Six Signs That Employees Are Stealing
How to Identify Restaurant Employee Theft
If you are a restaurant business owner or manager, be assured of one thing: employees are stealing from you.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that internal employee theft is responsible for 75% of inventory shortages-about four percent of total restaurant sales. Three quarters of employees steal from the workplace at least once-and half steal repeatedly. Why? Because no one catches them!
Many owners and managers ignore the signs because they want to believe all their employees are honest. But the longer you let dishonest employees get away with it, the more widespread employee theft will become. Here are six signs to look for:
- Have Pour and Food Costs suddenly gone up? These are determined by comparing how much you're purchasing with how much you're selling. (They're a valuable tool to identify employee theft--but only as good as your recordkeeping. You must log all food and drinks-purchased or not-to make your calculations valid.) If costs suddenly go up, detailed records may point to a specific event-such as a new bartender, kitchen worker or server's arrival. (If they go down, check to see who might be on vacation!)
- Is the cash register over or under on a regular basis? This is a sign that an employee has put money in the till without ringing up the order and has forgotten or miscalculated exactly what to skim from the register at the end of the shift.
- Do employee tips add up? When employees give away food or drinks, they often get generous tips based on the value. Revive the old tradition of making random "Till and Tip" checks. Without prior warning, ask servers to count their tip money in your presence. Compare their totals to the register readings. If tips are 5%, 10%, 15 %, terrific. But 30%, 40% and 50% tips should set off alarm bells.
- Are customers or employees telling you someone is stealing? They may notice things you can't. Take their comments to heart. Investigate fully. Maybe they're mistaken-but don't count on it.
- Do regular customers complain that prices are too expensive or inconsistent? Dishonest employees may overcharge customers and pocket the difference. You won't see costs rise but customers will see an increase in prices. Regular customers may notice if they are being charged different prices.
- XYXYXYXYX something about an employee that just doesn't feel right? Maybe it's a lifestyle that seems well beyond their means. Maybe they are just too eager to work the shifts that no one else wants to take. Whatever it is, trust your instincts.
If you know you have a problem, hire a Private Investigator who specializes in mystery shopping and/or surveillance. Flying under the radar, trained agents can visit your restaurant or bar to observe and record how servers are handling and recording cash transactions. They also can position themselves to observe what their employees are taking out the back door. If employee theft is observed, a trained investigator can confront those involved, and nine out of ten times, get a confession.
Learn how Zao Noodles solved their workplace theft. Read our mini case study Discovering & Reducing Employee Theft.