How much beer do you think your bar wastes every day? A few pints? Maybe a pitcher or two? Actually, your bar probably wastes much more than that. Because beer is such a profit maker, it’s easy to overlook little losses. Unfortunately, those losses mount up quickly. Some are easy to track, such as a line that is pouring foamy or a pint that gets knocked over. However, the types of waste that create big problems are more subtle; the losses occur a few ounces at a time. Before you know it, your numbers are skyrocketing. The chief culprit: Bad habits behind the bar.
Bad Habit #1: The Mis-ring
Perhaps the most prominent bad habit on the bar is the mis-ring, either intentional or by mistake. This could include pouring a 20-ounce beer and ringing it up as a 12-ounce draft or ringing up a cheaper beer but pouring a more costly version. Bob Fenley, president of TapDynamics, a draft management solutions company based in Addison, Texas, cites the mis-ring as being responsible for a whopping 50% of a bar’s beer loss.
“But it’s a fixable problem,” he asserts. In essence, TapDynamics functions as a virtual bar manager, using a digital infrared flow meter installed in a beer line. Fenley explains, “The system tracks every ounce of beer poured. Once the behavior is addressed, the issue dissipates quickly.”
Bad Habit #2: Poor Pouring Procedures
For Kip Snider, director of beverage for the Irvine, Calif.-based Yard House Restaurants, beer loss is a constant focus. With 25% of the chain’s total sales coming from beer, it has to be. Snider stresses proper pouring techniques are a key priority. He says one particular bad habit is, “Bartenders pouring two beers at once. A bartender has two hands on the tap handles and can’t turn them off in time. Beer overflows and dollars go right down the drain.”
TapWerks Ale House & Café in Oklahoma City has a total of 212 taps. General Manager Greg Powell also underscores the importance of pouring correctly. Some bad habits he identifies include, “Pulling the tap handle before the glass is completely underneath the spout and allowing a few ounces to spill into the tray. Also, pulling a beer away from the spout too soon and allowing a few ounces to spill.” Repeated constantly, these small errors add up fast.
TapWerks Ale House & Café in Oklahoma City has a total of 212 taps.
Bad Habit #3: The Big Chill
The frostier the beer the better, right? Wrong. In fact, that chilly brew is costing you money, so stop icing glasses! Snider comments, “We don’t chill our glassware to begin with. When a beer is too cold, it foams up too high and overflows. The colder a beer is, the more you lose on taste.”
Bad Habit #4: Don’t Lose Your Head
General patron perception is that a beer’s head somehow is cheating a customer out of beer but, as Fenley points out, “A 16-ounce beer is supposed to have 2.25 ounces of foam. When the beer is filled to the top without a head it’s a loss for the bar and doesn’t taste as good. Additionally, foam on a beer is actually necessary for the carbon to release.”
Bad Habit #5: Speed
It’s human nature: When you’re busy, you speed up. Unfortunately, that opens the door to mistakes. Powell at TapWerks comments, “All bartenders should be pretty much perfect when it’s slow. When they get busy, they do things to try and speed up service — which is good — but can sometimes result in mistakes and slopping pouring. It’s also important to make sure your POS is printing tickets that are clear and easy to read. When bartenders get busy, they must be able to glance at a ticket and know exactly what they need.”
Bad Habit #6: Leaders can be Losers
It’s easy to overlook waste from best-selling beers because they generate a lot of revenue; but why should you be content with the status quo? Powell says, “Loss leaders are always our biggest sellers, because obviously, the more you pour a beer, the more potential for spillage. It is important to pay extra attention to those.” Simply making your staff aware of the loss can reduce sloppy habits.
Bad Habit #7: Stalled out in Service
Beer loss is not solely the fault of bartenders. Snider points out that servers can cause beer waste too, particularly when it comes to slow service. Drafts that linger on the bar quickly will lose head, thus needing a top-off.
Bad Habit #8: Losing Track
Whether a customer changed his mind after his beer was poured or there was a crack in the glass, lost beer always needs to be tracked. When the bar is busy, it’s easy to forget to document a loss. Make sure your bartenders know to ring up beer losses on a dedicated spill sheet.
Show, Don’t Tell!
Chances are, your bar staff doesn’t fully realize the level of waste that is occurring. Before TapWerks began using an outside company to track sales, the bar’s losses were high. Powell says, “We were losing around 12% of the draft beer in a given week. We called a meeting for all staff. To drive the point home, we filled pints of water up equivalent to the amount of beer we lost that week and placed them all over the bar top and tables. There is nothing like seeing hundreds of pints of water sitting all over the bar to show people exactly how much beer they are wasting in a week.” On the whole, Powell strives to hit the 4% loss mark.
Both Yard House and TapWerks utilize outside companies to help track sales. The Yard House employs TapDynamics while TapWerks uses BevIntel, a consultative inventory management service for wine, beer, draft and liquor, based in Louisville, Ky. Impressively, both companies operate in the low single digits for beer loss. How’s that for banishing bad habits?
The Breakdown of Loss
TapDynamics’ President Bob Fenley is an expert at identifying areas of beer loss as well as providing solutions. He breaks down waste according to the following: “Fifty percent of beer loss is behavioral: It’s either a mis-ring or theft. Thirty percent is over-pouring: A bartender opens a tap up and lets it pour for 30 seconds or pours off a whole draft of head. Ten percent is equipment problems, and the remaining 10% is in the lines.”
To manage waste, Fenley strongly advises clients to, “Ring it up and ring it up right. If you do those two things you’ll eliminate a significant amount of your daily dollar loss.”