Something that I always found frustrating as a waitress was the lack of clarity around the differences between the two terms, comp and void. As a restaurant worker it is important to know the difference between a comp and a void, because, well they are different, and also because inventory and cost analysis will always be wrong if items that should have been comped were actually voided, and vice versa.
A good chunk of my coworkers (including managers and supervisors) seem to use the two terms interchangeably. Then someone always points out that “comps and voids need to be lowered” usually at a pre-shift meeting, where the reaction from most of the staff is a collective eye roll.
Maybe I’m writing about this because it is truly just a pet peeve of mine. However I do think that defining these terms and making sure your team members understand them will help you reduce comps and voids, and improve the accuracy of your P&L reports.
Let’s break down both terms and show how we use them in our day-to-day lives as restaurant workers.
The term “comp” as known in the restaurant industry is short for “complimentary,” or free. “Comping” something from a guest tab happens when the item was made, but the guest doesn’t like it, or you are paying for the item in order to recover the guest's experience.
Here are a few examples of times when an item being “comped” would be appropriate:
Note that the key element of a comped item is that it was made, meaning the cost of the item needs to be calculated into your report for that day.
A void happens when an item was rang in to the POS system, but it was never made, so the cost won’t affect you. Think of an “empty void” that has nothing inside of it. Here are a few examples of when you might void an item:
In all of these examples, the item that was originally ordered was never made, so there is no product cost that needs to be calculated into your report. A void is basically erasing the item from your POS like it never happened (because it didn’t).
Okay, so now that we have a working definition of both a comp and a void, it becomes clear that using the incorrect term can wreak havoc on your daily reports.
Depending on the way you run your venue, you might only give comp and void access to managers or supervisors. I’ve also worked in places where they let servers and bartenders comp or void their own items. Regardless, I would argue that everyone on your team needs to understand these terms - here’s why:
It’s Sunday brunch service, and everyone is slammed. A server needs an item taken off a bill before she can drop the check. “Manager Joe! I need this caesar salad comped right now!” Without thinking, Manager Joe comps the item and moves on to his next task. However, the item should have in fact been voided, because the server told the kitchen about her mistake before it was made.
Now, at the end of the day, the report is going to be inaccurate because it will calculate the cost of that caesar salad, even though it was never made. Maybe one error like that doesn’t throw off your P&L, but in reality that could happen a few dozen times throughout the shift. That might make a difference, huh?
Surprise surprise, I’m going to wrap this all up with a note about none other than staff training! Woohoo! Don’t run away from me just yet, because this is actually way more straightforward than you think.
All I’m going to say is that if your team members have a working understanding of the terms comp and void, paired with (and this is important!) an understanding of why the difference is so important to the venue, you are guaranteed to see an improvement with your report accuracy.
Managers are more likely to ask a server “was the item made?” to double check which option is correct in the situation. Servers and bartenders are more likely to use the correct term when explaining a situation to a supervisor, so the communication becomes more fluid.
For a deeper dive into leadership and communication in restaurants, check out Effective Leadership In Restaurants: How Changing Your Message Changes The Game
Take the time to make sure your team members (and you!) are well versed on the differences between a comp and a void. Pass along this article. It’s just another way to make life better for your team, and to improve the efficiency of your restaurant overall.