March 2006 Edition
Take a Look at the Other Team's Playbook

New book is a how-to guide on restaurant scams.

 

A frightening new book should concern every restaurant and bar owner.  R. Chip DeGlinkta and Peter Francis, two New Orleans waiters, have written “How to Burn Down the House: The Infamous Waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible.”  The book is a how-to guide explaining exactly how a waiter or bartender can steal from their employer.

 

DeGlinkta and Francis have been vilified for promoting theft and dishonesty.  But, the authors say, this criticism is blaming the messengers – and missing the point.  “The Scam Bible,” says DeGlinkta, “is simply the most truthful portrait of the scamming bartender or waiter.”

 

As DeGlintka points out, this is the “other team’s playbook” and as such can actually be of great benefit to restaurateurs. After all, knowing the other team’s moves is a sure-fire way to win the game.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that theft is a major problem in our industry.  A recent study of 600 establishments by the California Restaurant Association and Bevinco found that the average loss from theft and over-pouring in a bar is more than 20%.  This amounts to $50,000 to $100,000 a year in lost alcohol profits for most owners.  While alcohol losses are higher than food losses, the facts suggest that dishonesty is too often part of the restaurant culture.

 

DeGlinkta says “It often starts with $10 here or there.  One thing leads to another and after a while you get used to making $50k a year by supplementing your income with scamming. It’s hard to walk away from at that point.”

 

The “Scam Bible” describes twenty ways to steal from restaurants, bars, customers and fellow employees.  Some are pretty simple, such as re-using buffet checks or using the restaurant’s coupons to steal.  There are tips on stealing steaks, liquor and wine from the stockroom, faking walk-outs and forging gratuities.

 

But the most frightening, and ingenious, scam in the book is “The Wagon Wheel.”  Frightening because it takes advantage of the sophisticated computerized POS systems that are supposed to help us reduce theft.  DeGlinkta and Francis write that “almost all restaurant computer systems have the capacity to organize a single table’s order into different seat numbers.”  This capability is employed to ring up a common item only once but collect payment on it several times – with the “extra” money going into the scammers pocket.  The process is described in great detail and for this alone the book is worth reading.

 

They also tell would-be thieves how to wriggle out of trouble if caught in a scam.  According to DeGlinkta, “servers and bartenders know that if they have even a half-baked explanation, they will not get into any real trouble.”

 

How can bar and restaurant owners protect their profits from the scams illustrated in this dangerous book?  Well, understanding these scams is the first step in spotting and preventing them.  Armed with that knowledge, managers need to randomly inspect checks and cash drawers and examine the POS system for unusual activity such as combined or split checks as well as any checks that have been open for a long time.  DeGlinkta notes that “if a diligent manager digs into the paper trail, he will find evidence to catch even the most committed scammer”.

 

You should improve your inventory control by matching your inventory depletion to your sales reports.  You can start by counting your beer and wine bottles as well as selected high-cost food items, like steaks, every week and comparing them to your sales tapes.

 

In the bar, consider using an alcohol auditing company – they will weigh all the tapped kegs and open liquor bottles to compare with your sales.  Your increased profits will pay their fee many times over.

But, says DeGlinkta, the key is that “management also has to have the determination to take action when the evidence is discovered, and you would be amazed at how much a person will sacrifice to avoid confrontation”.

 

For more information about Bevinco’s auditing services visit www.bevinco.com or call directly to Bevinco Global Office at 1-888-238-4626