How to Stop Theft in Your Restaurant – A Miniseries – Part 3

 In 1. David Scott Peters, bar, Employees, Food Costs, Leadership, Operations, SMART Systems

As promised in this previous post, here are a few more examples of how your restaurant employees steal from you. I covered several other ways in my last post, too. You’ll be able to see that just implementing a few key systems will help you keep honest people honest and to weed out the relentless thieves who can’t be changed, only removed.

Stealing drinks from behind the bar

OK, I don’t have the space to write all the ways that bartenders steal. Some of these dishonest people get really creative, like turning a Jack Daniels bottle a quarter turn for every free drink they have given away or for money collected but not rung up, so they can take money from the drawer at the end of the shift.

The best bartender theft deterrent I know is a mid-shift bar drawer audit. Simply start the bartender with the normal $300 drawer at the beginning of the shift. Then when the place is rocking, bring them a new $300, run their server report which shows closed checks and open checks, then take the old drawer into the office. If the drawer has a lot of extra money in it, you’ve got them dead to rights. Want to avoid finding this? Tell your bar staff you will routinely conduct these audits.

Stealing food in the kitchen

There are times when a cook has asked for a raise and been denied. Yet that cook feels like you owe them. So what does that cook do? Steal product that is equal to or better than the raise they asked for. Two ways to ensure product is not leaving is 1) no backpacks allowed in the kitchen and 2) trash cannot be taken out after dark. This prevents product finding its way out in bags to be picked up later.

Coupon scams

If management does not void a customer coupon or require that the coupons are turned in at the end of the shift, and management does not verify that if five coupons were used that five are in hand, you will have servers making a ton of dough that should have been yours. The best way to prevent this is do exactly the opposite: Void, verify and count.

Loyalty point scams

I believe loyalty programs are a must. But left unchecked, dishonest managers, servers, bartenders and cashiers can make out like bandits. An example is a manager working the register during a shift. For every customer who orders and does not have a loyalty program ID, he or she simply enters a friend’s number for all of these transactions. To avoid this from ever happening, first try to make a table visit to as many loyalty members’ tables when you know they have used their ID for that transaction. It will build business and verify they are actual members of your program. Second, audit your loyalty transaction reports nightly, and you will quickly see that a number has been used on multiple transactions in one day.

Transferring tables

If you allow servers and bartenders to transfer items from table to table to accommodate a customer moving from the bar to a table without a manager to unlock this function, odds are you are getting dinged for a lot of money. What happens is a customer orders a burger and a soda. The customer closes the ticket with cash. The server then transfers the soda to a new table and closes the cash ticket out, resulting in an extra $2 in their pocket. Do this 10 times and you’ve made an easy $20 extra per shift. To prevent this, 1) in the back office program to your POS simply make it required that a manager approve a transfer and 2) run the item transfer report your POS has every shift or nightly, and you will see if there is a problem.

Paper gift certificates

If you are still using a paper gift certificate system, you are leaving yourself exposed to a great deal of untraceable theft. A dishonest manager can learn very quickly that they can use your paper certificates in trade to get free haircuts, dry cleaning, car washes and dinners at other restaurants. Especially if you don’t have a tracking system in place and tie these numbers out on your balance sheet monthly. Honestly the best solution to this is dumping the paper systems for a gift card system.

While I just demonstrated only a short list of the ways employees can steal, I have also shown you how the right systems and management on the floor using those systems can virtually eliminate theft. Remember, we have to trust our people. The key is making them think twice about stealing. If they keep saying to themselves, I might get caught, you are well on your way to keeping honest people honest and catching the dishonest ones.

What did you learn from this blog series? Did you discover theft in your restaurant? Please share your stories in the comments below.

To read the first two posts in this series click below:

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