Let’s face it… we are in some pretty unusual times for you, your customers, and your staff. Desperate times will cause some not-so-ethical activities by some in today’s environment. Not that this is happening to you or at your business, but I have found it’s always better to be aware than to stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. Especially right now, when every dollar counts for your business.

This came up again this week when I was on the phone with a restaurant owner who said he caught his bartender and manager bringing in their own register at night to ring in sales from the bar and keep that night’s sales for themselves. I thought this was a pretty bold move on the part of his employees, but unfortunately, not uncommon in the hospitality industry.

There have been many books written on the subject of theft in the restaurant business, good to refresh your list to keep you aware at all times.

Remember this phrase to manage by: Inspect What You Expect. I would make that a sign and print it out and hang it next to your desk. A good practice for any owner of business that has employees. It will keep your business and staff out of trouble.

The best thing you can do is be diligent and keep track of your numbers. When I owned my restaurants, the best control device that I had put in place was to operate off of a weekly P & L statement. This was one of the single most important tools, as a restaurant owner, that I had at my disposal. Combine that with a weekly inventory sheet, and you have the ability to expose any strange fluctuations in your numbers. But it has to be done weekly.

If you need help with your numbers, P & L, inventory, or any cost-control measures, my friend, The Restaurant Boss, Ryan Gromfin is doing a FREE Webinar showing his new cost-control system and training program next week.

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Now, as promised, here is your short list of some of the 27 most creative ways employees steal from restaurants.

  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 phony 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. Claim a returned drink – Extra drink is sold and cash is pocketed.
  8. Returned bottle of wine – Wine is credited on inventory, bartender sells wine by the glass, pockets cash.
  9. Re-Using register drink receipts.
  10. Adding water (diluting) liquor to get more shots out of it. Pocketing the cash.
  11. Using lower priced liquor and charging for call brands.
  12. Receiving kickbacks from liquor distributors.
  13. Charging customer regular prices, ringing happy hour prices.
  14. Complimentary cocktail or wine coupons from hotel rooms sold by maids to bartender which can use in place of cash.
  15. Ringing food items on liquor key in order to cover high liquor cost percentage.
  16. Change a credit card amount after a customer leaves.
  17. Bringing in a pair of work shoes, wearing boots. Put liquor bottle in boots and walk out with it.
  18. Re-using empty bottles to get new inventory out of storeroom without suspicion.
  19. Pouring wine by the glass and ringing in a bottle sale. (the sum of the glasses is more than the bottle price).
  20. Under pouring drinks by a sixth, keeping track, and pocketing the cash for one drink every sixth drink.
  21. Using jiggers brought in from home that are smaller than standard pour, with the same objective as above.
  22. Substituting a house brand for a premium brand (that usually sells at a higher price), charging for the premium brand, and pocketing the difference.
  23. Overcharging the number of drinks served to a group of customers who are running up a tab to be paid later.
  24. Re-pouring customer wine leftover in bottles (e.g., banquet wine) to other customers by the glass.
  25. Picking up excess customer change on bar.
  26. Carrying full bottles of liquor and beer to the dumpster with the empties.
  27. Inflate ending inventory values by filling empty liquor bottles with water and counting as full.

There are many more ways in the restaurant business that people can scam you. I just want you to be aware of some of the most common ones. Much of the employee loss happens at the bar, that’s why the list of ways to steal focuses on bar operations.

Again I’m not saying this is happening to you but best to be aware and Inspect What You Expect. And Know Your Numbers!


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