The Truth About Corporate Culture – Spill Check Edition

Big Corporate Hospitality culture is a funny beast. It’s a microcosm; an extreme, shining example of what I believe even “mainstream” corporate environments are like. On one hand (the public face – the one they beat you over the head with in requisite meetings and stacks of training manuals), they are all politically correct, non-discriminatory, equal-opportunity, and “all in” for the team effort. They attempt to rubber-stamp all their establishments with the same “look and feel” and – umm – operational efficiencies.

In all the various types of restaurants and bars I’ve worked in over the last two and a half decades, I still find it amazing that the culture, practices and pitfalls are nearly the same from one to another. As bars/clubs/lounges/restaurants prosper, owners/managers seem to grow exponentially disconnected from reality – what goes on in the trenches. Having been personal witness to several establishments’ Road to Glory, I hypothesize that the tipping point is somewhere around the $500K – $750K [gross revenue] a year mark. Or, it can happen at the 2 to 3 owned/managed venue point – when a previously young, highly-engaged owner/manager morphs into the CEO of a restaurant management group – jetsetting around the region, transitioning his/her bar into a “brand,” and morphing into “Corporate Bitch.”

That said, let’s look at a few choice management group playbook excerpts:

XYZF Group prides itself on openness in it’s hiring policies and everyone has equal opportunity
The Truth: You must interview well, be attractive, not display your Tourretes symptoms, have Pizza Face, be obese in any way – or simply be young lady with great cleavage and a penchant for sporting revealing attire. Eccentricity, however, is often celebrated and desired. No one wants to hire or promote a monotone, boring, quiet douchenozzle of a public-facing servant. 

The law states we cannot discriminate. Your career opportunities and prosperity are not based on seniority, appearance, or anything but our ongoing evaluation of your job performance
The Truth: Sex and money control the schedule. Your advancement, good shifts, etc, is dependent mostly on socialization and acceptance, particularly outside the workplace. Don’t fraternize, and immerse yourself in (what can only be categorized as) bar/restaurant incest, and you will likely be looked upon as an outsider and be shat upon as such. Looks matter… they really matter in getting you what you want.

You must be a United States citizen, or documented Resident Alien in order to be employed in XYZF venues.
The Truth: bullshit. This is what Corporate tells the government for appeasement. I’ve seen more undocumented, transient, and illegal alien workers in my career than I can possibly count, both in B.O.H. and F.O.H. It’s more frequent in B.O.H. operations obviously.

Every drink and every dish must be accounted for in the Point of Sale system for inventory and revenue reporting purposes. Without exception, every drink and dish that goes out must have dupe. 
The Truth: Few corporate policies are actually followed to the letter. Employees (and floor management for that matter) skirt the rules constantly. They do whatever the hell they feel like for the most part including calling out for drinks/food, taking shit without ringing it up, etc. The Front-Of-House hooks up the kitchen with drinks, drugs, a little dance and smile, sex, etc. and the B.O.H. hooks them up with food, drugs, a little dance and smile, and sex. It’s all done irregardless of rules, cameras, threats of termination, and pit-boss type floor managers’ watchful eyes. Pretty straightforward and rampant. 

You cannot ever posses or use your cell phone while on premises and during your shift. Cell phone use during a shift will result in immediate confiscation. The first offense will result in a “write-up.” The second offense will result in termination.
The Truth: Everyone has their cell phones on them at all times and checks texts and other messages from time to time, during their shifts. As is the case with drinking on the job, there is nothing any rule or warning can do to stop them.

In order to minimize losses, ensure proper inventory control, and be able to have the Back Office accurately account for stock, you must ring in every spill, mistake, and broken bottle via a Spill Check
The Truth: The “Spill Check” (a single, nightly, open check, comped or voided out at the end of the evening) is ostensibly a measure of character, ability, and job dedication – except when it’s not.

Let’s elaborate on that last one – the Spill Check – shall we?

The Spill Check is intended to be, just like it sounds, an inventory control measure. Like many other nice-to-haves in the executive/corporate thought processes, seemingly good ideas are one thing… implementation and reality are far different.

As I’ve mentioned before in my theft article, pissed off employees are an owner’s biggest revenue liability - particularly, F.O.H. staff such as bartenders. Repeatedly give people bad shifts? Routinely overstaff and not cut people at slow times? Limit buybacks to $50 bucks or 3 or 4 drinks? Tell bar staff they can’t give away any freebees at all even if those drinks are documented in a Comp Check? Guess what happens folks?

After a short while, your bartenders will commence Operation Shit-On-Your-Business. They’ll show up late – if at all. They’ll show up drunk or zooted. They’ll push the boundaries further – engaging in “quickies” with a random cocktail server in the handicapped bathroom. They’ll take the same opportunity to do a few “bumps” (on the job) with some of the kitchen dudes. But probably the most damaging of them all will be a frequent diversion of funds from customers to bartender’s tip jars instead of the register. Shitcan the entire crew, replace them with a new group, and in short order, they’ll be exhibiting the same exact vices (if you’ve kept the same policies in place).

Part and parcel of the same disregard for the business, is the Spill Check. Most of the time, barkeeps will be honest (in the beginning), documenting as many legitimate spills as they can – assuming they’re not terribly busy. When they are busy, spill entries are hit-or-miss… they may or may not be entered on the Spill Check as memory and bandwidth allow.

Bartenders who are subject to severe scrutinizing of the Spill Check by management, will be inclined to enter very little – to nothing on that check going forward lest the be chewed out yet again. Managers may berate them and demand to know: how this happened, how that happened and why this customer didn’t like this drink. Nitpicking to the point of harassment is not productive. If management wants all spills documented, then they’d be remiss to leave well enough alone instead of investigating every single little thing on there. As mentioned, doing so will simply push bartenders to obfuscate the truth.

The other thing a Spill Check is good for is in a high-accountability environment, where management, in their infinite corporate wisdom, has decided that barstaff will be allowed no comps. What happens is that the Spill Check turns into a record of what the bar staff drank and gave away that evening – simple as that.

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