These costs appear in many ways, including a smaller product inventory, increased security within the restaurant, distracted or unhappy staff, and the price of hiring and training new employees to replace the thieves once they have been caught.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that employee theft costs restaurants between 3% and 7% of gross sales every year. To protect your restaurant, the Restaurant Technology Guys have put together a few things to look out for among your staff, and some ways to stop employee theft in its tracks.
The first step to stopping your employees from stealing is to confirm that they are, in fact, stealing in the first place.
These four methods are common among less-than-honest restaurant employees, but unfortunately, there are many ways that your staff can pilfer some of your profits. All Food Business has a list of warnings to look out for among both employees and customers.
While this might seem obvious, if your restaurant does not keep a precise record of transactions and inventory, it might be difficult to accurately gauge losses caused by employee theft. (If this sounds like a good description of your problem, pay close attention to the “Track Sales & Inventory” section below.)
Some restaurant employees will take advantage of their position by overusing discounts or giving food away. (NCR offers several methods that employees and managers use to steal from restaurants.) If this happens consistently and without oversight, it costs the restaurant money in lost sales and encourages future theft.
Extravagant tips can be connected to the frequent giveaways mentioned above – employees might discount a check with the expectation of a higher tip. Managers should keep a close eye on tip totals, and even check them against the register reading mid-shift if they are suspicious. Abnormally high percentages should trigger red flags.
Now that you know what to look for, put these best practices in place to minimize opportunities for employee theft.
The only way to know if money or assets are being stolen from your restaurant is knowing how much you’re supposed to have in the first place. Since restaurant owners and managers can’t be everywhere at once, a good POS and inventory management system will make it much easier to monitor orders, usage, and waste, in addition to preventing theft.
Employees should feel empowered to maintain your restaurant’s high standards, and keep management informed if other staff members are giving away product, manipulating sales or inventory levels, or acting suspicious. If the majority of your employees believe it is their responsibility to look out for the restaurant, they are your best line of defense against theft.
If fewer hands have access to your restaurant’s safe, register or cash drawer, the opportunities for theft continue to decline. If stealing is an issue at your restaurant, make sure that only the manager or shift leader has access to the cash. Your team should also follow a standard set of rules for counting and locking up at the end of shifts and business hours.
We prefer to think of adding video surveillance to your restaurant as a last resort. This option might be expensive if you don’t have it already, and can be hard on team morale. But if your theft problem is out of control, simply placing security cameras throughout your location can make a significant impact.
If the initial installation doesn’t seem to make a difference and hasn’t shown any illegal behavior, you can remind your employees that the cameras are watching by bringing up notes on their performance – positive or negative – that you observed via video.