Wagon Wheel

Out of your Pocket and Into Theirs

Wagon Wheel Scheme - Out of Your Pocket and into Theirs

This method of table serve restaurant employee theft can add up quickly. Identified and reported cases like the one in the link below show how quickly the money can be drained from your profits in just a few short months. Making matters worse this scheme is often shared among servers compounding the impact to revenue.

How it works:

This scheme usually targets an often-ordered item that the server can access themselves, as opposed to an item that requires kitchen or bar intervention. The most common item used for this scheme is soda or pop. The scheme is in play when the server splits off those items to another check when they see their customer is paying cash. While this scheme can also work with other forms of tender, the favored tender is cash because the server typically retains their cash tips while credit card tips will show in reporting and as such, the scheme may be discovered.


A server waits on a party of four. Two sodas ($2.50 each), two beers ($7 each) and four entrees ($25 each) are ordered. The total amount of the check is $119 before tax. When the check is delivered to the table and the customer pays with cash, this presents the opportunity for the wagon wheel to begin. Although the customer pays the full amount of the check, before the check is tendered in the POS, the server splits off the two sodas to another check. The $5+tax for the two sodas go into the server’s pocket and a check is open and awaiting the next party who orders soda.

The server now waits on that next party, a group of four who orders three sodas and a glass of wine along with their meals. The server can use the split-to check with the two sodas from the prior party and add additional items to it for this order. In this case, one additional soda, a glass of wine, and four meals. When finished and provided the check, this party also pays cash and the same action occurs; the customer pays for the entire check, the three sodas are split off to another check before the order is tendered, and the $7.50 for the three sodas go into the server’s pocket. The server now has $12.50 of your revenue in their pocket.

This scheme continues throughout the day, with each instance another spoke in the wheel and your soda revenue going into the pocket of the server. How do they end the Wagon Wheel you ask? There are a few ways those split-to checks get closed: the server voids the soda(s) from the ticket, or the split-to checks are abandoned/left open for the closing manager to delete the tickets, voids the items or apply discounts/comps to reduce the ticket to $0. Another way to end the Wagon Wheel for the day, one that is best for the server because its harder to detect, is the server stops splitting off sodas as they near the end of their shift. They use the last open split to check for the next party who orders sodas near the end of the shift, but this time they simply complete the order without splitting items off. The ticket is paid and closed without any voids, splits or other eyebrow raising activity. In this last scenario the customer pays for the soda(s) they ordered and the revenue for those are recognized. However the revenue for all of the sodas up till then were not recognized because the server has those revenue dollars in their pocket.

Check out the news article below about a Cape May restaurant where this type of scheme occurred:

Click Here

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