Restaurant employees often use the terms comp and void interchangeably throughout a shift. But they are not the same when it comes to the restaurant’s gross sales, food costs, inventory, and overall profitability.
What is a comp at a restaurant?
A comp is an item that was rung up, prepared, and delivered, but the customer was not charged. Whether it was an error, an unsatisfied customer, or a free dessert for a special occasion or promotion, the item is on the ticket but listed with a cost of $0.
The most common comps in a restaurant are:
- Unhappy customer
- Promotions/customer relations
- Long ticket time
- Server error
- Kitchen error
- Runner error
What is a void at a restaurant?
A void does not affect your bottom line because there was no product used and no sale. It is an item that was deleted from the ticket before it was ever prepared. Voids usually happen through human error such as a server ringing in the wrong item or the wrong quantity, but the mistake is caught before the item is made so it is completely removed from the ticket. Depending on your POS systems, this action could be called Cancel, Over-ring, Delete, or Clear.
The most common voids in a restaurant occur before the item was made in these situations:
- Server mistake
- Long ticket time
- Guest changes their mind
- Employee theft
Why is it important to track restaurant comps and voids?
It is important to track comps and voids because comps count against inventory and can skew food costs or mess up inventory counts. A comp means that the product was used but received no compensation for it and will increase your food cost.
Tracking voids help managers identify employees who are making a lot of mistakes and may need further training on how to properly take an order and enter it into the POS system. Additionally, it could uncover patterns that could identify employee theft.
How to reduce the number of comps and voids in a restaurant
Be sure that staff understands the difference between a void and a comp
Training restaurant staff on the difference between a comp and a void is also key to reducing mistakes. During a demanding shift, a busy bartender could call out to the manager that they need a margarita voided from a customer’s check when, in fact, the drink was prepared but the bartender forgot that the customer had requested “no salt.” Having staff that understands what they need the manager to do helps immensely when there is no time for the manager to ask questions to identify what really happened.
Properly train staff on the POS
One of the easiest ways to reduce voids and comps is to ensure that the staff is properly trained on the POS so they can avoid mistakes made while ringing in orders.
Make sure that your staff is asking customers the right questions
We aren’t mind readers. An order can’t be made correctly if the server has not asked the correct questions when taking the order. How would you like that steak cooked? The bread service is an additional $6, would you like me to bring it out? Do you prefer sweet or unsweetened tea? Asking a few key questions will help make sure that items are entered into the POS correctly.
Also, be sure that servers know to go back to the kitchen and explain any unusual modifications that may throw off the BOH staff. Otherwise, uncommon requests may lead to a long ticket time, an unhappy customer, and an unnecessary food comp.
Keep an eye out for employee theft
An employee with a high number of voids and comps can also be an indication of theft. Items can be rung up by the employee, served, then requested to be comped by the manager when the server is giving away food to friends and family. It is also wise to run a report to see if a majority of voids are used on cash transactions. This could be a sign that a server is asking a manager to void an item and then pocketing the difference.
Don’t forget to track the reason for comps and voids
If your POS allows it, be sure to set up prompts for the manager to enter the reason an item is being comped or voided. Having a full picture of how many times an item is 86ed, how often discounts are given, and who is making the most mistakes when ringing in food will help correct these issues in the future.
Comps and voids can’t be avoided. There will always be human errors, miscommunications, or items that need to be 86ed due to being sold out of an item. Making sure that these issues are reported accurately is key to operators seeing the full picture of their operations and better protecting their bottom line.
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