With 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.
The main area to focus on when it comes to cocktail server internal controls is how the server orders and interacts with the bartender. A surprisingly large number of hotel bars allow servers to “call out” beverage orders to the bartender. This method of ordering presents a multitude of possible issues that no Food & Beverage manager or Controller wants to deal with. If your hotel bar is currently using this method, or even if you are doing it the right way, make sure that you follow these steps to do a self audit on your cocktail server internal controls.
1. Ensure that your cocktail servers have their own POS terminal, not behind the bar, to enter transactions.
2. Ensure that your cocktail servers are entering drinks into the POS terminal to order from the bartender. Your bartenders should not make any beverages for servers without an accompanying order printed from the bartender’s printer. This prevents the server from representing checks or not ringing up an order at all.
3. Have your cocktail server only pick up drinks in a sectioned off area of the bar and compare the beverages to the order receipt. This will prevent any mistakes resulting from taking the wrong drinks.
4. Have a spill/comp log. Any spills or comps must be logged and have a manager’s approval (if possible). Remember not to compromise a guest’s experience; seek manager’s approval after the new drink has been served.
5. Require your cocktail server to present a receipt to each guest when they are paying. This will prevent over-charging or short-changing.
6. Hold your bartender equally accountable. With the proper controls in place, it would make it extremely difficult for a cocktail server to steal if they are not in collusion with the bartender.
In addition to a lounge audit, other management practices can be helpful as well. Food and Beverage numbers should be looked at daily by an F&B manager. Consider determining your outlet’s average daily cash intake. If a day’s cash intake wavers from that average by a considerable amount, do some research and ask questions. This is not to accuse your employees of stealing, but to find out what caused the change for that day and to make your employees aware that you are looking at the numbers daily.
After you successfully cut off the ability of a cocktail server to steal from your bar, the only place for a determined thief to turn to is to your guests. With random mystery shopping of your lounge, you can also ensure that your hotel guests are not also being defrauded.