Control at the bottom of a glass

When the manager of a hotel on the Costa del Sol was thrown from the roof by his gambling creditors, the new British owners of the hotel chain were concerned.  It wasn’t the act of violence, itself shocking, so much as the innocent question they received from the hotel accountant the following day: he wanted to know where to put the money from the various bars that normally went straight into the manager’s private bank account.

The response of the new owners was to order a large-scale, chain-wide process-and-control review of their hotels and resorts on the Spanish Costas and the Balearic Islands.

Not waiting for the results of the review, they went ahead and introduced controls from their UK operations, specifically optics and measuring cups as controls over spirits served in all the many bars throughout the portfolio.  It made them feel better that they had things under control.  

What they did not understand was that in Spain, the control is to put three ice cubes into a glass and fill it with spirits up to the top of the ice cubes.  Customers like it, and it allows the bartender to serve it with a flourish, apparent generosity, and skill in getting it right.  Whilst approximate, it is an effective control.

With measuring cups and optics, it is easy to cheat the customer (wax in the bottom of the measuring cup, or using your thumb to restrict the amount delivered by the optic) and they can be viewed as both mean to the customer, and a sign that the employer distrusts the bartender or waiter.

Nevertheless, the control was insisted upon and within months, the amount of spirits and cash lost in those Spanish hotels went through the roof.

Discussion of the how and why of a control usually helps embed it, otherwise it may be viewed with distrust, and unintended consequences may result.

Data Source: Touche Ross España

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