5 Ways Your Employees are Stealing your Restaurant Profits

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

5 Ways Your Employees are Stealing your Restaurant Profits

1. The Short Ring

It’s like a play from Danny Ocean, but you own the vault, and the strategy is much less clever – a bar customer orders a top-shelf martini, which on the menu is $12.  The customer pays cash, receives a well-prepared Grey Goose Martini, and your bartender gives the correct $8 in change.  The bartender rings in a well martini instead of the Goose martini, though, which is only $9 in the point of sale system.  The customer never knows, and at the end of the night, the bartender pockets the overage in the cash register.

Unless the bartender is a mathematical savant, there’s virtually no way for him to know the exact total of the short rings over the course of a shift.  If you suspect a bartender is short ringing, setup your point of sale system to do what’s called a “blind close-out.”  Simply put, instead of giving the bartender the amount that should be in the drawer and allowing them to reconcile, have the bartender count the cash in the drawer, and present that number to you to reconcile.  If a bartender’s blind count is off (over or under), even by just a few dollars, consistently, you may be standing in front of an employee utilizing this tactic to line his pockets with your cash.

Further, by using an integrated inventory management tool, you’ll be able to see the number of Grey Goose bottles (and ounces) that have been rung in to the point of sale system, versus the actual amount that has been consumed.  If those numbers differ (pro tip: do this daily without your staff knowing) you may be hiring a new bartender, also.

This type of situation can occur in quick service, and in table service with servers, too.  In quick service, taking care to offer a customer facing display for order verification and pricing, along with inventory management can go a long way to flush out and deter this behavior.  In table service, be careful to watch any items that a server compiles themselves, like soup and soda.  In those cases, take care to print modifiers on the guest check, so that if a server rings in a small soup, the customer will see that even though they received a large one.

2. “Accidental” Theft

The good news is that employees don’t usually make mistakes on purpose.  Incorrect point of sale entry does happen though, and it does cost your bottom line.  To remedy, make sure your point of sale is set up to log all voids and comps, and make sure to view reports against that data frequently.  Consistent entries in the report may show that a workflow within the point of sale is difficult or flawed and is contributing to the problem, and that’s why simple menu management is so important when choosing a point of sale.

There are also options to remove points of failure in the ordering process.  For instance, you can issue servers mobile devices capable of placing orders at the table, both removing the redundancy needed to hand-write tickets and transcribe them to the point of sale, and reducing the amount of time that it takes to get orders sent to the bar or kitchen.  In some of the top restaurants, each seat can mean $1 or more in revenue per minute – the faster the service begins, the higher the per-seat average becomes.

3. The Skim

As old as business, the skim – simply taking a handful of dollars, $10, $20, $50 right from the drawer into a pocket. Thankfully, most modern point of sale systems are able to track all sales down to the penny, but unscrupulous restaurant employees are smart, and usually crafty.  If you’re not paying close attention to the numbers, the cash can slip right out from under your nose.

If cash drawers are short, knowing how to use the point of sale forensically to identify the issue is key.  That’s why choosing a point of sale system that is robust yet simple is so important.

4. Manager Voids After Close

If life were perfect, all managers would be trustworthy and lovely characters.  Unfortunately though, some are not.  Be very studious about void reports where voids are occurring after a server has clocked out.  This could be a clear indication that a manager is pocketing money after-hours by voiding tickets that have been paid and closed out by a server or bartender.

You’ll notice quickly if the same manager is voiding tickets consistently after-hours.

5. Free Food and Booze

When Flyght CEO Chris Rumpf was in college, he worked as a pizza delivery driver.  After hours, he and friends would raid the draft beer and pizza dough for their own private gathering at the restaurant.  He’s a classy guy, and swears they always put a few bucks in the cash drawer to compensate, but we’re pretty sure some of your employees aren’t.

Start here by locking up alcohol and other important goods after-hours, and take care to grant access sparingly.  Installing a good security access and camera system can help resolve this problem too, by making sure you are alerted when someone enters your business after-hours.  If you’re finding that employees are stealing food on or after the job, consider allowing them to eat a meal before their shift or treating them to a high-end dish at your establishment on the regular.