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Cash-drawer counter-measures!

Slam the drawer shut on theft using this arsenal of deterrent techniques!

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015

While not quite so heavily fortified, the cash drawer at your bar is much like the safe at a bank, only instead of tellers, you have bartenders making the deposits.  And despite their reputations, bartenders generally are no more or less honest than bank tellers; the only reason theft is so much more rampant at bars is because of a comparative lack of effective controls in place.  Here's 11 ways to help keep your "bar-tellers" honest:

 

REQUIRE VERIFICATION OF STARTING CASH DRAWER AMOUNTS

Pre-shift, with a witness present, require the bartender using the bank to count it out and sign for it.  Occasionally place an extra $10 or $20 bill in the bank to test for diligence and integrity.

 

ONE BARTENDER PER DRAWER

Detecting stealing is much more difficult when a cash drawer is shared by bartenders.  Most POS workstations can be configured to work with as many four drawers, meaning it's not that much more expensive to go 1:1, even if only a single POS terminal is available to use. 

Likewise the notion that bartenders are unduly slowed by having to login under separate employee numbers is false: if they have to log in under their own codes their sales can be tracked, incentivizing them to try to sell more while exposing slacker bartenders who otherwise can fly under the radar!

 

CUSTOMER VISIBLE POS DISPLAYS

If the customer can clearly see the transaction being rung up, it makes it much more difficult for bartenders NOT to ring up every drink, or under/over charge for drinks.

 

CASH DRAWER REMAINS CLOSED BETWEEN TRANSACTIONS

Bartenders sometimes will claim that they save time and increase sales by leaving a drawer open during busy periods, but whatever benefit is gained by doing so is more than offset by how convenient this makes it for bartenders to steal.

 

ONLY MANAGERS ARE ALLOWED TO RUNS Z-TAPE READINGS AT END OF THE SHIFT

The end of day sales report for each employee should be run by the MOD (Manager On Duty), NOT the employees themselves, allowing for....

 

BLIND CHECKOUTS AT THE END OF SHIFT 

After the close of all transactions, bartenders should separate the original bank amount then document what remains BEFORE comparing the drawer totals to their final Z-report, making it harder to harbor stolen funds in the drawer throughout the evening, especially if the possibility also exists of...

 

SURPRISE MID-SHIFT DRAW COUNTS 

Once a quarter or so, at a random point during a shift, pull the bartender's drawer, swapping it out with a fresh bank, then run a Z-2 report which will give the accrued sales subtotals.   The cash in the drawer should match up with the cash totals at all times; if it's significantly over the bartender is either stealing ("building the till") or incompetent.

 

TIP JARS PLACED AWAY FROM THE TIL, AND NO "COLORING UP" OF TIPS ALLOWED!

The closer the tip jar is to the cash til, the easier it is to divert stolen funds to it.  Additionally bartenders should be prohibited from making change out of their tip jar or taking currency from the tip jar and exchanging it for larger denominations out of the cash drawer.

 KEEP AREA AROUND THE TIL CLEAR OF CLUTTER

Aside from being unsightly and making it difficult to locate needed product, a cluttered bar can be used to hide money, drink tickets, receipts or a possibly even a ledger system used to track how much stolen money has been collected in the drawer.

 

MONITOR AND RESTRICT USE OF "NO SALE" KEY

Pretending to ring up a drink then hitting "NO SALE" is the oldest ploy in the book.  Limit the need to legitimately use that key by providing bartenders with a "change bank" or by managers periodically getting change from the safe for them.  Additionally use transaction log reports to periodically compare the average times your bartenders use the NO SALE key throughout a shift.  All other things being equal, if one uses it 5-10 x more than the rest, there's probably good cause for concern.

 

ONLY MANAGERS CAN CLOSE TO VOID, COMP OR SPILL + TRANSFER ITEMS BETWEEN CHECKS

These transactions should require either a manager code (not known by employees) or register key.  Allowing employees to do any of the above on their own, can lead to all sorts expensive malfeasance, from voiding cash transactions (PPP #11) to "wagon wheeling" checks (#22).

 

While using this array of deterrent techniques will substantially reduce profit shrinkage at the bar, eliminating it entirely requires more advanced technology and monitoring approaches.  For  a profit efficiency evaluation of your beverage program contact: