Neal Lefebvre
Blog, Loss prevention

Anyone in the restaurant business knows that a certain amount of “restaurant loss” comes with the territory. “Restaurant loss prevention” refers to the involuntary separation between you and your hard-earned cash — and the steps you take to keep that from happening. From inventory mistakes to on-the-job accidents to all-out theft, you’ll never be able to eliminate loss completely, but you can find ways to limit the bleeding.

Surprisingly, many QSR or fast food franchises don’t have any sort of plan for loss prevention, and those that do may not be focusing on the right places. Here, we’ll take a closer look at one of the more exasperating drags on profit: theft.

An inside job

First, let’s dispense with the most feared form of criminal activity: being held up. Fortunately, this is not likely to happen, and unfortunately, aside from cameras and alarms, there’s little in the way of actionable steps you can take to prevent it. All you can do is create a protocol for your employees to follow so they know how to handle the situation if it ever occurs. That said, a much greater potential for loss is both less dramatic and often more detrimental to your bottom line: employee theft.

The vast majority of theft comes from right under your nose. Because your employees know your security systems, they know ways around them. A register that comes up short is an obvious red flag, so a more clever employee might zero out an order that was paid in cash—pocketing the money while keeping the register even. And if you think that employee will pose for the security camera while doing this, think again.

The most important thing you can do to limit this kind of behavior is also the most obvious: limit the amount of cash in the registers, especially higher value notes. Have employees drop all bills $20 or higher into the safe. Count smaller bills frequently, and drop those into the safe as well, leaving just enough to make change for customers.

You can also limit who can adjust order totals. Many restaurants allow employees to adjust and even zero out orders themselves, because—let’s face it—it’s a hassle having a manager come to the register, constantly having to make adjustments. Still, placing limits on who can adjust order totals does prevent employees from taking advantage of the system.

Another option is to link your POS system with your security system. Integrating them makes it easy to see exactly when order totals have been adjusted or when a register is short, so you can review footage from that time period. If you do this already, tell your employees. Knowing that the registers are paired directly with security cameras tends to dissuade many employees from even considering theft.

Employees aren’t the bad guys

This can be easy to forget: not all of your employees are stealing. In fact, most of them are earnest, hardworking folks who are there to make an honest living. And even the ones who do steal aren’t hardened criminals out to rob you blind. In most cases, employee theft comes down to good people who, under the right circumstances, compromise their principles. In the same way you wouldn’t leave a wad of cash on the front seat of your car in a dark alley, take it upon yourself to reduce as many opportunities for your employees to succumb to temptation.

One of the best ways you can reduce employee theft is by building a stronger team. We’ve already seen that employees who are happy are more productive. Those very same employees are less likely to commit theft if they take a sense of ownership and pride in their work. To put it differently, your employees will find it much harder to steal from you if they feel respected and listened to.

While you work to improve your culture and build a stronger team, there’s a plethora of software you can use until you get your house in order. Tools like Delaget Guard can also help you define thresholds and generate reports, allowing you to see exactly how loss prevention boosts your bottom line.

For more pro tips on prevention loss, check out our Restaurant Loss Prevention Checklist and our Top Loss Prevention Tips to Keep You in the Black.

Be an LP pro with our loss prevention checklist