May 2007 Edition
Pour More Profits This Summer

Pour More Profits this Summer

By Mary Gordon


A cold drink on a hot day is one of summer's simpler pleasures. But some operators may see up to one-fifth of their alcohol disappear, along with their potential profits. Make the most of your summer drink sales with better control of bar inventories.


Ian Foster, senior partner with Bevinco, says the average Canadian bar is missing 15 to 20% of its alcohol.


He estimates that overpouring probably accounts for about half of the alcohol losses in the industry. Other losses come from drinks that are accidentally (or deliberately) never rung up. These include drinks that are given away to friends and industry employees, and those that just don't get entered into the POS system.


On busy nights, a bartender might be serving 15 or 20 people at once, and may forget to ring one of those drinks into the POS before putting the cash in the till. When they count the cash at the end of the night, the extra cash is assumed to be tips, when in fact it belongs in the till. "Of course, sometimes they do it on purpose," Foster says.


Knowing just how much was poured and comparing it to just how much was sold can tell you how much alcohol you're missing. A good POS system can tell you exactly what you sold of each brand and each type of liquor. A good bar inventory control system can tell you exactly how much of each brand has actually been used.


Bevinco has a database of thousands of brands, with UPC codes and specific weights for each item. By precisely weighing the contents of your bar every week, the service can tell you within about one-thirtieth of an ounce how much of each brand has been used in the past week. If there is a discrepancy between that amount and the amount rung into your POS system, you'll want to tighten up your bar inventory control.


Most Canadian bars and about half of Canadian restaurants use some type of pouring system. The most common is a gun system.

"You push a button and exactly one ounce is dispensed"in theory," Foster says. After matching the readings on the gun counter to the number of drinks sold, Bevinco then weighs the bottles or canisters that went into the gun system, and cross references the exact volume that went into the pouring system to the number of ounces dispensed by the gun, according to the gun's counter reading.


"Invariably we find that some gun systems are not calibrated correctly. And every time the bartender pushes the button thinking it's pouring an ounce, it's usually pouring 0.8 or 1.1 or 1.2," Foster says. "`We can help them fine tune the amount going out to the customer and make sure nothing is going missing.


It's easy to underestimate what it costs to see a few drinks go missing, or a few drinks get overpoured. But Foster points out that some of those losses are at retail, not at cost. For example, an ounce of spilled scotch is a loss at cost. But if that scotch is sold for $5 and never rung up, you've lost the retail value. Even overpouring can

wind up as a loss at retail, Foster says.  Most people usually drink up to a certain comfort level, he explains. For example, someone whose usual comfort level is three drinks usually stops at that point because they begin to feel the effects of the alcohol. However, if their first two drinks were overpoured and they begin to feel those effects after only two drinks, then they don't order that third drink and the overpour winds up costing you the retail value of that lost sale.


For many bars, those losses add up to 15% or more. But Foster says that can be trimmed to about 4% with weekly audits.


Many operators may have a false sense of security. He says many owners who are sure they don't have a problem discover that they should be making a lot more money.


When you're thinking about your summer drink menu, it might also be a good time to look into how much more profitable your bar sales could be during this peak beverage season.


Behind the Bar: Teas, Tropical Trends, and a Toast To Your Health


Exotic flavours continue to find a home behind the bar, while updated classics can make a great addition to your summer drinks menu.

Tyler Hazelwood of Mix Event Staffing and School of Mix bartending school in Vancouver says some recent bar trends follow health-conscious trends, with infused teas such as matcha green tea and juices such as aloe vera finding their way into martinis. Infused and flavoured vodkas remain big sellers, and high-end vodkas, which contain fewer impurities than bar brands, are becoming popular with customers who wish to avoid a hangover.

Alternative mixes such as Jamaican ginger beer are gaining ground, and sugar cane-grated or used as a garnish-is another tropical influence.

The classic summer drinks such as mojitos remain popular in the warm weather, Hazelwood says, adding that these drinks provide some of the best opportunities to create signature cocktails.

"It"s taking a classic cocktail like a mojito and giving it a twist by changing the fruit," he says. Adding fresh or frozen berries such as raspberries or blueberries brings fresh flavour and style to a familiar favourite, and it can also be made without the rum for a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.


The Classic Mojito;

1 oz to 3 oz Rum

Simple syrup

  (sugar and water)

Fresh limes

Fresh mint

Soda water

Muddle the syrup, lime and mint together, add ice and rum and fill with soda water.

...with a new twist

Add berries or fruit to the muddling process.