Basic Bar Internal Controls

Controlling 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 has 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.

4.  Have your bartender request some sort of payment or tab from each guest immediately after serving drinks. This can be as simple as placing a receipt in a glass in front of the guest. This way, the bartender does not forget what has been ordered and the guest can keep a running total or pay whenever they would like. As you can probably imagine, many types of POS manipulation, whether intentional or not, can occur if this standard is not followed.  Also, make sure your bartenders are properly controlling drinks they prepare for cocktail servers by reading this article.

5.  Issue POS cards for all your bartenders and servers. Do not allow codes to be used to access the POS systems. Fraudulent actions can occur if bartenders or servers get a hold of each other’s access codes.

6.  Security cameras should be installed and facing each register. You can always go back and refer to your tapes if necessary.  There are also new systems available that show the POS transaction details on the security footage.

7.  Give each bartender their own separate cash drawers. Any mistakes in cash handling should be traceable to the associate responsible for each drawer. Sharing cash drawers will make it difficult to trace back to one associate.

8.  DO NOT allow the ‘No Sale’ button to be used. Most POS systems show “NO SALE” very largely on the computer screen when it is used for a reason. There should be no reason to ever use this button that opens the cash drawer without entering a transaction. If change is requested by a guest, then have your bartender make change out of the tip jar, or have a manager witness the change transaction. No sale button pushes should be tracked and researched.

9.  Bottle for bottle exchange should be used as your bar’s requisition system. See our article on bottle for bottle exchange for details.

10.  The bartender’s tip jar should be placed away from the cash register. This will ensure that the bartender cannot easily transfer cash to and from the tip jar.  We recommend a minimum of 5 feet from the register.  The tip jar should be a one way jar.  Money should go in and not come out until the end of the shift.

11.  Have a log that is kept at the bar to log any spilled or complimentary drinks given to guests. This will help prevent bartenders from abusing the system and help reconcile the beverage inventory when the time to count arrives.

12.  DO NOT allow unauthorized associates to go behind the bar area. Only bartenders, bar backs, and managers should be allowed behind the bar area, reducing the number of possibly responsible associates for issues that occur.

Visit our seminars page for information on our Liquor Costs Seminar by clicking here.

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