An understanding of comps and voids is key to loss-prevention in the restaurant business. Trust us, we know they can be a pain. 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 around 3% 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 food and beverage and marketing budgets.
Loose supervision of comps and voids can impact the restaurant’s bottom line. Monitoring comps and voids can help open managers’ eyes to employees who make too many mistakes when taking guest orders, who need retraining on the POS 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
Managers should track comps and voids three ways:
- 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.
- Misuse Loyalty Programs: Monitor loyalty card programs that reward guests with cash back or discounts that are applied to a bill paid in cash; servers may work as a group using the same card on various tables over a period of time (when that card should be in the guest’s hand).
If you’re comping a large number of dishes, it could also mean that too many mistakes are being made.
- Employees are being too generous with comps.
- The same dishes are being made incorrectly.
- Servers may not know how to use the POS properly.
3. Opportunities for Retraining
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.
- Teach the difference between void and comp and when to use the two.
- 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.
- Revisit service operations where a process may lead to mistakes.
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 solutions can provide visibility into comps and voids. And with HotSchedules’ Clarifi intelligent back office platform, managers can gain insights into these trends without having to decipher a complicated report. (For the full scoop on Clarifi’s Comps and Voids Awareness Insights, check out this blog post!)