How employees steal from restaurants & food service

Employee theft… let’s face it, it’s a reality in our economy and even before we began to see changes in the economy theft in the food service industry has existed.   From simply recycling tickets to giving free food, it’s all theft.  I really enjoyed Andy’s article and with his permission we are reprinting it on One Fat Frog Restaurant Equipment’s website.

Special thanks to Andy Swingley for permission to repost the following article on employee theft in the restaurant industry.  Andy has some great articles on various topics from management to employee training  on his website:

Alright, so I hate to go there but theft, shrinkage, and stealing goes on in every restaurant. If you think it doesn’t you are having more stolen from you than realize. The best way to reduce your loses from theft is to first acknowledge it happens and then put controls in place to stop it. If your team knows your systems are so tight they are a lot less likely to reduce your inventory unethically. Here are just a few examples of theft happening right now in your restaurant.

Servers don’t ring up sodas, teas, or coffee – somehow FOH staff translate not ringing up non-alcoholic beverages as some sort of odd benefit for their guests. I think they strangely think if they don’t charge someone for a $2 soda, their tip will go up….weird, huh…I was always taught if you raised the check you would make more money. Audit some of your tables on your next shift that are drinking sodas, iced tea, or coffee and see if they have all been rung up. If they aren’t, ask the server and I bet you hear this one…”I don’t ring those up until I am getting ready to close the check.” Thief…..

Bartenders over pour
– Bartenders think if they pour 2oz into every drink instead of 1 ½ ounces your recipe calls for the guest will appreciate their generosity and they will tip more. Not to mention the side benefit to the business of building a regular, drunk, clientele….right…note the dripping sarcasm. Thief……

Bartenders give away drinks
– yep, I know you are shocked but if you have bartenders, they give away drinks and mysteriously translate that into building business. Ready for this epiphany….watch your bar cost at the 1st of every month and watch it go up. Why? Rent is due and the bartender has to make the bills. Thief……

Hiding product in the bottom of garbage cans – I know, I know, this is gross but here is how the scam works. BOH team takes out the garbage at the beginning of their shifts. They put pre-packaged items in the bottom of the can, put in a new garbage bag, work the shift, take the garbage out later, pull the items out of the bottom of the can and take it to their car while you are finishing up the closing paperwork. Thief……

Happy Hour – ringing up drinks before time ends and then giving out drinks rest of night – Do you have happy hour? What time does it end? Check your ring ups just before Happy Hour ends. Got a big load of drinks being rung up just before the special ends? Watch out how long your regulars stay at the bar after Happy Hour ends to finish up their cheap drinks that were rung up BEFORE the special ended. Thief…..

Bartender vs. Server theft – you think creating some sense of separation keeps them from stealing from you. Wrong. Ask around and find out which bartenders are dating the staff and you will find drinks not getting rung up, server collecting cash, and you get nothing but high bar cost. Thieves…..

Server versus line cook theft – Same as bartender server theft but normally the line cooks are getting a cut of the take. Thieves…..

Keg theft – In some place those empty kegs are worth $30 a piece empty and your local keg shop will buy the empties no questions asked. Employees will shove those bad boys out the back door and pick em’ up later to sell for a pretty chunk of change. Chain em’ up or lose em’. Thief…..

Vendor theft – Ever been to one of those parties where all of the food and beverage being served looks familiar? Mysteriously the big semi-trucks full of food leave the docks full and return empty but whatever is left at the end of the last drop goes in the back seat of your driver’s car for the big party later. Don’t check your order in….get hosed! Thief….

Some hints and tips to keep your product yours….
1. Do a shift or daily inventory of your hot selling items – steaks, bottled beer, etc. Let the staff know you count it every day and track how many you sell. Line cooks and bartenders at least won’t steal or give those items away
2. Audit your checks. Randomly pull up checks on your POS and validate that everything you see on the table is on the check. If you don’t have a “ring it before you bring it” policy, create one
3. Make sure you know on your team who is dating who and follow up accordingly. If you see it between FOH staff, audit those areas
4. Count down your bartender’s cash drawer in the middle of the shift when it is least expected. If it doesn’t balance then….you got a problem
5. Check in your own order, initial every box as it comes in, and inventory weekly
6. Regulars – get to know them, watch what they drink, make sure they pay
7. Garbage can audits – take the garbage out with them and see what they do? Never open the back door without supervision.
8. Make your bartenders ring up every drink they serve at the bar before they serve it and then have them leave a copy of the receipt in front of every guest so you can validate all drinks are being charged. Helps with more responsible service of alcohol as well as you can tell at a glance how many drinks your bar guests have sucked down.
9. And the most important….lock your back door, lock your office, lock your coolers, and never, I repeat, never, give your keys to anyone no matter how trustworthy you think they may be….

I know there are a lot more ways to steal and I can’t wait to hear your story. Remember this…I am always surprised by those that have taken from the business, sometimes some of the most trusted. Keep honest people honest and don’t give them a chance to steal. A strong business culture with good systems will keep good people from doing bad things.

Steal an egg, steal an ox…..

BIO of author
Andy Swingley has 12 years of experience in multi-unit leadership and 25 years experience in the food service industry. Currently the Regional Manager of 30 restaurants at Thomas & King, DBA Applebee’s Andy leads teams in producing over 80 million in annual sales. Prior to Applebee’s, Andy spent ten years with the famous upscale restaurant and nightclub group Bobby McGee’s working from hourly Food Server to General Manager. Andy is well known for his leadership and team building development, sales building, and intense focus on the profitability of operations.