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50 ways employees steal from your bar or restaurant

I’m not sure where this list originally came from and I don’t take credit for it myself. I didn’t create. However, it is a great list of 50 ways employees can steal from your cash register or POS. As long as there is cash involved in transactions in the restaurant/food service industry, there will be theft. For every possible technique to prevent theft, there is another to get around that prevention method.

If you do suspect an employee of cash theft, one of the best techniques you can utilize to catch them is the mid-shift drawer countdown. This is an unannounced drawer switch in the middle of a shift. You or your manager take a new drawer, with change, to the register. You run a sales report on your point of sale system, or an “x” report (not a “z” report) if you are using a cash register. Switch out the drawers and count down the drawer the employee was using. Most employees who steal will keep their extra money in the cash drawer until the end of shift countdown or sometime close to it.

If you count down drawers together with the employee (which you should), they will try to keep track of how much extra is in the drawer in their head and pull the extra amount before the countdown. They are usually careful not to take so much as to potentially make the drawer short. This causes them to be long fairly often.

If you do not count down the drawers with the employees, they will not pull their extra cash until they count down their drawer at the end of the shift, and they are less likely to leave the drawer long every shift, but will still be long more often than an honest employee will.

In any case, NEVER allow employees to keep their tips in the drawer. This completely eliminates your opportunity to detect theft.

Another tool for reducing employee theft is cameras pointed at the till. Many camera systems will now interface with point of sale systems so you can see what an employee is ringing into a drawer while you are watching their cash handling. Having the cameras alone will keep many employees honest.

Another tip is to eliminate the “no sale” button, or require manager approval to use it. A no sale button makes it very easy for employees to collect money for drinks never rung in. You should also make sure there are no $0 priced items in your point of sale menu. Some poorly designed point of sale systems require you to create sales items for your modifiers, and can inadvertently cause you to have a lot of modifier buttons that can be “rung” in with $0 balances due, but still allowing the employee to settle the sale and open the drawer. If you have $0 menu items or a no sale button, use your sales by item reports to see how often they are used. Also use your transaction reports to see how many $0 transactions are settled. These are both good indicators of theft in your restaurant, bar or food service.

Take a look at the following 50 ways employees steam from your bar or restaurant and keep your eyes open in your own restaurant. An aware owner is one that doesn’t get stolen from.

50 Ways to Steal from the Bar

  1. Short Ring – Under-ring the correct price of item and pocket the
    difference. Common when employees have access to a “no sale” button or sale items with $0 prices that are used as modifiers in a point of sale system.
  2. Phantom Register – Extra register put in bar and items not rung
    in on main register.
  3. Serve and collect while register is reading between shift
    changes.
  4. Claim a phoney walk-out. Keep money received from
    customer.
  5. Phantom Bottle – Bartender brings in his own bottle and
    pockets cash from the sale.
  6. Short Pour – Pour less than shot to cover “give away” liquor
    costs.
  7. Collusion between cocktail server and bartender.
  8. Using one shot on two glasses.
  9. Claim a returned drink – Extra drink is sold and cash is
    pocketed.
  10. Returned bottle of wine – Wine is credited on inventory,
    bartender sells wine by the glass, pockets cash.
  11. Undercharge customers or free liquor in hope of large tip.
  12. Re-Using register drink receipts.
  13. Bartender exchanges drinks to cooks for dinners.
  14. Adding water (diluting) liquor to get more shots out of it. Pocketing the cash.
  15. Using lower priced liquor and charging for call brands.
  16. Receiving kickbacks from liquor distributors.
  17. Charging customer regular prices, ringing happy hour prices.
  18. Complimentary cocktail or wine coupons from hotel rooms
    sold by maids to bartender which can use in place of cash.
  19. Short-Changing Customers.
  20. Ringing food items on liquor key in order to cover high liquor
    cost percentage.
  21. Giving free drinks to employees in exchange for higher tips.
  22. Not pouring liquor into blended drinks to cover high pour
    costs.
  23. Duplicate imprinting of customers credit card charge slip.
  24. Claiming opening bank till was short.
  25. Z-ing out register tape early. Under-reporting of sales.
  26. Recording incorrect overrings and voids.
  27. Change a credit card amount after a customer leaves.
  28. Hitting “no sale” key to open register. Pulling money out later.
  29. Keep income from vending machines.
  30. Ringing items on another bartender or manager key.
  31. Bringing in a pair of work shoes, wearing boots. Put liquor
    bottle in boots and walk out with it.
  32. Claiming fictitious Paid-Outs to customers for broken
    malfunctioning vending machine. Keeping Cash.
  33. Re-using empty bottles to get new inventory out of storeroom
    without suspicion.
  34. Pouring wine by the glass and ringing in a bottle sale. (the sum
    of the glasses is more than the bottle price).
  35. Not ringing in cocktail server sales and splitting the money.
  36. Turning in only the amount of sales on Z-Report and keeping
    any overages.
  37. Under pouring drinks by a sixth, keeping track, and pocketing
    the cash for one drink every sixth drink.
  38. Using jiggers brought in from home that are smaller than
    standard pour, with the same objective as above.
  39. Substituting a house brand for a premium brand (that usually
    sells at a higher price), charging for the premium brand, and
    pocketing the difference.
  40. Overcharging the number of drinks served to a group of
    customers who are running up a tab to be paid later.
  41. Claiming a fictitious robbery.
  42. Re-pouring customer wine leftover in bottles (e.g., banquet
    wine) to other customers by the glass.
  43. Claiming a fictitious walk-out.
  44. Free drinks to local merchants in exchange for merchandise.
  45. Making juice or coffee drinks with little or no liquor.
  46. Picking up excess customer change on bar.
  47. Carrying full bottles of liquor and beer to the dumpster with
    the empties.
  48. Free drinks to the cooks in exchange for food that is sold and
    cash pocketed without ringing in.
  49. Inflate ending inventory values by filling empty liquor bottles
    with water and counting as full.
  50. Free drinks to customers in exchange for larger tips

Share your own tips for preventing theft or other ways employees can steal cash from an employer.

Brandon O’Dell and O’Dell Restaurant Consulting offer operations and brand strategy consulting for independent restaurant owners and small chains. Learn more at www.bodellconsulting.com.

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About friendthatcooks

Food service consultant and owner/operator of an in-home weekly meal prep service in Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, Des Moines, Denver, Milwaukee and Wichita

Posted on September 1, 2012, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. i need help i know my chef is stealing but cant proof it
    sallie adams

  2. You don’t have to prove your chef is stealing from you, and firing someone for “theft” without catching them red-handed opens you up to a lot of liability. Rather than worrying about catching your chef, hold him/her accountable for not controlling your costs. Afterall, that is their job. If they are counselled because of poor performance on cost control, and continue to perform poorly, you can write them up and warn them further. If they still continue to perform poorly, and you have documented your counseling and conditions for improvement, you can fire them with no recourse.

  3. barwolf@mail.lt

    Good old times,have done it all in my 10y bartending and so much more,although not proud of it,thinking about opening my own consultancy company.Could easily add another 50 ways.
    One thing I find missing a lot in similar sites is collaboration with security,hosts,supervisers,managers,costumers and even with one of the co-owners-that is there the real money lies.
    Well,maybe not all of it,i never took a bottle home,only hard cold cash.

  4. riza mellendrez

    you need to have a clear set of cost control procedures and policy manual from receiving down to serving that will be strictly adhere to by all members of your team. hold your managers and your employees to their performance accountable. if there are no control measures set forth in your establishment, you are encouraging even your honest associate to steal. an ounce of prevention is better than an ounce of cure.

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  6. Im a bartender for a restaurant and I think my general manager is doing some of these things.. we have alot of tequila since it’s a mexican restaraunt and he poors cheap tequila in all of them and I sell it for the company. For some reason he still tells me that liquor cost is high. . Im saying no way it is since he is doing that. I think he is pocketing it but have no way of proving it. I do invetory and he puts the invetory in himself . He took me out the bar and I think he did because I was figuring all this out. I need help!!

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