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Nightclub Management

5 Security Mistakes Failing Owners Make

July 22, 2014 By: Robert Smith, Mary-Kate Dunphy


Nightclub and Bar Security GuardsIn the fast paced bar and nightclub industry, the turnover for successful and failing businesses is immense. Bars close down and open up every day; however, closing may be a little harder to accept.

In order to keep this from happening Nightclub & Bar spoke with Robert C. Smith, President and CEO of Nightclub Security Consultants and 2014 Nightclub & Bar Show Speaker, to get a little insight as to why most bars and nightclubs close from a security standpoint and what owners can do to prevent shutting down.

Smith explained that there is usually not one act an owner performs which causes a shut down, but an accumulation of little unsatisfactory practices that transform into unfixable problems.

Here are 5 of those acts that owners should avoid.

1.  Inadequate Hiring Practices – Managers do not perform real interviews or go through a background vetting process. Below, Smith gives advice on these processes:

The traditional face to face interviews work fine.  However, for this unique type of employee, the security guards, another very successful method is to have 3-4 of the current security team sit and ask specific questions of the potential new employee.  This helps increase those "feelings" you get when you talk to a new employee and create a better overall evaluation of the candidate.  However, the most important point in the interview process is to actually do it instead of just hiring the first warm body that walks in.

I have always recommended full background checks on hospitality security guards. There are many private organizations that offer public record checks that work pretty good to find information on past criminal history of a candidate.  They use information given by the candidate surrounding where they live or have lived. Another, much safer method, is to conduct a full criminal background check using their own states guard licensing processes.  Hiring should not be a hurried process.

2.  Inadequate Training - No actual educational training to give employees true guidelines, limits and methods to solve problems.

There are typically three schools of thought regarding the training of bar or club security guards.

  • Hiring and putting the new employee on the floor to learn as they go.  This employee may or may not have a work history in the bar or club industry but are not given any true, traditional training.
  • Providing On The Job training or OJT.  This type of training is common in our industry and uses a senior employee to show a new employee what to do.  OJT normally lasts 1-3 days and after that time, the new employee is on their own to continue to learn as they work.
  • Hiring and providing formal in house or private training for employees. This has the new employee being hired then actually in a classroom setting being taught the operations policies, procedures and techniques of incident management. After this classroom training, the employee is now on the floor with a senior employee to reinforce the prior training during actual shift events using OJT.  This is, by far, the best method for training security employees.

3.  Inadequate Supervision - Managers doing too much or something else at the wrong time; in the office, behind the bar, in the kitchen or off the property when they are needed for true crisis management of an event.

Managers should constantly be vigilant and alert when on duty, they are the Captain of the ship. They are acting as the owner in the owner’s absence.  They must be on top of all areas surrounding the policies and procedures.

Managers should accept that their jobs can be made easier by a properly trained staff.  If they provide proper training and supervision, they will naturally find that middle ground to allow employees some decision making power while understanding when to get a manager for more unique issues. If the bar is open, a fully trained manager must be on duty.

4.  Inadequate Number of Guards - Too often, operators think they can do the job with fewer guard than is safe or managers get a false sense of safety after a few weekends without any incidents causing them to cut security staff to save on payroll.

The hospitality industry minimum standard for guards to guests is 1:50 or 1:75; meaning 1 guard per every 50 or 75 guests.  It is very important to remember that these industry standard minimum rations are for the capacity of the venue only. So, in simple math, if the bar has a capacity of 200 people, then, if they used the minimum industry standard, they would want minimum 3 or 4 guards.

In our industry, the standard is to "cut" or let employees go home when the crowd thins and things start getting slow. The normal employees that are cut first are bartenders or servers. In my opinion, security guards should not be cut as a matter of routine.  Operators must remember that most alcohol fueled violence from guests occurs late or near the end of the night.  Allowing guards to leave early truly increases the chance of violence.  

5.  Inadequate Policies and Procedures - Employees must be given guidelines on the operation from management.  Employees must be given expectations on what to do regarding the operation and these policies must be trained and reiterated.

A venue should have a venue specific security policy manual. This manual must contain operational items specific to that bar and the jurisdiction. Then, each security employee must be given a copy of that security manual. The manager should sit and talk with the employee about the manual and their expectations. Management should have a receipt signed by the employee they received the manual and understand its contents. Consideration should be given to additional meetings with employees to "test" them on the contents and see if they really know the material.

I've always tried to get my clients to fully understand that their bar or their club is "Show Business" not "Show Friends" and must be treated as a real business. To that end, operators should consider a simple Discipline Manual along with their security policy manual. If not a full 3-4 page Discipline Manual, an employee handout with what can happen to employees who violate a rule or policy.  This manual should also include simple documentation steps to prove to anyone who may ask later that employees who do violate a section are disciplined.  Discipline may include Verbal Counseling, Written Counseling, Work Suspension and Termination.

Whatever type of Discipline Manual is developed or used, even if it's just a common practice by the manager, they must fully understand that employees will violate house rules if allowed to and given the opportunity to.  So, if employees break the rules, discipline must be handed out and if necessary, termination must be considered.


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