I know not one fellow barkeep who hasn’t been subjected to the water-boarding that is The Mandatory Bartender Meeting – be there or be fired. Yeah – you know… that early afternoon, non-peak time pow-wow that takes place at just about every medium-large bar – maybe 2 or 3 times year. Let’s all practice our collective gasps, head-shakes, and oh-god-360s as we bemoan the notice that’s occasionally posted on the bar/restaurant’s bulletin board – usually, right next to the weekly schedule.
I can’t imagine a bigger waste of everyone’s time, energy and money in this business. You don’t get paid – the managers do. You get the privilege of coming in on your day off, or you get 3 unreturnable hours sucked out of your life before your scheduled shift time. Alternatively, you have to cancel your audition or make up some ridiculous excuse in order to bail from your day job for a couple of hours to ensure you’re at the bar.
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.”
If you ever get a gig bartending at a big establishment where you don’t count the tips yourself, but instead, the managers/owners insist upon counting and divvying it all up, walk, don’t run - get the hell out of there. Your environment undoubtedly is, or eventually will be, ripe for your pocket to be picked and your income compromised.
You’re in an undocumented cash environment. No one yet knows exactly how much you’ve made; that is, unless you suspect unscrupulous goings-on, and have schemed to prove the wrong-doings by counting every dollar you put in the tip jar, before it heads to the pilfering station. Personally, as well as through the accounts of fellow barkeeps, I’ve found this situtation to be all too common in large trendy lounges and big nightclubs where you can sometimes have 5, 10 or even more bartenders in action on a given night.
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.