When Ownership Undermines Your Authority As A Manager

QUESTION From Melissa in S. DE.

“I have a few employees that are drinking- wine that they’re pouring into a coffee mugs while on the clock. I’m not sure if they’re stealing it or if they are pouring out wine left over from bottles customers aren’t finishing. I’m not sure if they’re stealing it or if they are pouring out wine left over from bottles customers are finishing.I’ve caught some of them a few times by finding purple rings in the bottom of mugs that smell like wine so now they are rinsing them out before putting them in the racks.

We just upgraded to an Aloha POS system and plan to start inventory tracking next month because we are still getting used to the new system so that should help but my staff pours all their own beverages since we are a small restaurant and only serve wine and beer.

We serve food/beverages on two floors so they are doing it at the upstairs bar while I’m waiting tables downstairs or vise versa.

Is there something I could use to test the water glasses for alcohol? My uncle, the owner, won’t let me give consequences without evidence.

Is there an inexpensive set of cameras I could install and use? Because he just put in the POS I highly doubt he is going to want to put the money into cameras but frankly I’m tired of knowing my staff is drinking without having the proof to back it up.

I’d be willing to spend my own money if there were affordable options for both."


You're in, what psychologists might call, a double bind .

Expecting a manager to also be a server is like expecting a football coach to also be the quarterback. You can’t manage anything with that many moving parts (and 2 bars on separate floors) from the trenches and still see the big picture....add to that the fact that you aren't given the tools necessary to do your job and you see why - when you stand back - it's a no-win situation that you must either change (difficult to impossible), tolerate (not a productive use of your time) or escape.

In a facility like the one you describe, you need a dedicated bartender for each bar and at least two managers whenever both bars/floors are open for business.

Ultimately though, there’s really only ONE PROBLEM here - and it’s not that your staff is is drinking on the job. It’s that "your staff" is not your staff.

The staff is your uncle’s staff and you are working for/with an owner who isn’t supporting you. In fact, he’s undermining your ability to manage.

How many other restaurants have you managed?

How many others have you worked in?

If the answer to either of those questions is more than 1... you know this is not how a sustainable business is run.

If the answer is “0”, maybe you’d be better off in another role.

What is your goal here?

To learn how to run an undercapitalized business or to some day inherit a captain-less ship... if it hasn’t already sunk by that time.

You’re working for someone whose style of ownership is undermining you. He’s handing the keys to the business (every day) to HIS staff and seeing what they do with it....or he knows exactly what’s going on and doesn’t care because the business is “good enough” for him and a lot of owners have the mentality: “If it aint broke...”

The problem is, when a wheel is that badly cracked - it WILL break.

If it wasn’t wine in coffee cups, it’d be vodka in water glasses, pills, weed before work or something else.

And that type of behavior is only a symptom of a deeper issue that leads to all other issues from theft to fall-off.

You and the owner need to come to some understanding of what the policies and procedures are in his business and give you, as the manager, the authority to implement policy and hold ppl accountable.... or find a job working for someone who will.

If he is open to policy implementation and giving you more control, I’d start with a dedicated bartender every shift since consistency is one of the cornerstones of hospitality.

Also worth noting- Inventory is not dependent on technology. The tough part that the computer does for you can be done with a $6 Casio calculator.

As far as security goes. Check out the inexpensive (and wireless) options at Lowes...But I would invest in a quality commercial set up. Security is worth the extra money and you get what you pay for.

But Trish spending time and money (even $1) on a business, when the owner doesn’t value you as a manager, is throwing money into a hole.

Either he doesn’t value you as a manager because he doesn’t think you possess the experience/insight that a successful manager should or he has different expectations than you do. Either way- there’s a serious misalignment and investing more yourself or your money than you already have is like putting tape on a crack in the damn.

I seriously think your time is better invested in sitting down with him to see if you can either get on the same page or get out.

Take it from someone with a ton of experience here… working against the interests or desires of the owner (family or not) is a no-win situation for both sides. It only gets worse from here if you proceed down this path in the same manner.

Feel free to reach out directly if you’d like any specific advice,

Josh Sapienza