An understanding of comps and voids is key to loss prevention in the restaurant business. What restaurant manager hasn’t had a night when your server approached you right before checkout with an appetizer comp that he didn’t tell you about? Or that time your till was short $7.99 because of a void you forgot to enter for a dish the cook never made?
Managers need to know the reasons for comps and voids when servers and bartenders request them. Whether a product is made will make a difference in reported sales and costs that have an impact on the restaurant’s operations.
For most restaurants, comp meals can typically represent 1-6% of sales. It’s industry best practice to keep comps somewhere below 2% of sales. Furthermore, your marketing spend (usually 2% to 4% of sales) may also incorporate comps in the form of free meals for VIPs or loyalty programs, so it’s important to look at your comps percentage holistically, from both your F&B and marketing budgets.
Loose supervision of comps and voids can impact the restaurant’s bottom line. Monitoring comps and voids helps open managers’ eyes to employees who make too many mistakes when taking guest orders, who needs to review the brand standards guide or, in the worst cases, who are stealing from the business. But before we dive into all of that, let’s start with the basics.
What’s the Difference Between Comps and Voids?
Comps (complimentary items) are food and beverage items that are made, delivered to the guest, and taken off the bill for a variety of reasons, including free meals for VIP customers, server and kitchen mistakes, guest complaints, marketing promotions, and more.
Voids are items taken off the bill that were never made and never existed. For example, a server inputs a salmon into the POS, but the customer changes his mind. The server runs to the back and shouts, “Don’t make that salmon!” The chef listens and never makes the dish.
The Exception: When food or beverage is made but the item is voided. This sometimes happens if an item is repurposed, like when the bartender makes a vodka tonic for a guest who changes his mind, but another guest orders the same vodka tonic.
Deciphering Trends in Comps and Voids
- By amount per employee
- As a percentage of sales
- By food or beverage item
Keeping an eye on this data can help you discover some of the following trends in your restaurant.
It’s a sad reality of the business that comps and voids can be abused for theft. It is possible that employees with a high percentage of comps or voids could be stealing from the business. Managers should watch for employees who do the following:
- Void Items from Checks: Keep an eye on employees who frequently void checks. It’s possible to steal from the business by collecting cash from a guest and then deleting a transaction(s) for which the guest already paid.
- Transfer Tables: Pay particular attention to table transfers, when a server transfers small ticket items to a check for a void at the end of his/her shift and takes cash in hand.
If you’re comping a lot of dishes, it could also mean that too many mistakes are being made.
- Employees are being too generous with comps. Ensure wait staff and bartenders know the exact set of circumstances for comping food and beverages. The less ambiguous you are, the less wiggle room staff have to comp.
- The same dishes are being made incorrectly. Cooks need a formal brand standards guide instructing step-by-step how to prep, cook, and arrange food so that every guest receives the same experience per dish. These minimize errors and reduce the need to comp ill-prepared dishes.
- Servers may not know how to use the POS properly. Mislabeling transactions and inexperience not only hamper staff efficiency, but all this extra or incorrect data make a mess of any analytical feedback a manager would receive.
Voids and misused comps cut into profits and prevent managers from getting a full analytical look at operations.
3. Preventing Future Mistakes
If you’re noticing your profits dip, it may be time to give your team members a refresher on the appropriate times to use comps and voids. Nipping waste in the bud requires short-term training but prevents further losses over the long-term.
- Teach the difference between void and comp and when to use each.
- Train on the policy for employee meals and general VIP comps.
- Educate about the costs to the business for giving items away.
- Monitor and retrain employees who make excessive POS entry errors.
These behavioral challenges can be addressed among current employees gradually during daily standup meetings at the beginning or end of shifts. For new employees, addressing these issues in the onboarding curriculum can prevent voids and unnecessary comps in the first place.
- Revisit service operations where a process may lead to mistakes.
- Reevaluate how to prep menu items constantly getting comped.
These changes to processes and menu offerings are harder to make, but making operations more efficient means less waste and fewer comps. To protect your profits, maintain and update brand standards guides to ensure employees across locations comply with company best practices.
As a restaurant manager or operator, be alert and inquisitive when comps and voids arise. Most of the time, they are natural byproducts of a bustling business, but as trends emerge, you need to know when to take action. Back-office analytical solutions can provide visibility into comps and voids, giving managers key insights into these trends.
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