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7 Ways to Stem Bar Shrinkage

7 Ways to Stem Bar Shrinkage

Simple controls can have a big impact on alcoholic beverage profitability.

A little overpouring here, a few free beers there, a few bottles dropped during the even crush: All may seem innocuous, but these losses can add up to as much as 25 percent of your bottom line. Training and tighter controls can curtail this kind of waste, according to Dan Smith, c.e.o. of Bevintel. His company provides beverage inventory management services for restaurants and bars and lends consulting expertise to the Spike TV show Bar Rescue.

Here are seven ways to avoid seeing your profits trickle down the drain:

1. Be a stickler for standards. Using jiggers to measure shots does more than guard against overpours. The practice also makes sense from a quality standpoint. “If you watch top mixologists, they use jiggers,” Smith says. “They want to make sure all the ingredients are blended perfectly and have the right balance.”

Similarly, with wine, too much liquid in a glass does not allow the wine to breathe or provide enough glass space for the guest to enjoy the bouquet, a key component of the wine-drinking experience. Have your servers practice proper wine serving technique by drawing a line on a practice glass.

2. Make sure beer lines are cleaned on a regular basis and that they are dispensing at the correct temperature. Both factors affect the amount of foam that a dispenser produces, which in turn determines the drinkable yield. If the lines are producing excessive foam, much of that will end up being discarded.

3. Set up an efficient bar layout. “When people know where specific spirits are and know that they are always going to be there, there is less handling of bottles—and less chance of a bottle being dropped,” Smith says. The rail should be set up so two bartenders are not reaching around each other—as much for efficiency as to avoid collisions and fumbling.

4. Institute precise, more efficient inventory controls. When’s the last time you weighed your spirits bottles? Many managers and owners inventory based on visual guesstimates, which are subjective. “We can go into a bar and take every bottle in the place and scan it. Our system knows how much a bottle should weigh, and based on the weight, we can tell exactly how much product has been used,” Smith says.

5. Consider draft beer flow and spirits control spout monitors. Tying these into the POS will provide real-time information that will deter bartenders from overpouring or providing freebies. “It’s challenging for a manager to monitor this visually,” Smith says. “This will tell them who’s pouring what, when, why and how,” and ensures that each drink poured results in a sale. Some software will also send a text alert to the manager when drinks are dispensed without authorization after hours, when the bar is closed.

6. In training, stress cleanliness and careful handling of glassware and product. Using dirty glasses undermines product quality and invites rejection by customers; failing to wipe down a bottle after use may leave a slippery surface that is difficult to grab without dropping; installing a spout incorrectly can result in spilled alcohol or overpours.

7. If you hire an outside auditor or institute new control measures, be sure to communicate that to your staff. Sometimes just knowing that big brother is watching will eliminate bad behavior.