Employee Theft Can Take a Big Bite out of Profits

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Employee theft can mean the difference between profitability and loss. And I don’t just mean cash from the drawer or the kind of theft where an employee backs up a pick-up truck and loads it up with winter-stored air conditioners (a true story which took place recently in a winter ski resort in upstate New York). I am also referring to the day in and day out mysteries of missing food and wine, disappearing cleaning and paper supplies and unexplained excessive food cost.

Restrict employee access
Use common sense when it comes to storage of liquor, wine and expensive food ingredients such as beef tenderloins and lobster. This type of employee theft is generally one of opportunity. Choose an employee entrance that is not accessible via the bar, coolers or storerooms. Designate employee parking areas far from the entranceways, windows and outside storage. Lock cabinets and cages and restrict key holders to one employee per shift.

paperclip thief

Stop nibblers
I have never met a server who doesn’t nibble during their shift, from the prepared salads and desserts stored in coolers, to the garnishes on the bar. I have even witnessed servers reach for the French fries on a customer’s plate as it was carried from the kitchen to the table. First, servers don’t usually have access to the kitchen hand sink which means that their hands are not sanitized. Second, many servers also act as bussers and cashiers, and therefore, have the potential for spreading harmful microorganisms. Third, they are eating your profits. A strict policy regarding eating and drinking is a must and it doesn’t hurt to feed your staff before service time. Not only are they too full to nibble, but it builds camaraderie and leads to better cooperation between front and back of the house employees as well.

Build loyalty
The number one reason employees quit is not due to compensation, but rather to their perception that they are not valued. It is also the number one reason for employee theft. It is “due” them, I’ve been told, for the poor working conditions or general dislike of management. A feeling of self-worth, of being valued as part of a team, is a basic need for all of us at any age. Employees who feel they are valued are loyal, and employees who are loyal to the team, don’t steal.

Document employee policies
Take the time to develop an employee handbook and use it for orientation of each and every new employee. A well trained employee who agrees to management expectations and knows the consequences of breaking policy is less likely to do so.

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef Angela Bell
Beyond the Bull (an “eat smart” kitchen)
233 W. Main St., Central, SC 29630

Last modified: March 4, 2013
Angela Bell

This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, MPR Authored, Restaurants, sales, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, Tips