20 Ways Your Bartenders Are Robbing You Blind

November 10, 2017

|Dave Allred

I say it to every owner and manager I sit down with, or during a screen share demo, and I’ll say it to you now: 98% of bartenders steal. I don’t want to hear about these stats claiming 50% or even 75% of bartenders steal.

I’ve helped hundreds of bars and EVERY SINGLE TIME, their variance is 25%+, which means every 4th drink is free and as a result the business loses $1,000’s per month.

With that said, I don’t believe bartenders are bad people. Hell, I was one for 15+ years and I still jump behind the bar now once in awhile, but conformity is contagious (I’m talking Bubonic Plague contagious) and they simply fall into the same pattern that every other bartender at their work and down the street is doing.

If you think your bartenders are just over-pouring and giving away “some, but not that much”, you are as naive as my grandmother who thought nobody had sex until they were 33 years old and married.

The sad truth is, the bar industry breeds thieves, and to put it bluntly, it’s your own fault because you make it so easy for them because you have no system of accountability in place, so bartenders take what they want. 

Think about it: If they worked at Nordstroms and gave away suits to their friends you wouldn’t tolerate it, so why do you allow them to give away your liquor?  Product is product,  and the bar business is an inventory business just like any retail store. Just because other bars allow it doesn’t mean you should.

The solution?

First you must know what to look for.  And don’t tell me that you have cameras in place so “it’s all good”. Cameras will only catch someone loading a bottle into their backpack. They can’t detect a savvy bartender, and they eventually all become savvy.

The main solution of course is to put a tracking system in place that holds the bartenders accountable. It’s really that simple, and it’s just good business.  

With that said, let’s get to it.

The 20 Most Common Ways Bartenders Rob You Blind

1. No Ring (most common) – Simply take the cash and don’t ring in the drink. A common way this occurs is a guest orders two beers for a total of $10 and hands the bartender a $20 bill. Bartender turns and rings one beer into the POS and gives $10 change. Undetectable by the cameras because it appears as though everything is being rung in.

2. Short Ring – Ring in a soft drink or beverage of lesser value than the drink ordered and keep the difference.

 3. Overcharge – Tell the guest that the total is more than it is.  For example, if four drinks comes to $28, bartender tells the guest that they owe $33.

4. Claim That Guest Walked – When the drink or food is comped, bartender keeps the money.

5. Short Pour – This way bartender can pocket the money on drinks not rung in and it won’t affect the liquor pour cost.

6. Give Away Free Drinks – This is done for friends or for good regulars in hopes of receiving a larger tip.

 7. Bring in Own Bottle of Liquor – Bartender can charge for his own bottle and keep the money without it showing up on the liquor pour cost.

8. Watering Down Bottles – Not extremely common but it does happen.

9. Giving Free Drinks to Employees

10. Stealing Bottles From Liquor Room – Nothing fancy here. Just flat out robbery. You can use your precious cameras here.

11. Claim Guest Didn’t Like Drink – Drink is comped, cash is pocketed.

12. Claim Drink Was Spilled – Same result:  Drink is comped, cash is pocketed.

13. Drinking on the Job – Very common in bars, but without permission, it’s stealing.

14. Pouring Well When Premium Was Ordered – Bartender can charge for the premium liquor but only ring in the well that was poured and keep the extra money.

15. Claim Drawer is Short – At the beginning of the shift bartenders can take out cash and claim that the bank isn’t what it’s supposed to be at.

*A good way to test your staff’s integrity is purposely leave the drawer OVER what it’s supposed to be (i.e. leave it at $350 instead of $300) and see if they say anything.

16. Pouring Strong – This is usually done for regulars in order to receive a bigger tip.

17. Fudging the Spill Tab – Bartender will give away drinks and put them on the Spill Tab and claim they were returned or wasted in some way. They should be telling the manager at the time of the spill so there isn’t just a huge tab at the end of the night, unaccounted for.

18. Ringing in Modifiers – Ringing a drink as Up or Rocks usually means extra liquor is poured, but some bartenders will ring in the modifier but not pour the extra liquor, providing a surplus of liquor to play with.

19. Using “Open Liquor” Button – Bartender uses open liquor button to undercharge the guest and keep the extra.

20.  Claim Wine is “Corked” – Bartender determines that a bottle of wine is bad so it goes on the Spill Tab but he/she sells it anyway.

Cheers, until next time,


Tags:Bar inventory appliquor inventory appbar profitsbar managementbar inventory controlalcohol controlbar inventory systemliquor inventory systemrestaurant profitsbartender theftrestaurant management,restaurant app

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