How to Stop Bartender Thefts at Your Bar

by Lisa McQuerrey; Updated September 26, 2017
Bartender making a drink

Bartender theft comes in many forms, from physically removing cash from the till to over-serving or handing out free drinks. Protect your financial interests in your establishment by putting several layers of anti-theft protection in place.

Screen Applicants

Run a background track check on prospective hires to ensure they don't have any type of financial fraud in their past. Call references and ask about work ethic and performance. Run a credit check to learn about misuse of credit or massive debt issues that could potentially prompt someone to mishandle, mismanage or even steal money.

Oversee Money Handling

According to the website Restaurant & Bar, bartenders shouldn’t be allowed to count their own cash drawer or reconcile their bank at the end of a shift -- let a manager do it, and occasionally run cash register sales receipts reports mid-shift so you’re not predictable with your accounting. Don’t let bartenders make change from tip jars -- use a locking tip box to ensure money isn't misappropriated or stolen during the shift.

Monitor Receipts and Register Activity

According to BarBusinessOwner.com, adding a locked box to hold receipts can help keep bartenders honest. Having a manager on-site and visible can also help ensure running tabs don’t get misplaced or “overlooked” during a shift and that bartenders aren’t using a no-sale key to make change or pocket extra cash.

Inventory Liquor

Keep close track of your liquor inventory to ensure bartenders aren't serving drinks and pocketing the money or giving drinks away for free. According to BarBusinessOwner.com, this requires a strict auditing oversight best done by a bar manager or owner. Don’t let bartenders do the inventory, and occasionally add or remove stock to monitor how closely staffers are doing their jobs.

Install Cameras

Install security cameras in and around the bar area and have them trained on cash registers or point-of-sale areas. This not only helps deter bartender theft, but it can diminish the risk for other types of illegal activity in your bar. Patrons may think twice about bar fights or inappropriate behavior if they know their actions are being monitored and recorded.

Discuss Accountability

Let bartenders know about the oversight protections you have in place to help deter the potential for theft. If bartenders know money and inventory are being tracked and that cameras are overseeing activity, it can decrease the potential for stealing. When you train bartenders, be very specific about repercussions for theft -- such as termination or prosecution -- so there's a full understanding of expectations and consequences.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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