Employee theft is a big problem for restaurants. Just ask the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which estimates that restaurants lose billions of dollars each year when staff members steal everything from cash, food, and alcohol to supplies, equipment, and retail items. While there’s no way to completely eradicate employee theft in your restaurant, you can take several effective steps to minimize it.
Put video surveillance technology to work at the POS and elsewhere
Employee theft becomes a lot less common when staff members know they’re being watched, so start by integrating security cameras and digital video recorders with the restaurant POS system. This integration makes it possible to record servers as they deliver customers’ food and beverages or ring up sales. Printed specifics of each order and transaction are “superimposed” onto the recording. Should a transaction come under suspicion or be otherwise questioned, it can be investigated further by rewinding the recorded digital footage to the time the order was taken and viewing the combined captured images and text to identify the culprit.
Video surveillance equipment can also be a deterrent to employee theft when cameras are set to capture images of staff members as they handle cash at the POS and to monitor comings and goings at the back door of your restaurant and anywhere expensive items are stored. Few employees will be daring enough to help themselves to cash in the till or stuff a backpack or bag with silverware if they know a camera is recording their actions.
Conduct audits and review reports
Review server activity and log-in reports accessible via the inventory control component of your bar POS system to quickly pinpoint which employees are serving drinks at no charge. Audit time-and-attendance reports, as well as those that list employee payouts and discounts, to ferret out inconsistencies that may signal employee theft. Be sure staff members know that you audit these reports regularly.
Limit access to the POS system
Only employees whose responsibilities include handling diners’ payments should be permitted to access the system—and even they should be required to log on using a password that’s difficult to guess and is changed regularly.
Maintain tabs on inventory
Management should monitor and track ingredient and supplies data every day—and again, staff members should be apprised of this monitoring if it is to truly quash employee theft. Keeping accurate records also increases the likelihood that incidents of employee theft will be uncovered sooner rather than later, keeping damage to a minimum.
Set and enforce cash handling procedures
Cash handling procedures should apply to all employees who accept cash from customers, operate the POS system, deposit or retrieve money from the safe, or count money in preparation for a bank deposit. For additional protection against employee theft, include in your restaurant’s cash handling procedures a requirement that a manager or shift manager oversee employees as they place money in the safe or make change for a cash drawer.
Monitor employee access to vulnerable areas
Ensure that you and/or your managers remain aware of which employees have keys to the restaurant, codes to the safe, or access to cash drawers. Keys or codes are important responsibilities. Hold yourself or managers responsible should there be a “breach” of security that results in employee theft.
According to the National Restaurant Association, employee theft accounts for about 75 percent of individual restaurants’ inventory losses. That’s the equivalent of more than three percent of annual sales. Although implementing the above-mentioned tips takes work, it’s a good idea to do so—and it keep those losses to a minimum.