Issue 28

Food Service Warrior: When is Over-Pouring Out of Line?

Food Service Warrior: When is Over-Pouring Out of Line?

How many people go to the bar because they know they are going to be over-poured on the drinks they buy? From the people I have talked to, it’s not very many. Most people like to know how much they are drinking. There are, however, many bars in the Omaha area that will over-pour. Let’s talk about who it affects and how it affects them.

I will start out with the ladies. If a group of girls shows up at your bar and are in good spirits, does that mean they want to get wasted? Or if they are gloomy and it looks like one of them has just been dumped, do they need to get drunk? Well, it all depends on them. I would hope that any bartender would have enough common sense to leave it up to the patron. You would not be helping anyone by giving them more alcohol than they ordered. I’m not saying they are not going to order shots and doubles, but let them do it. It’s their choice. They should know their limits, and as a bartender it’s your job not to over-serve anyone.

What about the 21-year-old college students that just had their birthday? It seems to be the fad to go out and see how drunk you can get your friend on this special day. This has got to be one of the dumbest things I can think of. When you put five or ten friends in the same room ordering shots, mixing wide varieties of liquors including 3 Wise Men, Prairie Fire, Mind Erasers, Cement Mixers or just straight shots, anyone knows that you’re asking for trouble. Put an extra half-ounce to an ounce in every drink you poured, and it’s a recipe for disaster. We all know what the goal is, and it’s not safe.

Then there are the regulars. These are the guests that come in every day and drink the same thing. They are usually nice and show you and everyone around you respect. This is where a gray area arises. Is it better for you to over-pour on every drink, or occasionally buy them a drink on the house? That is more up to the owner or manager on how to handle that. If you know that they are only going to have one or two drinks, it is better to offer a free drink occasionally. They obviously know their limit and over-pouring would be more than they usually have. If they come in to get hammered, maybe pour a little heavy on the first drink or two, then lighten up. In that case they won’t notice their third or fourth drink is a normal pour.

What about the establishment owners? A lot of bartenders don’t take into consideration that the owners give you a certain amount of freedom to make the right decisions when it comes to over-pouring or a free drink. The owners I have talked to say that, for the most part, they would prefer to see a free drink go out and put on a comp account rather than lose 15 oz. of liquor a day that they can’t account for. It also helps out tremendously when it comes to cost control. If you have a guest that requests a stiff drink, let them know that you can pour them a double if they would like. This also generates higher sales for the bar and results in a bigger tip percentage for the bartender.

Now for the bartenders. When you invite your friends to come see you at your place of employment, do you give them free drinks or do you pour strong drinks? Both are wrong. If your friends are really your friends they will understand that you would if you could, but the bottom line is that it’s not yours to give away. Let’s say three of your friends show up. You give them three drinks and only charge them for one. Who loses out? You know they are going to tip you more and stay longer. That sounds good, but what about when the owners catch you giving away drinks? A tab that should have been $12 with a tip of about $1 per drink turns into a $4 tab, and you make a $6 tip. It saves your friends $5 per round. That’s a great deal for them, and you stay on their cool side. How about losing a job that pays $35-40k/year? Is that really worth the $4 extra you made off them? Not to me.

Jeremy Hunter

Jeremy Hunter

Jeremy Hunter has lived off and on in Nebraska for 18 years. He has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. His experience as a food service warrior spans from starting out as a dishwasher to owning his own pizza restaurant. He has been a part of every aspect of the industry, but loves being a server and bartender above all. When he is not behind the bar or helping customers, he can be found with a nice microbrew and a glass of Grand Marnier.


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