Employee Theft at Restaurants

Part one of Three.
A commentary by Dean Small, Managing Partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants.
One recent study puts the financial loss to retail companies in stolen merchandise at $52 billion. National Cash Systems completed research last year showing that the average restaurant employee steals $220 per year in cash and products.
During the last few years, there have been growing concerns about the need for continued careful screening of prospective employees to ensure a safe work environment with honest, responsible and trustworthy employees. Many clients are dissatisfied with current assessment tools that purport to assess counter-productive behaviors. Clearly, this is a time when employees and customers need and want to feel safe and secure in the workplace. Bottom line: it falls to you to make sure of your business safety and honesty in the marketplace.
In this first of a series, let’s focus on daily activities. There is a pattern, a rhythm in your operations. When you detect changes in that tempo, start looking for unusual changes in your employee behaviors.
Signals From Employee Activities:
1. Are there secretive conversations among employees or phone conversations that stop abruptly when you approach?. Is there any one engaged in sending or receiving cryptic messages?
2. Is there excessive loitering of around your business of off duty employees, ex-employees or their friends.?
3. Do you find frequent “shortcuts” in procedures to expedite deliveries? Is there rapid checking in of some deliveries while others take much longer for no legitimate reason?
4. Do employees bring in large shopping bags or wearing unusually loose clothing to work regularly?
5. Do certain employees attempt to distract or hold the attention of a supervisor for no good reason while another employee is in the work area or signaling by hand gestures, whistling, etc. when a supervisor approaches?
6. Are there repeated violations of such security regulations as use of unauthorized exits or keeping personal packages in the work area? Do you keep finding an employee in an area he/she has no legitimate business in?
7. Do you discover the signing of another employee’s name or signing illegibly on invoices or packing sheets?
8. Are there employees habitually returning to the work area after others have left to retrieve something left behind?
9. Do you receive complaints by employees or customers that personal effects are being lost or stolen?
10. Are there frequent cash shortages on the same employee’s shift? Is there an unusual eagerness to “make up” the shortages rather than relinquish cash handling responsibilities?
11. Do you discover frequent cash overages on the same employee’s shift? This may indicate that an employee is stealing cash at the register but not “light ringing” sales enough to totally cover it.
12. Do you find an unusually high number of “no sale” transactions registered on any one shift?
13. Are there excessive undocumented voids on any one shift or voids left unrecorded until the end of an employee’s shift?
14. Do you see numerous receipt slips held by an employee until the end of a shift or notes found in the trash indicating that the employee was keeping a secret count of transactions?
15. Is there an employee who insists on ringing up his/her own employee meal after turning over cash handling responsibilities to another employee?
16. Do employees make excuses for theft? Employees who steal, rather than believing theft is wrong, may condone the acts of dishonest employees as, “It’s no big deal. It was only a few bucks.”
17. Employees who violate restaurant policies and procedures should be watched. 18. Are there overzealous work habits? Employees who work through their lunch breaks, seldom take a breather and never ask for time off may be running a game with the cash register. Also, employees who refuse to go on vacation may be afraid that their substitute will discover their dishonesty.
Yes, this all takes extra time and effort on your part. Granted, you trust your people. However, with a high cash and credit card number transaction business, the temptation may just be too great for many. Remember, it is estimated that 95% of all businesses experience some employee theft. Halting that drain will help your bottom line. Ignoring it will only cause it to expand and hurt you and your clients.
In our next edition, we will share additional signals regarding employee theft.
Dean Small
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