Cash con: Restaurant takes a bite out of bogus bills, dishing out lessons in hospitality industry

Trust and vigilance are paramount in the world of hospitality, especially when handling cash transactions.

However, a recent cautionary tale emerged from an Australian restaurant owner, shedding light on the growing issue of counterfeit currency infiltrating local businesses.

Such incidents serve as a sobering reminder for establishments to remain vigilant against fraudulent activities undermining their financial integrity and trust with customers.

Omar El Deek, Co-owner of the popular Italian restaurant and bar Cosi in South Yarra, was taken aback when fake $50 and $100 notes slipped past his employees and into the day's takings.

The discovery was made by his wife, who noticed the fraudulent bills while counting the registers.

This wasn't just a one-off event; it happened twice within a fortnight, raising concerns about a wider circulation of counterfeit money in the area.

An Australian restaurateur warned against counterfeit money after fake $50 and $100 notes were discovered in his registers. Credits: Shutterstock

‘Only one per cent of our customers pay in cash now, so it’s unexpected and tricky to pick up on, especially during busy times in the restaurant,’ Mr El Deek shared.

Nevertheless, the restaurant owner suggested that the patrons likely unknowingly possessed the counterfeit bills, which they then used to pay their bills deceptively.

He suspected that the fake currency had been circulating within the vicinity before being used in his establishment.

‘The fake $50 and $100 notes looked so similar to real cash,’ Mr El Deek pointed out.

The restaurant owner, empathetic to his staff caught in the rush, acknowledged that the fake cash looked ‘so real’, saying the notes feel ‘slightly different’ and ‘you have to be an expert to spot the differences’.

The modern Australian banknote is a marvel of security features designed to thwart counterfeiters.

Yet, these fake notes were convincing enough to deceive during the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant service.

The counterfeit notes were alarmingly similar to the real deal but, upon closer inspection, lacked the Australian Coat of Arms—a key security feature.

The incident prompted a swift response from the restaurant. Mr El Deek reported the counterfeit notes to the police.

‘The police officer said that while there had been some counterfeit notes floating around, these were the realest-looking ones he had seen,’ he shared.

To combat this, he invested in counterfeit detector machines, an unforeseen expense of $350 but a necessary one to safeguard the business's finances. Now, the machine scrutinises all cash payments, ensuring authenticity.

Mr El Deek emphasised the necessity of raising community awareness, particularly in light of the cost-of-living crisis made worse by inflation, as small businesses face challenges in remaining viable.

‘It’s not enough to just serve good food and offer great customer service these days, you have to be doing it all,’ he explained.

‘Everything from the marketing to the sourcing of products.’

Mr El Deek and his business partner Giacomo Pietrantuono assumed joint ownership of Cosi in 2019, which has been in operation since 1996.

As restaurant owners like Mr El Deek grapple with the repercussions of counterfeit currency infiltrating their businesses, the broader community must also remain vigilant.

Reports of fraudulent banknotes circulating in major retailers serve as a stark reminder of the pervasive nature of this issue.

These incidents highlight the importance of awareness and diligence in detecting counterfeit cash, especially amidst the current economic challenges faced by small businesses and consumers alike.
Key Takeaways
  • An Australian restaurant owner warned about counterfeit money after fake $50 and $100 notes were found in his business's registers.
  • The counterfeit banknotes looked very similar to real currency, with the main difference being the absence of the Australian Coat of Arms on the fake $50 note.
  • The restaurant has now installed counterfeit detector machines as a measure to prevent accepting fake money.
  • The owner emphasised the need for awareness in the community, especially for small businesses, as counterfeit money can add to financial struggles during a cost-of-living crisis.
Have you ever encountered counterfeit money? How did you deal with it? Share your experiences in the comments below, and let's help each other stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.
Well there you go - you learn something new everyday - I had no idea that a "counterfeit detector machine" was available!
Wow and the machine costs a whopping $350! Or a "very transparent" way to get diners to go cashless.

That will send the poor buggers broke. Looking at the Cosi menu, you would be lucky to get change from $350 for a two person meal. Who would pay $15 for corkage? And they charge $100 more for a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut than Dan Murphy. A crazy $16.90 for a 30 (?) mL nip of Maker's Mark Bourbon. This means that Cosi is getting a return of $390 on a bottle that costs $62!

Blatant ripoff is an understatement and they deserve to be ripped off in the same manner they rip off diners!
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And many people are the mad bandwagon to keep cash. 😂😂😂

I'm glad I use my debit card all the time. If anything happens to it then I just stop it with the bank and nothing should be lost. 👍

If you get a dodgy $50/100 note you're immediately out of pocket.😁

A place like this should insist people can only pay by card. If the cash vigilantes are going to keep putting pressure on businesses to take more cash this'll happen more.
the way things are going, soon the counterfeit money will be worth more than the real money. I presume we will be hearing more of these stories as the future problem will be getting people to not use cash and scare tactics are effective, ( they will win !)

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