Pouring With Portion Control

Who Is In Control?


Inventory and portion controls are not always construed as necessities on-premise. But in today’s economy, they provide the best tools for profit margin management.

By Bob Johnson, CBM

There has always been some discrepancy amongst bar owners, managers and bartenders, as to which is best—“free pour” or “shot glass/electronic/measured pour.” There are definite reasons why you want your bartenders to measure the pour, but when it comes right down to it, it makes little difference which way your staff pours liquor. The difference in any pour is in the individual doing the pouring—the bartender! A measured pour can be abused just as easily as a free pour. Whichever you install as policy, a house-oriented bartender with the right values is going to do it the right way 99 percent of the time.

It helps if bartenders work at a bar where there is accountability through a well-defined inventory control system. More importantly, it helps if the owners or managers know something about the bar business. (Sadly, that’s often not the case). Most owners get into this business because they have the money along with an insatiable ego—and little knowledge of the business. There are many owners and managers who can administratively handle people and the business, but they don’t know much about the technical skills required at the bar. Many owners and bar managers have never been a bartender. [Ed. note: See Bob’s article on ownership in this issue, on page 34, for more on this topic.] As a result, the bartenders run the bar, not the owner or manager. How can you tell a bartender what to do if you don’t know what you’re talking about? The bartenders have the technical skills that many owners and managers lack. Therefore, the bartenders usually make the decision on how to pour and how to run the bar. I estimate that 70 percent of bars in America function within this “lack of knowledge, no skills, free pour” environment.

Ideally, management should know that it takes more skill to use a shot glass or metal jigger correctly than it does to free pour. The shot glass or jigger is simply a device that guides and controls the amount of liquor going into the drink. If used correctly, it’s extremely accurate. And there are many other advantages to using a measured pour:

1) A shot glass/jigger measurement gives you a more consistent drink— same taste, same amount of liquor in every drink.

2) A shot glass/jigger gives the bartender more confidence in multi-liquor recipes that require the correct ratio of one liquor to another. By measuring each liquor, you know your ratios are correct.

3) It’s important for the bartender to know exactly how much liquor each customer consumes. This helps the bartender approximate the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of the customer, which helps keep the customer out of the DUI range.

4) Bartenders who are required to use a shot glass/jigger like working in a system that has a means of evaluating performance. It’s not guessing, it’s knowing.

5) From an owner/management perspective, the shot glass/jigger pour enables “spotters” or management to check a bartender’s pour on every drink; they have a measurement tool by which to gauge the correctness of the pour.

6) Management dictates to the bartender how the bar is going to be run, not vice versa. There has to be a chain of command in the bar. Bartenders work for the bar 

managers. There needs to be accountability and performance requirements—measured—that the bartender must adhere to.

Click here to read more about portion control in the full article “Who Is In Control” in the October 2010 Digital edition of Bar Business Magazine