5 Ways to Stop Theft With Smarter Restaurant Cash Management

By: Ginelle Testa

5 Minute Read

Mar 19, 2018

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restaurant cash management

Cash management is a loss prevention practice in restaurants. It’s important to keep a close eye on inventory management, but handling of cash is where large loss can occur.

After all, would an employee rather leave with a steak filet or a wad of cash? 

Okay, I like steak, too, but that’s not the point.

Theft is one of the biggest problems in restaurants. Toast recently held a  webinar  for customers to learn about optimizing the POS for cash handling. Webinar participants learned that each arrow in the diagram below is a potential step where cash management can go wrong: stealing, miscounting, losing money, not properly recording funds, and not holding people accountable. 

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Although restaurant cash management is likely never going to be perfect, processes can be refined. To improve your cash management, implement these 5 procedures in your restaurant. 

1) Keep a Consistent System in Place

While training and onboarding employees, ensure they’re up to speed on all cash handling procedures related to their jobs. A good practice is to use tamper-proof deposit bags so managers and cashiers can write in the amount of each bill, change, and the total being deposited. 

Consequence of not implementing this procedure

When there’s an inconsistency in money and deposits don't match records, you won’t be able to trace all of the steps to identify where something went wrong. 

In fact, how will you even know if there are inconsistencies if you have no consistent practices? Money will go missing. Servers and managers will pocket cash. It’ll go over your head and impact your bottom line.

2) Have Cashiers Own Their Drawers for the Entire Shift

According to a  restaurant theft article, “Cash is the most coveted form of theft, particularly for employees who suddenly experience an outside issue or concern that requires quick payment.” 

An employee short on rent one month won’t have the option to pocket cash if this measure is in place. When an employee arrives, have a manager get a drawer for them and instruct the employee to count their drawer before the shift starts. Since you’ve set a dollar amount that the drawer should always be left at (ex: $150), they will know if the money is off. If the starting amount is correct, that employee now has ownership over their drawer during the entire shift. 

Consequence of not implementing this procedure

Staff are stealing from you. Different employees dipping into one drawer means that anyone can take money and there’s no particular person to hold accountable. Even the manager shouldn’t be using the drawer out of the sight of the cashier. 

3) Set Security and Accountability Measurements in Place

As shown in the diagram from Toast’s cash management webinar, there are many places where cash can go missing. Having accountability and security checks along the way ensures cash is handled smoothly. 

Two signatures should be necessary on any sales exception, deposit, and drawer closeout. The more people individually held accountable, the less likely they are to commit fraud. You can even go a step further to install security cameras where money is handled if you feel it’s necessary. This could help with inventory loss prevention as well!

One last simple tip is to make regular deposits at the bank. They should be made daily and you should not have a large amount of cash on hand. 

Consequence of not implementing this procedure

Do I need to say it again? Staff are stealing from you! 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims that 75% of all employees will steal from their employer at least once. Actually, management is most likely stealing as they have the highest access. All it takes is one set of sticky fingers to take money from a deposit if the manager is the only one signing off on it. 

4) Monitor Sales Exceptions Regularly

Voids, discounts, and comps all happen in restaurants. Food is prepared wrong, the customer is picky, and no employee wants to pay full price. Some people never come in to pickup their takeout order. These situations happen, but exceptions can quickly be abused. 

To lessen the chance your employees are stealing from you, keep good records and regularly monitor the exceptions. For records, your POS system should allow you to note a reason for sales exceptions (ex: food prepared incorrectly). 

Take note of how frequently they’re being used. Have the closing manager go through sales exceptions at the end of each day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the cook why there were four incorrectly prepared dishes that resulted in comps. 

Consequence of not implementing this procedure

When no one is looking (at the end of the night… mid-day…), managers are voiding tickets and pocketing the cash. Who’s going to stop them if it’s just one ticket here and there and no one’s really monitoring?

5) Designate Managers/Shift Leads to do the Shift Reviews

Individual servers should not do their own shift reviews/reconcile their own cash at the end of their shift. Someone else should always be involved.

This goes back to the accountability check: when more than one person is involved in cash handling, they both become accountable. Have a manager or shift lead review the cash from the shift of each server, then have the money immediately deposited in the cash register or safe while the manager is there.

Consequence of not implementing this procedure

Servers have greater control over closeout procedures, and accountability is lacking. They could accidentally (or purposefully) add a tip that’s different from what the customer intended. More money! Then they’re stealing from your customers.

Restaurant Cash Management and Preventing Staff Theft

I’m not insinuating that all of your employees are thieves, but time and time again, restaurants see cash disappearing mysteriously without procedures in place. Data, processes, and training are your friends. Implement these tips and you’re on your way to better cash management. 

What other tips would you offer restaurant owners? What procedures have worked for you?
Leave them in the comments!

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