By Mona Bushnell
Three-fourths of all restaurant employees steal, but you can stop it from happening in your restaurant.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that internal employee theft is responsible for 75 percent of inventory shortages and about 4 percent of restaurant sales. Also, about 75 percent of employees steal from their workplace at least once, if not repeatedly. The key to stopping theft at your restaurant is understanding how it happens and then focusing on the most important areas for theft detection and mitigation: inventory tracking, expense tracking, auditing and hands-on involvement.
Scam #1: Undercharging
One common way restaurant workers steal money is by undercharging customers and pocketing the difference. Here’s how it works: A customer orders a $10 beer, and the server charges the customer $10 but enters a $5 beer into the POS system. The server then gives the customer the $10 beer and pockets the $5 difference. When the POS reports are compared against the register take for that day, everything will look correct, but in the physical inventory, a $10 beer will be inexplicably missing and there will be an extra $5 beer on the shelf.
The reason this scam is so popular is because it can’t be detected on POS reports and most restaurant owners don’t check the physical restaurant inventory themselves. The only way to catch this type of theft is by cross-checking the most recent inventory in your POS system against the actual inventory in your restaurant. If something doesn’t match up, you have a potential problem.
Scam #2: Outright stealing
Another common inventory scam is stealing raw materials, like food and alcohol. Many restaurant owners leave purchasing up to managers or chefs, and very few analyze the cost of dry goods, food and alcohol. It may be a stretch to call stealing from the pantry, walk-in or bar a scam, but it’s astonishingly common.