Protecting Your Restaurant From Theft

When we hear the word ‘theft,’ many of us think of an outsider in a ski mask breaking and entering into our establishment. While that could be the case, in most instances, it’s more likely to be an inside job, where the thief is actually an employee. This month we explore the ever-present industry issue of protecting restaurants from theft from the inside out.

It is a common concern in our industry; it might be a meal here, a good bottle of liquor or wine there (or even more) that adds up to affect your bottom line – and hard earned profits.

VSAG believes in protecting food service establishments from being the target of internal theft by proactively (and steadfastly) establishing rules and implementing key strategies for both management and operations teams, as well as staff, to know and to follow.

Our experienced technology and operations team is led by VSAG Vice President Lara Hardcastle, so we asked for insight as to what strategies are integral to minimizing theft for all types of venues, from restaurants and hotel F&B departments to corporate cafeterias and cafes/lounges.

Trash Talk. In her experience, Lara discovered that many items stolen from restaurants exit inside trash getting taken out and either gets retrieved later or is put into the employee’s vehicle. Lesson here: Spot check trash leaving the restaurant! Also, keep the back/kitchen door locked so employees need to ask for the door to be opened.

Tip Offs. Look for gratuities that are an unusually large percentage of the check total. Usually, Lara says, this means either staffers are giving away product, changing the tip or getting items comp’d under false pretenses. And when it comes to cash transactions, also conduct blind drops of cash drawers. Pulling and counting a cash drawer when staffers least expect it will prevent them from being tempted to take from the till.  Also, implement a process to write up employees for every over/short draw report, to set a standard for staff about cash accountability.

Technology is Your Friend. Utilize technology to prevent losses; install small video cameras within employee areas as well as at each Point Of Sale station to keep them honest. Installing a POS system that tracks inventory and has the capability to identify suspicious activity immediately could be your most important investment. Lara suggests a system such as Aloha Restaurant Guard to help mitigate theft.

Lock & Key. It seems elementary enough, but Lara is surprised by all the food service establishments she has seen over the years that do not lock up high value inventory such as pricey meats, liquor, small wares, etc. This is an easy fix that could potentially save you lots of money, inventory and headaches in the end.

Lastly, Lara recommends reading the book ‘How to Burn Down the House: The Infamous Waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible by Two Bourbon Street Waiters’ by Peter Francis and R.Chip DeGlinkta. Their unique insight is the result of years of experience working in the most notorious restaurants and bars on Bourbon Street and throughout the country. She promises that it will prove an eye opener – even if you think you’ve seen and heard every scam out there!