5 Restaurant Cash Flow Tips
How well do you manage your daily cash flow? Even with the best staff, it’s all too easy for cash⸺whether tabs or tips⸺to slip through the cracks of a lunch rush or a long night. When you’re working hard and working quickly, that’s when you need structure the most. You need a system of organization and accountability that will keep your income safe and your employees protected. The bottom line? Poor cash handling, whether by accident, neglect, or dishonesty, takes hard-earned money from your restaurant. Organized cash flow puts your income in the right place and helps keep you in business. Here are five top restaurant cash flow tips to improve cash flow practices in your restaurant.
5 Restaurant Cash Flow Tips
#1 – Hire well, train well
Train everyone well in all of your policies and procedures⸺but especially focus on shift leads and managers. They will be responsible for enforcing cash flow practices, ensuring that any cash transitions happen properly, and that cash gets locked away safely at close of business.
A longer term goal is to hire better so you can lower your rates of turnover, lowering the likelihood that employees receive sloppy or hurried training. This also means hiring candidates who are more likely to stay for the long-term and those who show an exceptional degree and track record of responsibility. Willingness to take ownership of your restaurant and of their own duties is a number-one requirement for restaurant hires, and it protects your cash flow.
#2 – Use safeguards
When cash passes hands, know whose hands it’s going into by tracking it. For example, you can program cash registers and order stations to unlock with a passcode specific to individual employees, so that you know who has responsibility for certain portions of your cash flow at certain times.
And make it a habit to not allow cash registers to overflow, especially if you’re dealing with many bills in small denominations. Make it a priority to keep them tidy, and to have regulations in place for checking registers and moving cash regularly during shifts, whenever necessary. A one or five dollar bill may not be worth much, but many small bills are far easier to lose track of and easy to lose to theft or mishandling.
#3 – Make it easy
Your staff may not lack motivation, but may simply need assistance to stay accurate. Managers should be actively watching for sloppy money-handling habits, encouraging and reminding employees of best practices. An occasional, quick assessment or cash handling role-play could be part of staff meetings every so often, just to keep all employees fresh and on the same page. Find ways to remind and encourage clearly without being negative or beating a dead horse. If mistakes keep happening, you are responsible.
Finally, find out what causes employees to make their biggest mistakes in cash flow. Don’t be afraid to ask. When are they likely to cut corners in making change, for example? Is the system for receiving money effective and easy to use, or is there some confusion? Are they too rushed because customers are stressed during peak hours? Maybe some structural or policy changes need to be made to improve customer flow during busy times. Even a simple change in organization, a repair, or an updated technology could take stress off employees. This makes it easier for them to remember and follow the proper procedures.
#4 – Pick the right technology
Your cash registers might need to be updated for speed and ease of use if you don’t want employees cutting corners during a rush. (It’s an all-too-real temptation in the name of customer service!) Registers may also need to be programmed to require a personal passcode for an employee to gain access to the ordering system. But don’t stop there. Examine all the places your cash lands, and ask if tech would help. Brainstorm with your managers if need be.
For example, a cash and coin counting system will give you certainty about your cash count and will save employees time. There are also points at which you want to restrict cash access to certain staff members only, in which case, are you requiring strict authorizations? It may be time for your safe to get an update, for example, or to update your policies controlling access to safe codes.
#5 – Get it on the books
We’re not talking about your accounting books this time. Make your cash handling policies real, official policies, in black and white. Include them in staff and manager training manuals, training programs, keep them for your own reference and keep them handy on-site for easy employee reference. Make sure to inform employees and retrain them in any changes to policies, as well as update the books as needed. Be consistent and thorough.
Making policies official and accessible keeps your guidelines clear and accurate. It also keeps your staff informed, keeps them accountable, and helps you in instances of legality. No one can be accountable for what they either don’t know or can’t be expected to remember. Going back to tip #3, if you make it easy on your employees, you’re making it easier on yourself. Your goal is to achieve one hundred percent compliance. That means better training, better procedures, legal protections, and a stronger bottom line.
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