How to Position a Point of Sale (POS) Terminal in a Bar, Restaurant, Coffee Shop

Internal Control:  Positioning a Point of Sale (POS) Terminal

Goal:  Allow guests to see transactions as they are rung to prevent internal theft

The key to the proper placement of a point of sale terminal is visibility.  You want to set up your terminal so that customers can see every transaction as it is rung up.  Many POS systems do a great job of displaying the transaction total in large numbers on the screen or display ‘no sale’ when the cashier hits the no sale key.  It makes it very easy to have a manager or supervisor monitor the transactions from across the restaurant.  If your terminal is in a position below a counter, add a display arm or ‘goose neck’ to your POS.

The McScam

It turns out that hotels are not the only victims of crafty employee theft.  Here is the fast-food version of the breakfast buffet scam:

I was in West LA last weekend and had time to get a quick bite to eat with some friends.  Most convenient, of course, was a major fast-food restaurant down the street.  Some of us were not very hungry, so the ones who were ordered first.  Everything was normal at first; we ordered food that the cooks in the back had to make, the cashier entered the transaction into the computer, processed the payments, gave a receipt, etc.

Then the ones that just wanted small items came to place their orders.  As I waited for my food to the side, I noticed that she started to use a small calculator instead of the register that she had used with me to add up the cost of each order.  One of my friends ordered a drink and large fries (both items the cashier could retrieve herself).  She punched the amounts into the small calculator and asked for $2.79.  My friend paid with cash, the cashier put the money in the drawer, did not present a receipt, and provided the drink cup and fries.  Another one of my friends ordered a specialty coffee drink.  The cashier listened to the order, then asked, “That’s it?”  Once my friend nodded his head, she then recalled the price from memory and asked for $2.19.  She then did the same with the money as the previous transaction.

There was a good flow of people coming in to order food and as I waited for my food, I could not help but laugh.  For every transaction that she did not have to send to the cooks or have to process a credit card, she would not ring the transaction into the register.  One can only imagine how much money this cashier was making, but even worse, how much more money the fast-food restaurant was losing.  She obviously had been doing this for some time and because the restaurant was in a very high volume area, the managers or owners probably do not even notice.

Take it from me, she was being so obvious because she knows that she probably won’t get caught.  These things happen often in places I go.  Managers and owners just need to take a closer look at their operations.

Got a McStory to share?  Post it in our comment section.

Cash Control Basics

We have all heard stories of hotels that have had accounting employees commit serious fraud. Maybe it has happened at your hotel. Maybe it is happening at your hotel right now and you don’t know it. Even if you have a perfect record, it is always a good idea to review your internal controls and prevent fraud from happening.

There are some simple controls that every hotel should have, yet many hotels fail in these areas when the internal audit comes around. Here are some highlights:

1. Make sure that the General Cashier does not perform any accounts payable or accounts receivable functions. This is especially tough in small hotels that may only have one employee in their accounting office. In a small hotel, we recommend having the Sales Admin or Front Desk Manager be the General Cashier… anyone who does not do A/P or A/R. If a General Cashier has access to A/P or A/R, it makes it incredibly easy to steal cash.

2. Require the General Cashier to take a vacation each year and have their job functions assumed by another associate. Quite often, a cashier will not want someone else to handle their job duties or to take a vacation at all. This is often a red flag that the cashier is committing fraud and afraid of someone looking closely at his/her work.

3. Make sure that every bank in the hotel (including the main safe) is audited on a surprise basis at least once per month. This one is the most basic of basic controls yet many hotels do not do this. They typically find out of a cash shortage when an employee with a bank is terminated. This is especially important when it comes to the main safe. If it is not audited frequently on a surprise basis, it makes it so much easier for the cashier to steal or borrow money.

4. The drop safe should require two people to open. We like the drop safes that need a key and a combination. The combination should be kept by the General Cashier and the key should be kept by a separate person.

5. All deposits should be removed with a witness present and immediately logged. The deposits should be logged with a witnessed in case an envelope is missing.

6. Bank deposits should be made every day via armored car service. Do not allow your General Cashier to skip days and keep cash on hand. This makes it easier to commit fraud. Also, make sure that your deposit is picked up by armored car and not taken to the bank by the General Cashier.

7. Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable employees should never handle cash or checks. Do not allow the A/P employee to receive checks in the mail. The checks should be received and logged by someone other than the General Cashier or A/R employee. We prefer an Administrative Assistant to handle this or have the checks sent directly to your bank lock box. Also, the A/P or A/R employee should not handle cash, including petty cash.

Again, these are just the basics of control. There is more information available in the HFTP Study Guide for the CHAE Exam. More information is available at or your local HFTP Chapter.