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How to Control Losses as a Restaurant Manager

by Shailynn Krow, studioD

Controlling loses in a restaurant environment poses a unique set of challenges for management. While losses can occur in all areas of the restaurant – from the storeroom to the hostess stand – there are a few things a restaurant manager can do to help keep them under wraps. By working with other supervisors, such as the executive chef and maître d’, a restaurant manager will have better results than attempting to control it all on his own. Most important when controlling losses is understanding the common leaks and finding a way to plug them.

Employee Theft and Fraud

Vet employees thoroughly 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.

Monitor employees' access to any cash drawers or safes where 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.

Create procedures for handling cash, including bank deposits, and ensure each employee is thoroughly trained. Require wait and bar staff to use a cash drawer count starting at the beginning of their shifts and verifying totals at the end of their shifts based on the day’s transactions.

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.

Monitor 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.

Offer employees meals from kitchen staff while on duty to help deter food theft. Meals should be free or available at a steep discount to menu prices.

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.

Teach kitchen staff to serve the appropriately-sized portions. Plates should not be overfilled or under filled. Show employees 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 so they 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 performances on a regular basis. Train employees to be more efficient in their positions and to work quickly. Address any problem areas an employee might be facing, such as inputting orders too slowly into the system or taking too long to bring patrons their orders, to make him more efficient.

Look for areas where excess staffing has occurred or employee schedules encounter a large amount of down time, 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 theirs 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.

About the Author

Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.

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