Secure your investment

Many restaurant and catering businesses that have not made their payment and stock systems secure are bleeding money without even knowing it. But stemming the flow is not nearly as difficult as it once was. By Chris Sheedy

Your point-of-sale system is your best line of defence against theft from your till.

Your point-of-sale system is your best line of defence against theft from your till.

A few years ago an owner of multiple restaurants visited Spiro Vournazos, national sales manager of restaurant point-of-sale systems business RedCat. The restaurateur had come to discuss the purchase of specialised point-of-sale systems that offered a level of security and he brought with him managers of his other restaurants. One of those managers argued strongly against the purchase which, Vournazos says, raised warning flags immediately.

The client went ahead with the purchase and put the systems in to all of his restaurants. A few months later he called Vournazos back to thank him for the systems. He also mentioned that since their implementation, the restaurant managed by the person who was arguing against the technology was now making an extra $500 to $1000 every week. Vournazos suggested several possible reasons, one being that his staff were no longer able to steal that amount each week. The restaurateur later discovered that this was, indeed, a fact.

Vournazos knows fraud when he sees it. When he owned a cafe he once caught the manager he had placed on duty (while he had taken the day off to attend a funeral) pocketing cash from the register.

“In the past we’ve installed point-of-sale systems in restaurants and all of a sudden two or three long-term staff have suddenly resigned,” Vournazos says. “It’s a dead giveaway that something was going on. And if you have an immediate increase in takings as soon as the system is installed, which is not unusual, then that’s also an indicator of theft.”

And it’s not just about the theft of cash. Restaurants bleed money when staff take other goods such as food and wine. These are all issues that a good point-of-sale system can monitor.

“These systems, first and foremost, give the owner an opportunity to step away from their business more often than they probably do now. They offer confidence in the security of the cash and produce,” Vournazos says. “They’re very simple to use but very powerful in what they offer. Systems, for example, can identify who was using the terminal, when they were using it and which terminal they were using. This can be very handy if you’re going back through security video.

“Identification can go from extremely simple, such as names on the keypad to swipe cards and PIN numbers, to high tech and powerful such as RFID wristbands worn by the staff, and fingerprint sensors. Businesses implement policies and processes to ensure their staff never share PIN numbers or swipe cards.

“Once the terminal identifies who is using it the system’s security controls what it is that certain staff can and cannot do. Every time the cash drawer is opened it is recorded. Anomalies such as cleared sales that have not been finalised can be listed on an exception report in order to be further investigated.”

But it’s not just what happens at the till that is tracked, Vournazos says. Such systems are also useful for stock management. Complimentary meals and shrinkage, such as broken bottles of beer, can all be run through the system with a staff member allocated against each event. Food that is past its use-by date can be written off via the wastage reporting capabilities of the system, as can complimentary bottles of wine.

“There is no excuse for stock to go walking,” Vournazos says. “If staff know that everything that leaves the kitchen or store room has to be accounted for then they will know they are personally accountable. If they take a bottle of wine out of the cabinet they know it has to be allocated to something specific
—a table, wastage, complimentary etc. And they have to put their name against it.”

Such a point-of-sale (POS) system begins at around $6000 for one terminal or $10,000 to $12,000 for two or three terminals. Necessary infrastructure simply includes power, network cabling and, if you’d like to be able to access reporting online, a web connection. It’s not a replacement for other security controls such as cameras, but rather it enhances other systems.

A security camera system can cost from $2000 including installation, for a basic, four-camera system that allows the analog vision to be viewed remotely from a laptop or smartphone, to around $6,000 to $8000 for a high-end system that boasts high-definition images.

“These systems are not just about catching criminals, they are being used for so much more than that,” says Jeremy McEvoy, director of Brisbane Alarm Monitoring Security Services. “One owner of several high-end restaurants uses a camera placed above the food service area to check quality of presentation of meals. Others with multiple restaurants check what’s going on in their other properties every so often to make sure customers are not having to queue up and tables are being cleaned, etc.”

Smaller operations, McEvoy says, tend to go for a basic system so they can check on their business when they’re elsewhere, and to have vision available in case there are any slip-and-falls or other OH&S incidents. Owners and managers of larger, multi-venue operations use the higher-end systems to help manage their business in terms of analytics, such as counting customers and checking workflows.

“Some video systems can link in with POS systems so that specific searches can be done of sales of burgers and chips, or sales by a particular staff member, or even video of exactly when a specific receipt was produced,” McEvoy says. “They’re a very powerful tool and as they help to make your business more secure, they also allow you to spend more time away from that business with greater peace of mind.”

Technology is your friend

Restaurant & Catering Australia has won a $500,000 government grant over the next four years to create a Digital Business Kit demonstrating how embracing the online world can increase trade and help develop competitive advantage.

The first part of the kit, in video format, will show how point of sale and security systems can be accessed by a restaurant owner or manager on a smartphone from any remote location. Now there really is no excuse not to enjoy a little work/life balance!


This great content is produced for members of the Restaurant & Catering Association. Find out about becoming a member here.

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