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Guarding Your Margins with Portion Control

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For many operators, eliminating shrinkage could mean the difference between succeeding financially and not. Theft alone is an insidious source of losses. Opportunities are rife for bartender theft behind a bar. They steal from the bar and its customers because it’s easily accomplished, hard to detect and extremely difficult to prevent on an ongoing basis. The temptations posed by constantly handling large sums of cash and dealing with a liquid inventory can often prove overwhelming.


One significant source of losses is ineffective portioning controls. The sales price of a drink is hinged to a specified portion of alcohol and if that amount fluctuates so will its profit margin. The fact that the drink now contains an additional 25% of alcohol only compounds matters. Serving potent drinks reduces the number of drinks people can safely consume and increases the risk of legal liability.

From an operational perspective, protecting profit margins behind the bar begins at the point of pour. Portion controls are a fundamental form of loss prevention. It impacts consistency of product, drink quality and responsible service of alcohol, as well as maintains the margins necessary to turn a profit.

Portion Control Spouts are bottle-attached devices that offer operators a proven alternative to their bartenders free-pouring or measuring with a jigger. Not only are these low-tech control devices effective at reducing over-pouring, they also help prevent under-pouring, an equally vexing problem bartenders use to line their pockets. Bars are often nickled and dimed into bankruptcy and it happens with almost every flick of the wrist, the culprit is lax or nonexistent portioning controls.

Over-pouring liquor is a tried and true means of procuring bigger tips. Harmless as it may sound, it’s the house that winds up paying the bartenders’ extra gratuities.


The downside to over-pouring from the bartenders’ perspective is that it’s easily caught, but not so for under-pouring. One reason bartenders under-pour is to offset previous theft. Another is to rip off the clientele.

The intent behind shorting the portions in a series of drinks is to create a surplus of liquor that is then sold to the clientele and the proceeds are pocketed. For example, a bartender under-pours four jiggers by a 1/4-ounce each, which creates a surplus of one ounce. He can then sell the surplus shot of liquor, pocket the cash and the bar’s pour cost will be unaffected. Often to ensure the shortages go unnoticed, bartenders will prepare the drinks by pouring the liquor on top of the mixer—referred to as “top-pouring.” Even if the guest stirs the drink, the first few sips will taste as usual, perhaps even strong.

Under-pouring is an insidious form of theft. It’s difficult to detect, won’t affect pour cost and takes advantage of the clientele by serving them weak drinks. If the guests notice they’ll naturally place the blame on the bar, not the bartenders.


Management directives alone won’t stop bartenders from stealing. Policies and procedures are only effective if they’re enforced. In addition, they must be consistently and uniformly applied to all members of the bartending staff. Presuming that the bartenders are operating in compliance with the establishment’s directives invites larceny and financial strangulation.

Portion Control Spouts keep honest bartenders honest and force thieving bartenders to look elsewhere to rip-off the house.