Why Isn’t That Bartender Ringing in Any Drinks?
There are several reasons why bartenders delay ringing drinks into the POS register and some of them may be honest mistakes. Other times it may be simple laziness, but these actions can also spell blatant attempts to mask bartender theft and integrity issues.
When bartenders have a propensity to “group” drink orders or have “delayed rings” to the POS terminal, real trouble can be the result. Liquor is the lifeblood of a bar and should be treated as such. Over the 12 years I have run a bar spotting mystery shopper company, I have interviewed thousands of bar and restaurant owners who have contacted us because of suspected bar theft issues. In the interview process, one of the criteria we always ask is, “Does the bartender have to go to the register after each drink order is processed or are they allowed to delay their rings or group several drink orders together?” I often hear, “Yea, I allow them to do that, they say they work faster that way.” Wrong! They’re most likely stealing from you. I am still always amazed at how many bar managers allow this behavior to occur.
No matter how experienced, tenured, or quick a bartender thinks they are, there will be something that will inevitably be unaccounted for if they are allowed to delay drink rings. This drink grouping and delivery may save a few moments and supposedly make customers a bit happier, but the perception the bar manager has that this more timely performance is seemingly a benefit is now moot because the “house” has just lost revenue on drinks that ended up unaccounted for.
Not all bartenders are thieves, and not every bartender that delays rings is dishonest. The majority of the times they just might be too busy and feel that delaying rings and grouping the orders later saves time. Last week, my wife and I were at a bar and I watched the bartender make approximately 18 drinks without reporting to the register once. Yes, a dozen and a half drinks with no accountability. When it slowed down a bit, the bartender finally went to the register and began to take note of everyone seated at the bar making a visual inventory of who was present and what drinks were delivered to them. On the surface, she appeared to be honest and was attempting to account for all drinks that were delivered. Well, when she was making this mental inventory, my wife had left for the restroom. As you might guess, the cocktail she had ordered was never accounted for on our final tab. I brought this to the bartender’s attention and was given, “Oh! You’re right. Wow! sorry about that.”
Now, an unscrupulous bartender who observes this loop-hole in the bar system can quite easily use it to their monetary advantage and seldom will ever get caught because the practice is allowed. Even a bar spotter, well trained in bartender theft detection, cannot substantiate probable theft when the bartender isn’t reporting to the register after each transaction. As previously mentioned, when the bartender delivered 18 drinks without ever reporting, it makes it nearly impossible to substantiate theft that may be occurring. Many times when our bar spotters writes in their report evaluations of the delayed rings and grouping of orders, the bartender in question nearly always has a rebuttal of, “Oh I just forgot” or, “ I rang those drinks in later.” Uh huh, yea right.
No worries, there’s a VERY simple solution to this dilemma – just tell all bartenders that they need to ring in all drink orders directly after they make them and to do this, without fail, each and every time. A mantra of “make a drink, ring a drink” should be instilled with bar employees, without question, and followed to the letter. Twelve years of being bar spotters in the secret shopper industry, revealed to us that the vast majority of bar theft will occur from this lackadaisical loop-hole in the restaurant’s bar management systems. It is further suggested that bar managers create a document that states that delayed ringing of drinks or grouping of orders is strictly prohibited and will be considered a possible theft situation should it ever be observed. Disciplinary write-ups should be the protocol for breaking the rules. Mystery shoppers can then verify in their reports if any transgressions occur, which can be very powerful for disciplinary actions and employee course corrections. Even more powerful, if you have cameras, is to have the mystery shopper timestamp the transgression and then verify, via the video tapes. With all that said, if you do not have a mystery shopper program in place, especially with experienced secret shoppers that have proven bar spotting ability, well… this is just another solid reason why you should.
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