Tech Updates

How to Safeguard Your Restaurant From Employee Theft

Like termites that destroy a house from within, dishonesty among restaurant staff can ruin your business even before you recoup your initial investment. 

Industry insiders estimate that restaurants from around the globe lose anywhere between $3 and $6 billion yearly. Worse, as much as 75 percent of restaurant staff have admitted to at least one instance of pilfering and/or theft.

Most restaurant owners respond to these facts in two ways: completely ignore these and accept these as part and parcel of running a business; or become too paranoid and enforce measures that drive away staff, including the loyal and honest ones.

However, there’s another approach that you should seriously consider. There are also certain factors you need to weigh and study in order to keep a balance between safeguarding business interests and keeping your best people engaged. 

Why restaurant staff steal

Before you enforce measures to curb pilferage and theft inside your restaurant, it is crucial to understand why people resort to these crimes.

One of the main reasons why restaurant staff steal is because there are no safeguards against theft. Or, as the saying goes, when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Some staff members steal as a way to get back at the restaurant because they are not compensated well.

Theft and pilferage become easier if the owners and management do not oversee the business carefully, leaving plenty of opportunities for staff and even for people delegated to run the business.

Patterns to look out for

One or two instances of theft won’t close down a business. However, when systematic pilferage and theft continue unchecked, the chances of your business surviving over the long term become less likely.

Fortunately for owners and managers, systematic stealing can be thwarted if you know which signs you need to be on the lookout for.

Variance in stock

A difference of five to seven percent between ideal and physical stock can be attributed to wastage.

However, if the variance runs high for an extended period of time, it’s either your staff haven’t recorded items on your POS or are stealing from you.

Edited or voided bills

From time to time, your cashier may need to edit or void invoices. However, if these instances become more and more common, you will need to keep a close watch on people manning the cash register or POS machine.

Unusual work hours

Thieves try to hide their misdeeds away from prying eyes. The easiest way to do this is to schedule work during odd hours.

Low sales

Restaurant owners know that there are lean days and seasons. But if your establishment consistently records low transactions even during peak days, that should be a cause to worry.

Safeguarding your business

Identifying patterns is just one of the vital steps that you need to do in order to curb theft and pilferage in your restaurant.

Apart from these, there are a few other proactive steps that you can implement to discourage such misdeeds from your staff and managers.

Install a camera surveillance system

A surveillance system will actively discourage criminal activity inside your restaurant, both from within and from outside.

Your servers and kitchen staff will have to think twice about bringing items out, and potential dine-and-dashers will be stopped in their tracks knowing full well that they are being monitored.

Take full advantage of your POS system

There are plenty of things that you can do with the right type of POS system.

For instance, you can use it to monitor your inventory and the printing of receipts, especially multiple copies. By enforcing a blind closeout, you can also use your POS to check if your cashier is taking money from the till.

Finally, keep your stockroom locked. Hand the keys to your managers and trusted staff members.

Protect your business from within

Your staff members are your greatest assets. Treat them fairly, and they will reward you by helping you build your restaurant.

However, that does not mean that you should trust people blindly. Install a solid restaurant management system and follow the measures outlined above to discourage would-be thieves looking for opportunities to take advantage of your business.


Ahmad Alzaini is the Co-Founder and CEO of Foodics, the leader in Restaurant Automation and Intelligence platforms. In 2015, Foodics was selected by Forbes as the fastest growing startup in the Middle East. Foodics, a cloud-based restaurant management system that runs on an iPad, manages sales, transactions, inventory, employee schedules, logistics, e-commerce and customer relationships, among others.