A bar spotter, or “nightclub secret shopper,” is a person sent into a bar by the owner or manager to conduct a secret quality control review of bar staff. Spotters carefully observe bartenders and other employees, watching for telltale signs of theft and misconduct. Most spotters were once bartenders themselves, and understand the industry and how it works. Many companies across the U.S. have sprung up in recent years to meet the rising demand of restaurants and bars for spotters.
The worst thing a bartender can do is give away drinks for free by never ringing up the sale or just pocketing the cash. Only about 10% of bartenders are caught stealing, however. Most bar owners get a lot more value out of the other things a bar spotter watches for during their visit, like generous pours on drinks, failing to upsell customers on top shelf brands, and long wait times.
In general, bartenders are making a lot less than they used to from tips as patrons dial back on bar visits. This has led many of them to try to earn tips in creative ways, like giving customers an extra long pour. The drink rings up the same for the owner, however, and that costs the bar money. And if bartenders simply push out well drinks whenever someone orders a rum and coke instead of asking the customer what kind of rum they would like, that’s costing bars money too.
For bar owners, revenue is down as well. Many have found that the solution, counter-intuitive as it may be, is to spend money on a bar spotter to identify places where thin profits are leaking out. Hiring a bar spotter isn’t cheap, often running into the hundreds of dollars per visit, but the invaluable information you can gain from having an anonymous person observe your bar staff has proven to be more than worth the cost.
Finding a bar spotting company is relatively easy. Just type “bar spotter” into a Google search and you’ll find several companies that offer services across the country.