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How to  Balance a Cash Register

How to Balance a Cash Register

Last updated on 6/03/2017

Anyone who works in the foodservice industry values attention to detail, and it’s those details that keep a restaurant operating the way it should. Cash-handling procedures, whether implemented on an individual or corporate level, are among some of the most important policies a dining establishment will have.

In order to collect and secure payments, a restaurant cash register is used. Typically, trustworthy employees who prove capable of exchanging cash in an efficient manner, while also keeping the area tidy, will man these registers. When their shift is complete, it’s time to prepare the drawer for the next employee to use or for earnings to leave your location in the form of a bank deposit. A cash-handling policy affects everyone in your restaurant, and can hurt business when not carried out correctly. Fortunately, the best process for how to balance a cash register is simple to introduce with just a few easy steps. 


1. Determine the Best “Starting” Amount

Your restaurant will need an appropriate amount of cash prepared at the beginning of each shift. However, too much cash in a drawer at one time can lead to theft, which could leave your wait staff in a potentially dangerous situation. Stuffing the drawer can also result in bills falling to the ground or slipping into the back of the register. Regardless of intent, both situations take away from your business’s bottom line.

Select an amount that will easily handle routine transactions throughout the first half of the shift. It also helps to pick a round number, and one that is easy to count by hand prior to loading and after removing the drawer. Generally, this number will be between $50 and $150. 

For a comprehensive example of cash handling policies, look no further than the document the Carl's Jr. Burger chain has made available online. Each of the procedures are clearly defined, outlined, and intended to be followed at every location. Among other specific requirements regarding use of registers, daily reconciliation, and disciplinary action that can be found within the policy, the chain makes note to always keep their starting amount at $75.


2. Do Not Allow More than One Employee to Operate the Same Register During the Same Shift

Prior to the start of a shift or meal, ensure that a single individual will be responsible for the register for the entirety of the allotted time. If multiple registers are required, take time to carefully assign one employee to a each register. When work areas and specific responsibilities are noted ahead of time, it will improve the efficiency of your dining operation. By allowing several employees to access one drawer in a short period of time, there can be room for mistakes, and increased opportunities for bills to go missing.  


3. Schedule Times for Cash Drops

A cash drop is when a manager or supervisor manually removes and deposits cash into the drawer in order to keep up with customer transactions. Depending on the traffic and frequency with which your customers pay with cash, these drops will typically take place towards the end of a meal rush. Make a point to always note the individual who has deposited the cash and maintain a standard amount for each cash drop. If time allows, have the cashier sign off on the transaction, since they will be the ones held responsible for working with the new balance.


4. Have that Same Employee Count the Drawer at the End of their Shift

While it may not always be possible, try to have the same staff member count his or her drawer at the end of a shift with a supervisor nearby. This leaves little room for discrepancies in the final amount. Any small overages or shortages (up to $1) are usually the result of human error. If the difference is routinely any larger, the supervisor or owner will need to decide if disciplinary action is required.


5. Separate Earnings from Starting Amount, and Promptly Store in a Safe

Earnings intended for a bank deposit should remain in a sealed envelope, then be placed into a safe along with other restaurant cash register drawers. It’s important that the safe is located in a secure, isolated area, with owners and supervisors the only ones capable of unlocking it. Incorporating a combination of door alarms or security cameras is beneficial as well.


6. Utilize Up-to-Date Cash Register Software

Today, restaurants and bars rely heavily on a cash register system, especially those that operate in a fast-paced environment or with multiple registers in use at one time. Equipping your establishment with software that is out-of-date will only cause problems. To prevent this, ensure that your business is reaching its full potential with the right cash register software. There are many software options available, several of which can be custom designed for the operation you wish to run.

While shopping for that, don’t forget to stock your cash area with the appropriate paper roll supplies, or take the opportunity to use a restaurant cash register stand that will add color, convenience, and extra storage.


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