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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taylor, TimeForge

How to Eliminate Time and Wage Theft at Your Restaurant

Concerned about time and wage theft? We don’t blame you. American businesses lose $373 million a year to buddy punching and other forms of time theft. The main reason for this is a continued reliance on outdated timekeeping systems. In the past decade, many businesses have adopted online timekeeping, but nearly 4 out of 10 (38%) employers are still using traditional punch cards and timesheets.

Unfortunately, these low-tech methods make buddy punching and time theft all too easy. Policy changes, employee education, and written warnings can help deter bad behavior, but they won’t eliminate the problem. Moving to a secure online timekeeping system is the first step toward truly protecting your business against time and wage theft.

Below, we discuss some of the primary ways that modern technology can help save you money, as well as the steps you can take to protect your restaurant’s bottom line.

Step 1: Take advantage of modern technology

One of the surest ways to stop time and wage theft is to upgrade your time tracking system to one that can’t be taken advantage of, either accidentally or on purpose. Technology can help.

A good system will start paying for itself by saving your company time and money the moment you install it. More than that, the right system can make your business more productive, increase profit margins, and enhance your payroll data accuracy. With accurate payroll data, you can better understand how your business is truly performing.

When looking for a system, make sure it does the following:

  • The system prevents time theft. Employees can’t ride the clock, misrepresent hours, take uninhibited breaks, buddy punch, or forget whether they clocked in/out.

  • The system prevents wage theft. With enforced schedules, detailed security permissions, and robust modification logs, managers can’t abuse time adjustments, and the business stays safe.

Next, let’s look at a few of the most common and affordable types of timekeeping systems and devices that help prevent time and wage theft.

Mobile Devices and Web-based Apps

Mobile devices and web-based apps are great for clocking in remotely. The best software can log clock-ins, rest breaks, and meal periods. These methods enable employees to track themselves or can function as time clocks for entire teams. Since they’re linked to a cloud-based time-keeping system, employee hours are automatically updated across the entire platform.

In general, mobile apps are more flexible than location-based methods, but they can also be less secure because of that. Combining mobile apps with complex passwords and IP address restrictions can help increase security while preventing buddy punching and time theft.

What are IP restricted clock-ins, you ask? IP-restricted simply means that to use a mobile app to clock in, the employee must be connected to an allowed internet network. This ensures that employees don’t clock in from the parking lot or gas station on their way to work. For an example of a time and attendance system that has this feature, take a look at TimeForge and its easy IP restriction guide.

Fingerprint Timeclocks

Although not as flexible as mobile apps, hardware time clocks offer a more secure clock-in method for on-site workers. These clocks use a form of “biometric” scanning to verify the identity of the person clocking in. Fingerprint scanning, retina scanning, and facial recognition are some of the methods used today.

Fingerprint time clocks are especially affordable and easy for employees to use, with virtually no training required. And because fingerprints are unique and difficult to fake, that makes them quite secure against buddy punching. In the restaurant industry, fingerprint time clocks are therefore a great choice for tracking time and preventing time theft.

Just make sure you do your research. Some fingerprint time clocks will collect and store personally identifiable (PI) data (i.e. actual fingerprints), which you and your employees may not want. Other time clocks, like those available from TimeForge, simply scan your fingerprint, scramble the fingerprint pattern into unintelligible codes, and then save those codes. When an employee clocks in or out, the clock simply rehashes the print and compares the new scrambled codes to the ones in the system to look for a match. Actual fingerprints are never stored, on the clocks or on the TimeForge servers, so you and your employees can rest easy.

Step 2: Use schedule enforcement and grace periods

Once you’ve adopted the basic technology - an online, cloud-based timekeeping system - you’ll want to take full advantage of its features. There are two settings, in particular, you will want to configure for your restaurant. These are: 1) schedule enforcement, and 2) grace periods. Both of these settings require that your timekeeping system is integrated with your scheduling system.

Why does this matter? Well, when your timekeeping is integrated with your scheduling, you can limit employee clock-ins and clock-outs according to the start and end times of your employees’ scheduled shifts. This is known as schedule enforcement. With grace periods, you can allow employees a little wiggle room, such as the ability to clock in 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late, while still preventing them from riding the clock.

Together, these settings greatly limit employees’ ability to commit time theft. TimeForge supports both features on its mobile apps and time clocks.

Make Wage and Time Theft a Thing of the Past

Mobile apps, timeclocks, and online labor management tools make up a pretty versatile toolbox. It’s not uncommon, for example, for TimeForge customers to use biometric time clocks for on-site staff but allow corporate office employees to clock in via mobile device or browser.

This is possible with TimeForge because it’s a cloud-based system. Whether you clock in using a timeclock, mobile phone app, tablet, or web browser, the platform tracks time in the cloud. The system always knows whether you’re clocked in, out, or on break. This means managers can view and manage time cards from anywhere, and everything updates seamlessly and is logged for posterity. Wage and time theft become a thing of the past, and there’s no such thing as missed punches on the clock.

With a combination of complex passwords, IP restrictions, biometric verification, and schedule enforcement – whatever works for your business – you can greatly reduce buddy punching and protect your restaurant’s bottom line.

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