Basic Bar Internal Controls

liquor-bottlesControlling your beverage cost is about much more than hiring the right bartenders and being hopeful that they are honest.  Whether your hotel just opened a brand new bar or have had one for many years, make sure that you have these 12 basic internal control standards in place to protect your bottom line.

1.  Position the POS terminal so that customers can see transactions rung up. Most bars have the POS screen positioned towards the bar so that the bartender must turn their backs to use the register. This helps on two fronts; first, all guests can see their transactions rung up and second, it is tougher for the bartender to see who is watching him or her ring up the transaction, making it less likely that they will risk using POS manipulation. If your bar design does not allow the terminal to be placed this way, consider installing a display arm that can be positioned to face the guest similar to ones in retail stores.

2.  Ensure that it is your bar’s standard to have alcohol poured first when preparing mixed beverages. Pouring the mixer into the glass before the alcohol can only mean one thing; your bartender is attempting to adjust the perceived alcoholic strength of the beverage. This is a good indicator that your bartender may be pouring less per drink to steal so that it will not throw inventory levels off.

3.  Require the bartender to give a receipt after each transaction. This is one of the simplest standards to use yet many bars obviously do not require the bartender to give one. Make sure that your bartender knows that if a guest pays cash, it is not some secret code for, “I do not want a receipt.” Even if most of the guests throw the receipts away, at least your bartender gave them one and hopefully rang up the transaction.  Check out our article on how bartenders split and re-present checks with the POS.

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Book Report: Preventing Internal Theft, A Bar Owner’s Guide

preventingThis book, written by Robert Plotkin, has been around for quite a few years and is in its fourth or fifth printing.  The book does a very good job of covering internal theft in bars.  The chapters range from ‘Exploring the Causes of Theft’ to ‘Preventative Measures’.  At 96 pages long, the book is an easy read and serves as a decent reference.  If you are new to beverage control, you will find yourself going back to the book time and time again as you try to improve the controls in your bar.  A more experienced Bar Manager will not find much of the book very useful.

While there is a lot of great advice on preventative measures, the book does feel a little outdated.  Also, many of the recommendations for beverage control seem very costly when it comes to supervision.  Hotels that do not have a F&B Manager on the floor at all times will have a very hard time with the recommendations.  In addition, many of the recommendations are just way too time consuming and small to midsized hotels will have a hard time finding the time and manpower to do them.

Overall, we recommend the book for managers who are new to beverage control.  Veteran mangers can probably skip this book.

Banquet Bar Requisition Template and Instructions

Click here to download our free Banquet Bar Requisition Template

To download these instructions in PDF format, click here

Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_HospitalityInstructions for using the TrueGuest Banquet Bar Requisition Worksheet To set up the file:

1. Create a new file for each event. You can either create a new file for each month or add each month to a separate tab within this worksheet.

2. Input the details of the event at the top of the spreadsheet. Only fill in the cells that are in blue!

After you requisition the liquor to banquets:

1. Fill in the amount that you requisitioned in the column labeled ‘requisitioned’.

2. Again, only fill in the cells in blue.

3. Add additional rows for additional types of liquor not listed.

After the event and banquets returns the unused alcohol:

1. Fill in the amount that is returned in the column labeled ‘returned’

2. Again, only fill in the cells in blue.

To view your cost for the event:

1. Input the amount of revenue you collected for the event at the very top of the spreadsheet.

2. Your cost for the event will be displayed right below your revenues.

3. Send a copy of the worksheet to accounting so they can transfer the amount to banquets.


To download these instructions in PDF format, click here

Book Report: Burning Down the House

burningWho has read ‘Burning Down the House: The Infamous Waiter & Bartender’s Scam Bible’?

This book was actually written to teach bartenders and servers how to steal from their restaurants and bars. The tagline on the back reads ‘Diners and Managers, beware!  Waiters and bartenders, give yourself a raise!’

It was written by two servers who work on Bourbon Street.  It is a quick read, you could probably finish it on your lunch break.  It is a very dangerous book! It covers the simple scams like check representing and the more complicating scams like the wagon wheel. A couple of the scams are far fetched or out of date, but the book does a good job of describing all of the ways a server or bartender can steal from your hotel.  The book is also pretty entertaining.  It is written in an edgy fashion and includes chapters like ‘Suggestive Stealing’ and ‘The Buffet Scam’.

Please add your comments about the book below… and if you buy the book, don’t leave it sitting around your office where your servers will see it!

Perpetual Beverage Inventory Template and Instructions

mqdefaultTo download the Perpetual Beverage Inventory Template in Excel Format, click here.

To download these instructions in PDF format, click here.

To read an article on Perpetual Beverage Inventory, click here.

Instructions for using the TrueGuest Perpetual Beverage Inventory

To set up the file:

Cocktail Server Internal Controls

drink trayWith all the focus on good bartender practices and internal controls, what about those “other” employees? All good practices should extend to anyone who has the words, “Serve Alcoholic Beverages”, in their job description. With cocktail servers so prevalent and necessary to provide good service in lounges everywhere, cocktail servers should be held to the same standards as all bartenders. The temptation and the opportunities for a cocktail server to steal are enormous because they work independently and self bank. Dishonest cocktail servers use a variety of methods to take advantage of their situations.

These methods can include:

Short-Changing – Stealing by not returning proper change to a guest. This happens as the guest can become less attentive as they become more intoxicated.

Overcharging – Charging more than necessary for a certain drink and stealing the difference. This usually happens when guests have no intention of seeing a receipt and the server quotes the drink price to them.

Substitutions – Charging for a requested premium liquor, but ordering a well brand from the bartender.

Representing Checks – Presenting the same check to two separate guests/transactions with the same order, then pocketing the cash from one or both transactions.

Fake Walk-Outs – Alleging that a party walked out, but pocketing the cash instead.

Altering Checks – Voiding or adding to checks. Usually goes hand in hand with representing checks.

With the following controls in place, you will curb the chance that your cocktail servers have to steal.

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Bottle for Bottle Exchange

All bars have an inventory system, but most bars overlook an important aspect that should be as controlled as any other process. Imagine that your bar revenue begins to decline; more notably, your cash sales. You begin to do your research and your business levels seem to be consistent and all of your costs seem to be in line. You even do a full inventory mid-period to find any discrepancies. Everything seems fine.

Can someone be stealing your customers? That person might be right under your nose.

liquor-bottlesYour typical bar will carry a variety of different alcoholic selections, almost all of which can be found in grocery stores. There are no distinctions between the bottles you receive from your liquor broker and the bottles you can buy in the grocery store. What will prevent a shrewd bartender from bringing his/her own bottle of Absolute vodka from the store, and pouring and serving to customers out of it, and pocketing the proceeds without a trace? Your bartender just opened his/her own business in your establishment.

Obviously, you cannot have a manager watch each bartender all night looking for any suspicious activity. There is a much easier method that allows you to control this aspect of your liquor operation at a glance; Ensure that you are using a proper bottle for bottle exchange program in your liquor inventory system.

An effective bottle for bottle exchange consists of just a few steps. First, obtain a stamp or a set of stickers that is original and difficult to reproduce. Secondly, mark all of your bottles with the stamp or sticker (discreetly on the back of the bottle to maintain appearance) to show that they are the bar’s property. Lastly, add the bottle for bottle exchange to your requisition process.

This bottle for bottle method requires the bartenders to save finished liquor bottles and exchange them for new bottles during requisition. The bar will not receive new bottles unless an accompanied empty bottle with the proper stamp or sticker on it is received in return. The manager then properly disposes of the empty bottles so that they cannot be retrieved.

With the new changes, managers can easily do spot checks to see if there are any bottles in the bar without stamps or stickers on them. It also provides some additional benefits. Your bar should not run short on any types of liquor anymore as any missed requests in the requisition process will be mostly eliminated due to bottle for bottle exchange. You can be certain that your bar par levels will always be maintained. Any missing liquor inventory will now be the sole responsibility of the bartenders and cannot be blamed on the process. Managers should also consider taking it one step further and disallow personal belongings such as purses or bags behind the bar. This will prevent the use of a personal bottle of liquor to refill the bar’s bottles. Also be sure to use separate stickers for the different outlets you may have so that you do not mix or confuse the bottles with each other.

The bottle for bottle exchange will definitely add some extra work and time to your bar’s inventory process. However, it will be worth the peace of mind you will receive knowing that you are making it tougher for bartender’s to steal from you.

Perpetual Inventory System

mqdefaultFor the discerning bar manager, a perpetual inventory is a must. A perpetual inventory system is a method used so bar managers can know their exact liquor inventory at any given time. The rule generally is; the more liquor that a bar stocks on hand, the more crucial it is that a bar should use a perpetual inventory system.

What does it mean to take inventory perpetually? Like the name would suggest, it is a continuous inventory. Instead of counting your liquor inventory just once a month, you track each transaction in an ongoing count. The process is definitely tedious to set up initially, but once running can make the inventorying process much easier. Here are the steps to make it successful:

1. Log each type of liquor carried and all the information associated with that liquor in regards to costs and ordering. This includes:

a. Cost of bottle or case

b. Cost per pour (Bottle cost divided by ounces in bottle multiplied by ounces in standard pour)

2. Build a spreadsheet or database that can store and automatically update and calculate based on your inputs. The simplest way to do this is in Microsoft Excel. Be sure to add in places to log requisitions and purchases. Keep the different outlets and storage room all separate on the spreadsheet. Also, add in the extensions that calculate your total inventory value for each item as well as the total. Be sure to include a second area where you can calculate the important numbers that you would like to see (i.e. pour cost to date).

3. Lastly, find a good time and day to perform a full inventory count. The most preferable time is usually when the normal periodic inventory is done. Count everything and log everything into the database.

Now that the system is ready, be sure that the bottle for bottle exchange requisition process is in place, and begin to track each transaction. A good way to approach the situation is to think of each outlet as a separate entity that the storage room is supplying. Now, as all purchases and requisitions are logged as they occur, the database should show exactly how much inventory is in your storage room at any given time. Also, a pretty accurate pour cost can be calculated based on taking your outlet’s sales for the period divided by the requisition costs to the outlet (*Note – At least three months from the system’s launch should be allowed to see the accurate costs).

For a pre-made perpetual inventory database, a simple search online can produce many companies that can produce them. However, for one that is catered to your needs and products, find a person that can do basic Microsoft Excel formulas and functions. A very simple, effective one can be built from scratch.