Restaurants all require a cash register or a Point of Sale (POS) cash drawer system to collect and secure the cash tendered after transactions. Any time restaurant workers deal directly with cash, there should be cash-handling procedures in place. Procedures for balancing restaurant cash registers are especially important, as they provide internal controls to maintain accountability of the cash moving in and out of the restaurant. The procedures below are designed primarily for use in quick-service or fast casual restaurants that see a lot of customer transactions in a short period of time. Use the procedures below as guidelines when establishing cash register balancing procedures:
Maintain Single-drawer Accountability
When assigning access to cash drawers, managers should admit a cash drawer to only one employee at a time. When only one cashier (and the manager) has access to the money in a drawer, any cash issues can be traced to the right person.
Count the Beginning Cash Amount
The cash amount that should always start and stay in a drawer is known as the beginning cash amount. Management usually determines this cash amount and sets it as a restaurant policy. At the beginning of the day or shift, the cashier assigned to a cash drawer must count the money in the drawer to validate that the beginning cash amount is correct.
Example: The restaurant's beginning cash amount is always $150.00. This is usually an assortment of bills, $20 and smaller, for change-making purposes. The cashier for the shift needs to count his or her drawer to verify that it has $150 dollars inside, and also to be sure that the drawer has sufficient coins for making change.
Deposit Cash During the Shift
During busy shifts, the amount of money in the cash drawer can increase very quickly. Managers and workers should stay aware of the money in each cash drawer, as cash registers with constantly opening and closing drawers full of hundreds of dollars can be tempting to observant robbers.
The most automatic surveillance can be found with a POS system, which provides constant updates for current sales and register balance amounts. You may want to select a point at which to remove cash from the drawer. For instance, if the balance in the register rises to $200 or more above the beginning cash amount, it is prudent to remove cash and deposit it into the safe. This is sometimes known as a cash-drop.
How to perform a cash-drop:
- Choose non-peak times. Wait until there is a lull in customer traffic, if possible.
- Count up to a certain amount. Check to see how much cash is in the cash drawer. If there is $200.00 or more over the beginning cash amount, it is time to perform a cash-drop.
- Do quick, but simple math. Take the total current balance in the cash drawer and subtract the beginning inventory amount. The result is the amount you need to remove.
- Give approval. Both the cashier and the manager need to approve that the cash removed is the right amount.
- Get a second pair of eyes. Both the cashier and the manager witness that the cash is deposited into the safe. Often there is a secondary compartment where these cash drops are deposited.
Example 1: If there is $475 in the drawer, and your beginning cash amount is $150, you would subtract $150 from $475. The amount you should remove from the drawer is $325.
Example 2: If the number is not a whole number, managers will often just round down to a cash amount that is easy to drop.
If there is $476.59 in the drawer, and your beginning cash amount is $150, you would still subtract the two. However, you would round down to the closest 20 so as to remove the big bills first. The smaller bills and coins should be in there for making change. The amount you should remove from the drawer is $320.
Balance the Drawer at the End of the Shift
At the end of the shift or at the end of the day, all cash registers need to be balanced. Some restaurants call this "checking out," since a cashier typically needs to make sure all the sales transactions and cash totals check out correctly before he or she can clock out. Like a cash-drop, this procedure requires a manager's assistance for extra accountability.
How to balance the register:
- Find a safe area to count. Remove the cash drawer from the register and take it to the back of the house, or to a safe and secluded area, to count
- Count the total amount in the drawer. This includes all bills and coins. Use a cash drawer check-out sheet to keep track of these amounts. Be sure to also account for all checks and credit card receipts.
- Analyze your totals. Compare the total amount that was personally counted with the total amount that was calculated by the POS reports or register receipts. These amounts should be the same.
- Check for discrepancies. Overages or shortages less than a dollar are usually a result of minor human error. However, large or consistent discrepancies between the cash that should be present and the cash that is present could indicate theft or lack of proper training.
- Cash Overages: If the counted money is a more than the amount reported by the POS or receipts, it is known as an overage. Overages are considered worse than shortages, as it typically means that a customer did not receive his or her full change.
- Cash Shortage: If the counted money is less than it should be according to the POS or receipts, it is known as a shortage. Shortages indicate that too much change was given back to a customer, or that money was misplaced or stolen.
- Check for voids. A "void" is the term for an order that was entered into the cash register and later deleted. The void indicates that the order was cancelled and payment was never tendered. Sometimes, workers enter transactions then immediately void it, so that the kitchen prepares the food and the worker effectively gets the food for free. However, most POS systems have controls in place that require a manager's password or other form of consent to verify a void. Usually, the manager needs to approve voids before the cashier can proceed with one, but revisit any voids that were entered into the POS or register during that shift s that the manager is aware and the employee stays accountable. Include all voids on the cash drawer check-out sheet.
- Place all cash in a deposit envelope. Include the cash drawer check-out sheet and attach any receipts, credit card slips or terminal reports to the sheet. Place everything in the deposit envelope and drop it into the safe to be deposited the following day.
Download a sample Cash Drawer Check-Out Sheet(PDF)
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