Controlling losses in a restaurant can be a challenging task to master. Losses occur in all areas of the restaurant, from the front-of-the-house to the back-of-the-house, but there are some steps a restaurant operator can take to help keep things manageable. By working with other supervisors, such as the executive chef and servers, you have a better shot at keeping things under control. Here are some of the most common loss pitfalls restaurant operators and managers face with some suggestions on how to handle them

Employee Theft and Fraud

  • Be involved and present on the floor. The more a manager is present, the less likely employees are to deviate from procedure or engage in theft.
  • Completely check out employees before hiring them, particularly those who handle large sums of cash. Run background checks to determine if they have a criminal history or credit problems. Have applicants provide references from previous jobs, then call those references to see if there is any cause for concern.
  • Keep track of all access to any cash drawers or safes where the money is stored with security equipment such as hidden cameras. Keep all point-of-sale system passwords in a secure area away from employee access.
  • Implement procedures for handling cash, including bank deposits, and ensure each employee is properly trained. Have wait and bar staff use a cash drawer count system starting at the beginning of their shifts and verifying totals at the end of their shifts based on the day’s transactions.
  • Keep an eye on food and product inventory daily. Ensure food records are accurate, supplies are accounted for and beverages are monitored by kitchen staff management and dining room management alike. Only have managers check-in kitchen and bar inventory when it is delivered by suppliers. Use a perpetual inventory system that allows a full comparison between inventory sheets and inventory records stored on a computer system.
  • Document when thefts occur and immediately terminate employees who are caught stealing. Enforcing a strict no-tolerance policy can help deter theft from other employees in the future.

Food Waste

  • Conduct a food inventory on a daily basis with the executive chef. Ensure that when food arrives from suppliers it is inspected before being stored. Food that arrives at an unsafe temperature or in poor condition should be immediately sent back to the supplier for replacement. Rotate food inventory by expiration date so that items with the closest expiration date are used first.
  • Train kitchen staff how to properly measure and portion so that each plate is consistent.
  • Enforce a food handling procedure. Ensure all employees keep food at proper temperatures and cook foods to the appropriate temperature to avoid waste. When waste occurs, write down the date, reason for waste and item for more accurate purchasing in the future.

Labor Losses

  • Cross-train employees to have a broad skill set and can fill additional roles when you are understaffed. For example, train a hostess to work as a server or train a busser to work as a dishwasher in the kitchen.
  • Review employee performance on a regular basis. Train employees to be more efficient in their positions.
  • Look for areas where excess staffing has occurred or employee schedules encounter a large amount of downtime and readjust accordingly. Create employee schedules on a weekly basis based on projected sales, weather, seasonal changes and additional factors that can interfere with restaurant patron counts for that week. If too many employees are scheduled, send unneeded employees home early to cut down labor costs.
  • Verify that employees clock in or out according to their schedules. Create a policy that requires employees to let management know when they are close to working more than 40 hours a week. This will help you avoid overtime pay for some employees.

Operational Losses

  • Create a policy and procedure section of the employee handbook. Include information about food preparation, employee conduct and how employees are expected to perform their job safely and efficiently.
  • Host safety meetings to train employees on proper safety procedures throughout the facility. Use demonstrations, such as showing employees how to properly use a knife while preparing food or carry plates to avoid cross-contamination. Educate staff members on the dangers associated with food service work, such as slips on wet floors, lifting heavy materials and equipment, or burns in the kitchen. This can help reduce the risk of worker’s compensation costs and liability expenses tied to employees who are injured on the job.
  • Keep a detailed record of injuries that occur on the job. Be specific about who was injured, how they were injured and whether or not they were following operating procedures at the time of the injury. Employees who fail to follow safety procedures or operating procedures should be written up or terminated depending on the severity of the violation.