Employee theft is a big concern for restaurant owners and operators, and much of that theft happens in the cash drawer. Let's face it: when people work with cash all day, they're going to be tempted by it (especially if they're not well-incentivized). A 2017 report by QSR Magazine found that around 75% of restaurant losses come from employee theft.
But a few simple policies can go a long way in preventing register theft, so it's important to implement strict cash drawer procedures to avoid loss. Here are five easy ways to reduce cash drawer loss in your restaurants.
1. Have at least two people count cash
Every businessperson knows the mantra, "trust, but verify." Have your cashiers count the money in their registers at the beginning of every shift, and then have another employee or a shift runner verify that amount. Do the same when making cash drops and counting registers at the end of the night. Your managers shouldn't get a pass, either — nightly cash deposits should also be counted by two people. No single person should ever be handling the cash at your restaurants. Yes, this prevents theft, but it also helps prevent honest counting mistakes that can affect your totals.
Read our list of 13 cash handling tips to get some more insight.
2. Keep an eye on sales exceptions
Every restaurant will need to adjust or void order totals for a number of reasons. Make sure you have a system in place to record those reasons. You should be able to tell if a total was zeroed for a legitimate purpose, like an order being prepared incorrectly. This way, you can follow-up on repeated mistakes, and easily tell if too many transactions are being voided.
You’ll also want to make sure that voiding an order is actually performed by a manager and not someone with their keys, card, or code. That can only be accomplished by making sure that the manager has their access tools or codes secure.
3. More cash drops
Totaling the cash in your drawers at the end of the night isn't enough. If you're seeing a loss at your registers, you're probably not doing enough cash drops. Have your store managers count your drawers frequently, and move any excess cash to the safe. Keep $20 and $100 bills somewhere separate, like under the drawer insert or locked cash boxes, to reduce visibility and temptation. When you keep your drawers light, it's much easier to see when cash goes missing.
4. Use security cameras wisely
This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you have at least one camera on each register and on your safes. Recordings will give you something to refer to in the event of employee theft as well as robbery — it's a win-win. You should be able to track all cash from the moment it is handed from a customer to an employee, to the moment it's deposited at the end of the night.
TIP: All cash should be counted on camera in a safe area. It’s always good to have that on record!
5. Make your policies obvious
What happens when there's a register cash discrepancy? Your register totals won't always be perfect, and that's to be expected — mistakes happen, and employee theft isn't always the cause of a discrepancy. But make sure your employees know the consequences when their drawers come up short. The threat of a write-up, reduced hours, or even termination lets your employees know that management is keeping an eye on the cash registers, and is ready to take action if something doesn't look right.
Want to learn more? Here are 4 things to look for to reduce employee theft in restaurants. There's much more to preventing loss than implementing cash drawer procedures. To minimize your risk of loss, here's our restaurant loss prevention checklist.