If Aaron Boillat is in Ann Arbor, don’t bother schmoozing your waitress in hopes of getting a free drink at the bar this weekend. Boillat owns a franchise of Bevinco, an alcohol auditing company that accounts for every drop of beer and liquor that gets spilled or poured for free in campus bars.
According to Boillat, about 20 to 25 percent of the alcohol used by a bar is lost due to spills or unaccounted alcohol sales in any given week. Boillat said he can save owners an average of $1,000 per week by weighing and counting every bottle in the bar’s inventory.
So it’s not hard to see why places like The Brown Jug, The Blue Leprechaun, Café Felix and the /aut/ BAR, have all hired Bevinco to discreetly catch bartenders, who overpour shots or give away drinks in hopes of making bigger tips.
Boillat said his work usually helps bar owners cut losses to less than five percent of their weekly supply in about one month. Dave Root, manager of The Brown Jug, said Boillat’s work has limited the bar’s losses to about three percent — or less than $100 in lost inventory — every week.
He added that $100 in lost inventory actually translates to several hundred dollars in lost profits on draft beers or mixed drinks that sell for three or four dollars apiece. Still, he said, losses that low are almost unheard of among most local establishments.
“It’s not a big deal to come up two or three percent short, and actually, that’s really, really good,” Root said. “A lot of places in town are at 92 percent and happy just to get to 95 percent.”
The secret behind Boillat’s success is that most bartenders don’t know he’s taking stock of what they’re mixing until they’ve been caught. Boillat doesn’t go into bars until after last call, once all tabs have been cashed and doors locked for the night.
Equipped with a laptop and a few precise measuring scales, Boillat usually gets to work at about 5 a.m., and starts counting and weighing every bottle of wine, keg of beer and fifth of liquor the bar has on hand.
“We compare sales to usage to make sure that everything that was used was rung up, and then anything that wasn’t, we show the owners a report highlighting all the discrepancies,” Boillat said.
From a four-hour stint at The Blue Leprechaun to a 12-hour all-day shift at the Quarter Bistro — where 350 varieties of wine add up to $70,000 worth of inventory — Boillat’s service comes at a price of around $200 per audit. With the economy struggling and bar owners looking to account for every penny, Boillat said he now works 65 to 70 hours a week.
“Business is booming with the economy taking a turn for the worse, so I definitely can’t complain,” Boillat said. “Restaurants and bars are looking to cut costs in any way possible, and a service like ours is one of the quickest ways to do so.”
With most audits done every two weeks, Boillat’s breakdown shows profit losses in terms of dollars, ounces and even brands so owners can see exactly how many shots of Jägermeister or bottles of Miller Lite were passed out at no charge to customers. After the report is complete, Boillat said he and the bar’s owner usually meet with staff to find out which bartenders might be at fault.
“Most people are pretty quiet at first,” Boillat said, “because you know they don’t want to incriminate themselves.”
Felix Landrum, owner of Café Felix, said Boillat’s audit is a way to see losses he wouldn’t necessarily catch on his own.
“We try to regulate it, we try to lock it up and only certain people have access,” Landrum said of the alcohol at Café Felix. “You try to do your best, but when your back’s turned, sometimes things happen.”