room. Take complete product inventory weekly. Keep a perishable list and have someone inspect the product before it is tossed and listed.

4). Your staff is not part of your family. I know this hurts, but it is true. You cannot be "one big happy family" and expect to succeed. Become a team -- winning teams work together. Families can be completely dysfunctional, and they are still a family. Families share everything in the refrigerator, the liquor cabinet, and the spare change.

Say it…"T E A M."

5). Only the house buys drinks. If you ever hear a bartender say, "This one's on me," fire them. They are working for themselves. You bought the booze wholesale; you deserve credit for the complimentary cocktail.

6). The staff meal. Everyone needs to eat.. The staff meal consists of whatever the chef wants to make within your guidelines. Set a time the staff can come early or stay late. And everyone eats the same meal -- no exceptions.

7). Do not under any circumstances allow your staff to drink at the bar after work. It seldom ends in one drink, and eventually it will cost you a lot of money, a server or two, and possibly your liquor license. Feeling gracious? Give them the money for a drink next door.

8). Have a secret shopping customer. Make sure it's a regular and someone you can trust. Have them come in on occasion to eat, drink, and spy. Pick up the tab. It will be worth it.

9). Short of silverware? Is all that being thrown away? Inventory it – quarterly.

10). It's The Art of War. Read it. If you find someone stealing, termination is a must. Bring up the incident, not the person, at your next pre-shift meeting. State your theft policy again. Drive the point of prosecution home.


Michael Zenner - CEO      
hospitality checkpoints Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

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

© hospitality checkpoints Inc. 2010


Bar Spotters - All Bartenders Steal

November 3, 2010 01:01 by administrator

Kristine G. Bottone - LA Bartender Examiner

November 3rd, 2009

I’ve stated this before, all bartenders steal. The theft could range anywhere from having an extra shift drink, heavy pouring, giving away more than the allotted amount of comps to get bigger tips or pilfering glassware, napkins, toilet paper or other bar supplies. Bar owners are well aware of this and accept it as one of the hazards of the bar business. But when the bar begins to lose profits, it’s gone too far.

The idea is to prevent in house theft before it starts. Surveillance cameras in bars is a growing trend and is a good way to cut back on theft but not always as effective as a bar owner might hope. The view of the cameras, depending on their location, can be limited and will only tell part of the story. If you’re an honest worker then it won’t matter where the cameras are. But bartenders looking to steal will find a way to avoid detection. This is when bar owners use another theft detection method called Spotters.

Spotters are essentially secret shoppers who come into the bar to spy on employees, mostly bartenders. They’ll sit at the bar and observe, watching the bartender for signs of theft or misconduct. Most reputable Spotter services employee former bartenders who are quick to pick up on scams that would go unnoticed by a regular customer. Spotters are often equipped with hidden cameras and record every exchange of a bartender suspected of stealing. At the end of their visit they’ll review the video and present their findings to the owner. Depending on what the tapes reveal the bartender could wind up with a warning or immediate termination. In some cases where the bartender has been caught stealing money outright charges have been pressed and the evidential tapes held up in court.

Some bar owners choose a Spotter service because the company boasts that they employ retired cops. While that may look good on paper, 9 times out of 10 they have no idea what they’re looking for. They’ll hone in on “suspicious behavior” but a lot of things a bartender does behind the bar can be misconstrued or deemed suspicious. Cash over rings are a perfect example. Instead of complicating the matter further by trying to find a manager to void it; bartenders usually make up the difference over the next couple of cash sales. The money goes into the register but they don’t ring it up until they make up the difference. This can easily be misinterpreted as ‘padding’ the register.

Bar owners have also been known to send friends and family into their establishment to spy on employees. They’ll offer them free food and drink in return they report what they see. Again, this leads to the issue of the Spotters not knowing what they’re looking for or at for that matter. Sometimes friends and family Spotters feel compelled to embellish the truth of something negative in order to justify what they ate and drank on the owner’s dime. True story: I was working full time at a bar, going to school full time and interning at a radio station. One night behind the bar my energy level wasn’t what it normally was and a customer asked if I was OK. I said I was fine, just a little tired and left it at that. The customer later asked why I was tired. I simply told him work, school, an internship and not enough nearly caffeine. That was that, or so I thought. The next day I got a call from the owner telling me that a Spotter, a friend of his, reported that I complained to him that I was tired. I was able to recall the entire exchange perfectly, pointing out that the Spotter failed to mention that he asked what was wrong and why I was tired, other wise I never would have mentioned it. He also failed to mention that he spent the majority of the night hitting on women and buying them drinks. It was never brought up again nor did I ever see the face of that Spotter in the bar after that night.

For the most part bartenders are hard working and straightforward people. It’s only a handful of dishonest self serving bartenders that give the rest a bad name. In all my years of bartending I have found that if the bar is making money and the bartender isn’t then the bartender needs to reevaluate their work ethic. If the bartender is making money and the bar isn’t, it’s safe to assume the bartender is stealing. Slow nights aside, if the bartender is doing their job well then the bartender and the bar both make money.


Michael Zenner - CEO      
hospitality checkpoints Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

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

© hospitality checkpoints Inc. 2010

Bars and Restaurants Using Spotters to Increase Profits

November 3, 2010 00:48 by administrator

By Gregory Scott McGuire

A bar spotter, or "nightclub secret shopper," is a person sent into a bar by the owner or manager to conduct a secret quality control review of bar staff.  Spotters carefully observe bartenders and other employees, watching for telltale signs of theft and misconduct.  Most spotters were once bartenders themselves, and understand the industry and how it works.  Many companies across the U.S. have sprung up in recent years to meet the rising demand of restaurants and bars for spotters.

The worst thing a bartender can do is give away drinks for free by never ringing up the sale or just pocketing the cash.  Only about 10% of bartenders are caught stealing, however.  Most bar owners get a lot more value out of the other things a bar spotter watches for during their visit, like generous pours on drinks, failing to up sell customers on top shelf brands, and long wait times.

In general, bartenders are making a lot less than they used to from tips as patrons dial back on bar visits.  This has led many of them to try to earn tips in creative ways, like giving customers an extra long pour.  The drink rings up the same for the owner, however, and that costs the bar money.  And if bartenders simply push out well drinks whenever someone orders a rum and coke instead of asking the customer what kind of rum they would like, that's costing bars money too.

For bar owners, revenue is down as well.  Many have found that the solution, counterintuitive as it may be, is to spend money on a bar spotter to identify places where thin profits are leaking out.  Hiring a bar spotter isn't cheap, often running into the hundreds of dollars per visit, but the invaluable information you can gain from having an anonymous person observe your bar staff has proven to be more than worth the cost.

Finding a bar spotting company is relatively easy.  Just type "bar spotter" into a Google search and you'll find several companies that offer services across the country.

Article Source:


Michael Zenner - CEO      
hospitality checkpoints Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

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

© hospitality checkpoints Inc. 2010