How To: Prevent Alcohol Theft At Your Restaurant

Overpouring drinks can lead to huge losses for restaurants.
Overpouring drinks can lead to huge losses for restaurants.

Every restaurant is decking the halls at this time of year as diners come in for celebrations, but what many don’t realize is that they could be losing thousands of dollars on alcohol.

Employee theft is a $11 billion problem in the U.S. and accounts for 4 percent of restaurant sales according to the National Restaurant Association, but it need not be, says Dan Smith, CEO of BevIntel, a beverage auditing service in Louisville, Kentucky.

Alcohol is typically stolen through three methods, he says—deliberate theft, spillage and overpouring.

“It’s a combination of all three that’s hurting restaurants,” he explains. “Employees often don’t realize that giving a drink to a friend or pouring someone more so they get a better tip, really is stealing.”

So what can you do to ensure your restaurant isn’t losing money through your drinks program? Smith offers these tips:

  • Communicate with your employees and make them understand how you make money in a restaurant. Let them know what your expectations are.
  • It’s an important part of any restaurant to comp frequent guests, but make sure it’s only on occasion. It’s important to keep it controlled. Have employees write down any comped drinks with a brief explanation.
  • Allow employees to give away a certain number of free drinks but they should not exceed that number. And give them guidelines (preferably written) about giving away freebies.
  • Spillage is especially a problem in busy restaurants, and becomes even more so during holiday season when there are a number of parties. Make sure your bar is set up correctly so that in a rush nothing is missing. It’s about being organized, being disciplined.
  • Use jiggers to control the pours for cocktails—especially for holiday parties. Control spouts can also be added to liqueur and wine bottles but can be frowned upon in fine dining restaurants whose owners often think they cheapen the experience for the guest.
  • Let your staff know what your disciplinary actions are in case you catch an employee walking out with a bottle of alcohol in his or her bag.
  • Detail all your expectations in an employee manual and have employees sign off to show they’ve received it.
  • Teach employees not to empty bottles of wine or liqueur into a customer’s glass even if there’s only a little there. It all adds up.
  • Draft beers should never be topped off.
  • Point out to employees that if they “steal” it hurts the restaurant. This could lead to it going out of business and then they won’t have a job at all.

By Amanda Baltazar

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by FSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.

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