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.

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Increase Your Room Service Revenue by 50 Percent Today!

In our last article, we told you how to perfect your hotel’s in-room dining service.  If you have mastered your service, you should be ready to increase your room service revenues (and tips) up to 50 percent!  In-room service, your team has an incredible opportunity to sell.  Room service guests are typically not price sensitive and often want to splurge.  Here are the secrets of selling and increasing your revenue:

Before we talk about suggestive selling, the first thing we have to talk about is how to ask the right questions.  The most important thing to keep in mind is to never ask open-ended questions.  When I call room service, the room service operator typically asks, ‘what can I get for you?’ or, ‘what would you like this evening?’  If you ask either of those questions, you have lost all opportunity to sell.  At that point, you are only an order taker.  Your questions have to be specific and lead the guest to buy.

The first question you should ask the guest is, ‘how many guests should I set the tray for?’  Almost nobody ever asks this question.  They usually just guess based on the number of entrees ordered or just assume that the order is for one person.  Without knowing how many guests the meal is for, you cannot set up the tray properly… but more importantly, you cannot sell correctly!

Once you know how many guests to prepare for, you can start selling.  Selling is simple.  It is about anticipating the guest’s needs and making recommendations to match.

The next question you ask is to take the guest’s appetizer order.  With all of the questions that you will ask the guest, keep the following in mind: Continue reading

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 managers can probably skip this book.

Better Buffet Service

There are many times when I am eating breakfast in a hotel when I wonder why hotels even offer buffets for breakfast in their restaurants.  I can see the answers from the executives now;  “It is a faster breakfast for our busy guests!”  Or, “The costs will be lower due to the high volume and less staffing!”  Or, “Our guests prefer to have a buffet!”  What I usually see when hotels offer buffets though, is terrible service.  I am sure the guests do not prefer bad service!  It is not that buffets and bad service go hand in hand, but it really gives servers a reason to become lazy.  The fact is that almost everyone will tip, whether or not they received good service when they eat at a breakfast buffet.  The line between the self-service aspect of a buffet and the service side from the server often becomes blurred and a guest will just tip the customary ten to fifteen percent of the check no matter what type of service they receive, just to be courteous.

Nowadays, there are not many service-oriented managers that do not know that the last impression a hotel makes on a guest, usually at breakfast, can heavily affect guest service scores.  Most people also probably know that customers would prefer no service to bad service (thus the invention of ATM machines).  Why then, would a hotel allow this type of service to go out to their guests in hopes of saving some money?  If you have a subpar breakfast buffet service, make sure that you have the following items in place to change that service for the better.

Standards – Ensure that your staff is familiar with the standards of your hotel brand and follows them.  If you do not have a brand, make some standards and follow them.

Host – Have a host.  This may seem like a useless cost, but having a host seat guests will make the restaurant seem more like a restaurant and not like a cafeteria.

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Room Service Delivery Done Right!

Does your hotel’s room service delivery program operate like this? The room service delivery person throws some lukewarm food on a tray and covers it with saran wrap, tosses it on a cart, and dashes up to the guest room. He knocks on the door, darts in, and tosses the tray on the desk. He asks the guest to sign the guest check which includes the food at a 10 percent premium over the restaurant price, a $4 delivery charge, and an automatic 20 percent gratuity. He then tells the guest to just leave the tray out in the hall for a day or two and someone will pick it up. Enjoy your meal!

It is no wonder why Room Service is often one of the lowest scores on hotel comment cards and one of the lowest areas we see during our hotel inspections.

Here are some tips for doing it right:

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Restaurant Menu Engineering

Take a break from working on your budget to catch up on a new law that will have a huge impact on your gross operating profit. As you may have already read, on September 12th, 2006 Governor Schwarzenegger approved a bill to increase the minimum wage. The bill calls for two raises to the minimum wage over the next year and a half as follows:

-On January 1, 2007, the minimum wage for California will increase from $6.75 per hour to $7.50 per hour.

-On January 1, 2008, the minimum wage for California will increase an additional 50 cents to $8.00 per hour.

To read the bill, click on the following link:

The biggest area the new law will impact is in the hotel’s food and beverage departments. Most restaurants only make a profit of about 10 percent. With server and bartender labor to increase 11 percent to $7.50, it could easily squeeze out the entire profit. Hotels with high benefits (especially high workers comp rates) will be hit the hardest. Now is the time to examine your menus and consider any price increases. There is a great article on menu engineering available at . There is also a menu engineering worksheet available for download to help you out. It is also a great time to examine your labor productivity. Make sure that you have a productivity number for each position and those numbers are used to forecast, schedule, and report each week.

The earlier that you can prepare for the increase, the easier it will be to absorb the expense. It is critical to examine what positions that it will affect and have a plan for them. Typically any position under $10.00 per hour will be affected by this minimum wage increase. You may want to consider raising the wages on those positions immediately rather than waiting until January 1st. As the word about the minimum wage increase gets around, employees will start looking around to see what other hotels are paying. The hotels that wait until January 1st could risk losing some good employees to their competitors. Also, a large increase before the government requires could be a great boost for morale, especially in December when hotels are slow and work is scarce.

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