Why should you be concerned about theft in your restaurant? Every day we get calls from clients who suspect employees may be stealing from them. Whether it’s cash flow coming up short, an employee driving a nicer car or things just flat our turning up missing, it’s a real threat even from your most trusted employees. We’re going to run through the top eight threats, and some ideas on how to mitigate them.

The Roving Coke

An oldie but a goodie, this theft includes the ring-up of a popular item such as a soft drink, soup or smaller ticket item – present the bill with the items on the ticket, swipe their card, then separate off those drinks for the next party that will sit at the table. Then the employee would pocket the difference between the two bills.

There are a couple of ways to negate this. First, you can keep a tight eye on the number of drinks vs. servers, check the monetary drink totals between your servers. You could also run competitions between staff (who sold the most cokes today?!).

The Good Guy Server

A server may take a self-service item and not ring it up, because they want the patron to think that they are being given a discount – and then looking for a higher tip in return. This is a problem because the restaurant is out the food cost and the labor to prepare that item. Servers tend to think this one isn’t a big deal, but this can make a big impact on your bottom line and ultimately it is still stealing. Watch out for employees closing 100 checks and only 10 drinks at the end of the day!

Requiring servers to always have a beverage attached to each guest’s ticket can help with this, even if it’s just a zero dollar drink. Again, using contests (who can sell the most drinks!?) to show employees that you are analyzing these stats. This will help to drive competition and create better behavior choices.

Your point of sale system and your inventory system can also help here. If inventory isn’t matching up with what’s been sold, it can be a red flag that you need to pay more attention to this area.

The Tip Jar Trick

This happens more often in bars and other environments where items are prepared/given right from a bar tender or counter service directly to the customer. Service staff may take cash payment for a drink or small item, open the cash till to make change but not ring up the item. Then at the end of the shift when they close out the drawer they simply remove the amount they did not ring up and place it in the tip jar. This happens frequently in very busy counter or bar environments.

With many things in motion, you need to keep a close eye on your cash flow and inventory.

The Tip Trick

Honesty of your staff Service staff may take the liberty to change a tip their benefit. Maybe they could not read what was in the tip line or they added an extra one in front of the tip amount, they enter it in the point of sale for more than the amount given by the guest.  Maybe the guest calls in to dispute that charge and the service staff will not usually be confronted so the restaurant is out that money. Or the guest may not even notice it, and that they walk away with the difference. Guests notice that the transaction was a lot more expensive than they thought and they have a perceived idea that the restaurant is too expensive to return any time soon. This is a loss of trustworthiness of your brand.

What you can look for to deter this type of behavior is to balance your credit card slips, look them over and see if any funny business is coming up.  Have staff total up their slips for the shift.

The Switch

Employee is ringing up a different item than the guest is expecting, such as a drink is different than what they give the guest, they ring up an expensive bottle of beer and give the guest a lesser expensive beer and pocket the difference.  It can happen anywhere in a cashier type of environment. Creates an inconsistent experience for the guest. What this creates is a general distrust with your brand and that can impact your bottom line. Losing the trust of your guest can absolutely devastate a business.

Technology wise you can have a camera system into your point of sale with real time transactions. Also, you can secret shop your staff if you suspect that this type of behavior is happening. Ask for the item and get a receipt.

 Sticky Fingers

This is where high cost and low cost items are walking out the back door, this happens every-day in the restaurant industry. Perishable goods that walk out the back door. Ultimately the staff is in collusion with the distributor, in which your inventory does not get counted correctly. Very common way that the employee is walking out with items, so easy for the items to go missing. Employees are eating the food and adding a side that doesn’t get entered in properly. Promo items are not making it into the inventory where your guest isn’t getting a chance to try the new item.

A camera system, knowing that there is someone looking at them, will keep the honest person honest.  The dishonest person is going to steal from you regardless, but having a camera system where you can have the opportunity to review what actions have taken place, this will keep stealing from happening. Count your inventory is another good way at looking things over, knowing what you should be selling from your inventory.

No Sale

Working with an open ‘til and cash payment option. This one is where high cost and low cost items are walking out the back door, this happens every-day in the restaurant industry. The staff may ring up 20-30% of what the server is actually selling.

Tracking the “no sale” button by seeing who is using it and how often, this is a great way to manage an open ‘til environment.

Top eight ways that employees could steal from businesses

That wraps up the top eight ways employees can steal, cash ultimately plays a huge roll in our world. We hope that this is bringing you some additional value to the ‘how’ behind each of these.

Listen to more on the podcast here.