Several years ago, my partner and I opened a small pizza restaurant. He had some experience in the restaurant industry but I didn’t. We were both rather naïve about the problem of theft by employees, though. We thought that if we treated our employees well and paid them fairly, they would like us and respect us and therefore they would not steal from us. We discovered, however, that there were some people that would steal, or attempt to steal, no matter what we did.
We also learned that employees in restaurants don’t just steal money. They also steal food, sometimes in small amounts, like preparing themselves an order of breadsticks without paying for it, and other times in large amounts, like taking home a 10-pound bag of chicken. Some even steal non-food items, like toilet paper or knives.
An article in the June 19, 2013 issue of “Business News Daily” reported that employee theft increased 5.5 percent from 2011 to 2012. How can you prevent or at least reduce theft in your restaurant by your employees?
Have a zero tolerance policy.
Any employee that steals should be fired immediately, no matter how much or how little they stole. If one person gets away with stealing, that sends the message to everyone that it’s all right to steal from you and that you won’t do anything about it. I once had to fire an employee for stealing a two-liter bottle of soda. I know a bottle of soda is a small thing, but if he would steal that, what else would he steal? What else had he stolen before he was caught stealing that soda?
Have at least two employees in the store at all times.
If you run a small restaurant, there may be times you only need one employee on duty. If possible, though, have at least two employees in the store at all times. When we first opened our restaurant, we had one employee come in an hour before the store opened to set up, then had a second employee come in at opening time. After an employee used that hour of prep time to steal a number of items, including a gallon of mayonnaise and a large can of pineapple, we changed the schedule. We started having both employees come in 30 minutes before opening time to do the prep work together. Simply put, employees are more likely to steal if they are left alone in the store.
Use an alarm system that will tell you if an employee enters the store outside of normal business hours.
The alarm system we used at our store required anyone entering the store when the alarm was turn on to enter a unique identification code in order to turn off the alarm. If the employee failed to enter a valid code in the given amount of time, police would be dispatched and my partner and I would be called. We could check every day to see when an employee had turned the alarm on or off. We installed that alarm system after an employee informed us that one of his coworkers had been letting himself into the store in the middle of the night, cooking a few pizzas, and taking them home to eat, without paying for them.
Take inventory regularly.
Employees don’t just steal money, they steal inventory. They don’t just steal food, either. I have a friend that used to manage a fast food franchise that once had to fire an employee for stealing toilet paper. If you don’t keep track of your inventory, you won’t notice when items are missing. If you take inventory regularly, you’ll be able to catch on when someone is stealing and take action. Of course, employees may be less likely to steal in the first place if they know you’re likely to catch them at it.
Use clear trash bags.
One way that employees sometimes steal product from restaurants is by putting it in the trash, then removing it from the trash bag and putting it in their car when they take the garbage out to the dumpster. Simply using clear trash bags, as recommended by the San Diego Police Department, makes it much more difficult to sneak product out of the store in this way.
Business News Daily. Employee Theft on the Rise and Expected to Get Worse.
San Diego Police Department. Preventing Internal Theft in Businesses.