Watching for Theft: A Manager's Guide
It’s an unfortunate fact of life in the restaurant industry that theft can sometimes occur. Restaurants are especially vulnerable to employee theft because of the large amount of products and employees within a confined space. They’re also vulnerable to outside threat because of the likely presence of cash, and because they tend to remain open until late at night. Restaurant managers should be watchful of employee theft, and have security measures in place to avoid theft from outside sources.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It’s difficult to know if those measures are effective enough until a theft occurs. For this reason, a few standards should be in place to limit the threat of theft in the day-to-day operation of a restaurant. Just as managers are charged with supervising the entire restaurant, they must also be vigilant for signs of theft.
Keep Doors Locked
During operating hours, only the front door to most restaurants should be open. The most vulnerable threat is usually the back or delivery door. Valuable food supplies are usually kept in the rear of a restaurant or near the back door. This is also the area in which managers are least likely to be present. The back door should always be locked and access should only be given to employees. This is especially true at night, and especially for restaurants adjacent to service areas or alleys.
Limit the Handling of Cash
Cash should only be handled by management and a single, trusted employee, such as a lead bartender who is given a cash drawer. The employee to whom the drawer is issued should know that he is responsible for the contents of the drawer as a condition of employment. Returning a drawer as a favor by another employee can be helpful. But it should also be considered a violation of employee rules.
The procedure for handling cash should be clearly defined to all employees. Many restaurants log cash transactions, count drawers two or three times a day, and require signatures any time cash changes hands. Making sure these procedures are well-known to all employees is a good deterrent to theft.
Update Computer Passwords
This should be standard in all businesses, but especially in the restaurant industry, where passwords are used at Point-of-Sales (POS) terminals to administer comps and discounts. Passwords should always be closely guarded by management and shouldn’t be obvious to employees. Most POS systems allow users to monitor activity and isolate when passwords are used. Managers should be accountable for any activity on their passwords
Count More Often
Every restaurant counts inventory, but few of them count it often enough to be able to pinpoint theft when it occurs. Restaurants should strongly consider counting inventory once per week. The advantages to controlling inventory costs are enormous, but this also allows managers to more closely isolate theft when it happens.
Counting inventory should always be compared to total sales in order to isolate waste, theft, or other loss of inventory. This includes a spreadsheet – such as an explosion sheet – that allows management to account for protein and liquor ingredients that are part of entrees and alcohol items.
Keep it Locked
If it’s too valuable to lose, it should probably be locked and stored safely in the office or an overhead shelf. This includes valuable wine bottles, expensive liquor and even proteins. Many larger restaurants use a meat locker in their walk-in refrigerator to store expensive cuts. Keeping products unlocked or exposed, especially for convenience or due to forgetfulness, is always a bad idea in the long run.
Install Security Cameras
Too many restaurants lack security cameras. They’re inexpensive in comparison to the cost of theft, and essential for maintaining security in the manager’s office. Security cameras can deter theft just by being present. In most restaurants, management can’t be present throughout the store. But a security camera system can, and is a strong deterrent of theft.