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Bars and Restaurants Using Spotters To Increase Profits

Keeping an Eye on BartendersA 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.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. I was told once by a bar owner he “expected” 20% theft from his staff. I was shocked. I can see where hiring a person to come in and watch would be worth it.

    Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to put up cameras and record what is going on? I expect the system would pay for itself in short order.

    Kevin Loving

    • Cameras would be good for preventing theft, but they can’t help with service issues like not upselling to top shelf brands, etc. Besides, somebody can always cheat a camera, but it’s a lot harder to steal when you don’t know who’s watching you and when…

  2. can you please send me some info. and contacts on the spotters in the los angles area
    thank you very much

  3. do you know of any spotters in new jersey. thanks

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