From corporate and franchisee-owned convenience stores to quick service restaurants to casual dining establishments, many industry leaders in cash-intensive mid-market food service businesses have embraced “smart safe” technology to streamline and automate cash processes, significantly decreasing or eliminating their use of cash vault services and dramatically reducing branch deposit runs.
Here’s what you need to know about this game-changing, highly adaptive technology.
Defining Smart Safe Benefits
At food service businesses that continue to use traditional safes, employees remain burdened with manual tasks that can consume three to five-plus labor hours per day per location. Managers, for example, must still create and settle tills with shift workers, record deposits and conduct time-consuming courier collections at least once per day at locations using cash vault services. Or they’ll have to make bank hauls themselves, perhaps for multiple stores. Depending on how the organization is set up, managers may be able to deposit cash at the closest bank or may need to travel further to a branch affiliated with the business’ lending bank.
With a Smart Safe solution, both cash counting and sorting as well as the deposit recording processes are all automated, saving hourly expenses on those tasks, minimizing interaction time with couriers and dispensing with trips to the bank. Managers can concentrate their efforts at the front of the store, providing greater oversight over customer service and helping propel revenue—a potentially much better use of time for a store’s most expensive employees.
Equally important, smart safes—which can’t be opened by employees—support loss prevention at the local level. That’s no small issue: Employee theft hovers around the 2.2% range nationally.
Benefits extend to the corporate finance office, as well, where staff must manage locations’ courier schedules, generally across multiple services, manually reconciling transaction data that is typically stored in diverse formats across different banks. These workers are unlikely to have easy access to data to help them understand whether they’re paying for unnecessary services—just because a few locations may need courier pickups twice a day doesn’t mean every site does.
Smart safe solutions paired with strong cash logistics services take such pressures off in-house staff, coordinating operations under one bank account and lowering cash in transit and money processing costs. In addition to providing a thorough analysis of each location’s regular courier requirements, such managed offerings also provide real-time monitoring to deal with unusual events—say, an unexpectedly high cash intake that demands immediate courier pickup.
It also allows financial teams instant views of deposits via online portals and the business gains provisional credit within 24 hours to improve access to working capital or more efficiently pay down debt.
How to Get Smart
Banks that offer smart safe solutions should bring expertise in customer service and financial management to the table.
Fifth Third Bank, for example, is an end-to-end provider of a managed Smart Safe solution, undertaking a complete analysis of each entity at a business to understand cash volume, settlement flows, deposit processes, and banking relationships. Such knowledge can help clients determine how to optimize cash logistics operations and what return on investment can potentially be anticipated. Once its Smart Safe technology and services are in place, Fifth Third will not only record all deposits in a single format and manage shortfalls or any other discrepancies that occur, but also continue to monitor cash transaction data to refine processes as well as deal with any issue relating to customers’ safe hardware and courier services.
Clients appreciate the attention to detail. “In order for us to continue to improve on process efficiency, it was time to upgrade to a more powerful smart safe solution,” said Greg Uhing, chief financial officer at Boston Market, when the company announced plans for about 450 stores to use Fifth Third’s managed service platform “that centralizes service and support, while continuing to provide traditional smart safe benefits such as daily provision credit and improved reconciliation support.”
One of the most attractive aspects of smart safe technology is how easily it can be tailored to the particular needs of individual organizations. For some companies, it may make sense to implement a smart safe at every location as part of an effort to standardize operations. Others may prefer to use the technology only in specific, high-traffic stores and continue to rely on armored couriers or branch deposit practices for medium-volume locations.
That is revolutionary in the best way possible.