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    How to Stop Employee Theft in Your Restaurant

  • There are a lot of ways your brand could be losing money.

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    Stealing from your quick-service restaurant doesn't have to be as obvious as grabbing fistfuls of cash from your registers.

    If your idea of preventing employee theft is installing security cameras and calling it a day, you're disregarding crucial elements of employee theft. There are many forms of employee theft, and there are just as many ways to detect and prevent it. Some employee theft is completely accidental—other times, not so much. Here are a list of ways you can stop stealing from your quick-service restaurant every day.

    1. Follow cash handling procedures

    By ignoring or not having established procedures for handling cash, you make it easier for your employees to steal from your restaurant, whether on purpose or accidentally. Decades of quick-service management have taught us some simple and not-so-simple rules for keeping cash safe, such as:

    • Making sure only managers have access to the safe
    • Only allowing one cashier to use each drawer, and counting the drawers after every shift
    • Dropping excess cash from registers into the safe at regular intervals
    • Counting the safe after every manager's shift
    • Counting cash in view of security cameras

    According to a 2018 study by IHL Group, 41.1 percent of quick-serve purchases are made with cash. If you want to avoid employee theft, start by ensuring your employees all live by these safe cash handling procedures.

    2. Maintain a strict meal policy

    You may or may not have a meal policy at your brand. But did you know that more than 50 percent of all quick-service restaurant employees are eating for free, regardless of policy? And even if employees are ringing up their meals, as much as 40 percent of employee meal discounts are inaccurate—ringing up a full meal as a single item, for example.

    To combat this, make your meal policy specific and easy to find—post it in the kitchen or in the employee handbook. Ring up employees' meals at a register and keep the receipt with the cash drawer. And if you don’t have a meal policy, make sure you’re not just giving your employees free rein—that could lead to you losing hundreds of dollars every week to employee meals.

    3. Use software to monitor price adjustments

    Perhaps the biggest source of employee theft comes directly from sales adjustments at the registers. Returns, voids, and over-rings add up to a lot of lost revenue, and it can be hard to keep track of it all without help. There are software tools that can monitor register adjustments, track trends, and alert you to activity that could be suspicious—researching into appropriate software that could work with your current systems is a great place to start to find the right tool for you.

    In a 2018 study of a Minnesota Taco Bell, using software to monitor register adjustments resulted in:

    • 10 times fewer register discounts than stores that were not using the software—$550 per month, per store, in savings.
    • Three times fewer voids and refunds than restaurants not using the software—$275 per month, per store, in savings.
    • Total savings of $14,000 per store, per year, over restaurants not using the software.

    If you aren't keeping a close eye on your register adjustments, you're losing money.

    4. Maximize usage of your security cameras

    The most tangible benefit of security cameras is to deter robberies. Some stores even install cameras that aren't hooked up to anything, knowing that their presence alone will prevent a certain amount of theft. But when properly utilized, security cameras can be much more than scarecrows.

    Scientists have known for a long time that people behave differently when they're being watched, and quick-service restaurant employees are no exception. A 2014 study from Washington University showed that security cameras reduced employee theft by 22 percent. What's more surprising, however, is the boost to productivity; the same Washington University study showed that check revenue increased by 7 percent and drink revenue increased by 10.5 percent after security cameras were installed. Employees who are being monitored aren't just less likely to steal, they're more productive all-around.

    Stealing from your quick-service restaurant doesn't have to be as obvious as grabbing fistfuls of cash from your registers. You can lose money much more quickly by overlooking some basic loss prevention protocols, like those outlined here. And if you're looking to reduce and prevent loss from sources like employee theft, you could always use these tips as a guide to strengthen your brand’s security. You make the call.

    Neal Lefebvre is the Vice President of Product at Delaget, Inc. A true “product geek,” Neal is all about digging into customer problems and using process, data, and technology to solve them. With 15 years of software-as-a-service experience under his belt, Neal leads Delaget’s product, engineering, and support teams. Delaget specializes in helping restaurant owners run more profitable operations by making it easy for them to access all their key performance metrics in one place. Delaget does this by bringing together data from the POS, BOH, customer survey, drive thru, and other operational systems into one, drillable dashboard.