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:

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Controlling or Minimizing Bartender Theft

Here’s an important read for all you owners and operaters…

  • If you can, run the place yourself. This is by far the greatest deterrent/preventative. You’ve completely eliminated all opportunity. You can’t possibly steal from yourself… or can you? You can certainly mismanage a business and run it into the ground however. Let’s face it: a bartender stealing cash from an owner is a crime of opportunity. Bad management practices, bad policies and lack of enforcement have left the door open. Obviously, working solo is kind of impossible to do 100% of the time in most places.
  • Be realistic. Keep in mind that in a cash bar, other than a sole proprietorship described above, there is no way in hell you can completely eliminate theft – you can only minimize it; thus, the title of this article.
  • Alternatively, if you have several bartenders, occasionally drop behind the bar and do the bar tending yourself. Thieves hate confrontation or even the threat of confrontation. Bartenders will inexplicably be on their best behavior when authorities are nearby – go figure. If you don’t know how to bartend, and you’re a bar owner or responsible for its operations, shame on you. You really have no business being in charge. You’re in for a rude awakening one day. Your best defense against theft is knowledge – know what the hell you’re doing at a bar in the first place. If you have even the slightest hesitation, hire someone who does know what they’re doing or get the appropriate training and experience.  In a nut shell, be or hire a “Pit Boss.”

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Bartender Theft

Let the shitstorm begin.

I don’t think there is a topic more, how shall we say, “energizing,” from an owner/manager perspective, than theft.  Put bluntly, it’s the bleeding that you can never stop. You can only cauterize the wounds in a sense.

Any halfwit putting together a business plan must account for losses.  Personally I’d estimate about 20%.  Holy crap! That’s a hell of a lot of loss! Yes – but not uncommon.  There are all kinds of losses –  the most significant, in order,being (1) employee theft and (2) spoilage (3) vendor/customer theft.  Today, let’s address bartender shenanigans shall we?   There’s a ton of information on the Interwebz regarding theft .  However, most of it is from an owner’s perspective or some sort of training/knowledge-share in the form of commercial loss prevention. What you just about never hear, is the truth about stealing from an insider’s point of view – a bartender in the trenches.

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