Like clockwork, every November into December restaurants experience an up-tick in theft, January has a slight slowdown, then in February as credit card bills become due from the holiday season, there is another surge in theft coupled with a slight decline in sales. This year the cycle seems to have started a little earlier. Here is what every restaurant should prepare for this holiday season:

Stay on top of cash variances. Usually, it should only take 1-2 days for shortages from simple mistakes to balance out. If it does not, it may be time to investigate. Another popular form of theft, known as under-ringing, increases as well. This will not show up as a shortage.

Remember mistakes happen. The holidays usually bring in new employees who may cause shortages due to simple mistakes (cashing out a register prematurely and not performing a refund).

Desperation sets in. For those that are struggling to provide during the holiday season, desperation sets in and robberies unfortunately increase. To offset this, restaurant managers should make frequent trips to the bank to reduce the amount of cash at the establishment. Safes should always be closed and office doors should have deadbolts and be locked when not in use.  

Sales may decline. Unless your restaurant is in or around a mall, shopping plaza, airport or train station, sales may decline until February. People spend their disposable income and credit lines on holiday shopping and at times skip the extra coffee or meal to make ends meet.

People also feel generous. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and people start feeling generous, even restaurant employees. It is very common for employees to discount orders to friends or regulars during the holiday season, also known as sweet-hearting. This is usually done to help out a loyal customer or incentivize the customer to give a larger tip.

Every holiday season, quick-service restaurant owners and managers have to make some tough decisions such as deciding to stay open or close during the holiday and putting a schedule together that allows employees to see their family. After resolving all of the logistics, the last thing any operator wants to experience is a loss. It is unfortunately all too common. However, taking the proper steps ahead of time can minimize the chance of a loss and make the holiday season a bit less stressful for the operators.

Bruno Mota is the CEO and co-founder of Pembroke Loss Prevention, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to utilizing the data companies already have on hand to help increase revenue, customer counts, and overall satisfaction. He works with a wide array of companies to determine where losses are taking place and how to turn them into opportunities. Mota started his career in the quick-service restaurant industry, becoming a leading analyst for loss prevention tactics then transitioned into a finance role for a publicly traded company in Boston. He utilized his experience in logistics and finance to co-found Pembroke LP as a charismatic, innovative strategist with proven results.

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