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How Restaurants Can Protect Against Theft

There are many things in life we can’t imagine happening to us until the unthinkable occurs. Unfortunately, for restauranteurs targeted by burglars and vandals, it’s an experience that’s forever etched in their minds, increasing concerns for their customers, staff, and business. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help reduce the chances of being singled out by thieves.

Criminals Targeting Restaurants 

Restaurants are taking action across the nation in light of rising crime. A report by KRON4 revealed several were driven to board up their establishments in San Francisco’s Nob Hill. David Lee, the owner of Tacorea restaurant, experienced a theft in 2023 when thieves broke a window in the early morning hours and stole his register and tablets. Two other restaurants experienced break-ins in the Sunset District.

The owner of Awaken Café in Oakland told CBS News that their insurance company would no longer cover them due to multiple burglaries. Everett and Jones BBQ also experienced multiple break-ins, the first in their 50 years of business, resulting in losses of about $15,000. They did not file claims due to concern their insurance would go up or, even worse, cancel them.

In West Hollywood, suspects armed with an assault rifle robbed three people as they left La Boheme Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. In Memphis, several restaurants were targeted by criminals, resulting in robberies, carjackings, and gun violence. In response, Randy Hicks, the owner of Memphis Sports Pub, put a live video feed of his security camera up on a big screen TV on the wall of the parking lot, as reported by Action News 5. Restaurants on Staten Island have also been relentlessly targeted. And the list goes on.

The Impact on Restaurants & Communities

One study looked at the effect burglaries have on consumers’ responses. As expected, they found that crime negatively affects the number of visits to food service and retail establishments. They also discovered that the diminished visits occurred more at night than in the daytime.

As with most businesses, theft also occurs internally

Restaurants Taking Action Against Crime

A few of the steps restaurants take to help deter criminals include the following: 

Install interior and exterior security cameras: Exterior cameras can dissuade thieves from targeting your restaurant. Interior cameras that monitor cash registers or POS systems, safes, pantries, bars, or kitchen areas keep an extra set of eyes on your most vulnerable areas. Make sure to work with a company that understands legal and privacy ramifications.

Keep cash on hand to a minimum: Almost all the thieves we highlighted went for safes and registers. Train employees to make frequent deposits into the drop safe.

View Your Restaurant from the Eyes of a Criminal: Look at your restaurant from a fresh perspective. Explore the exterior at night, when many robberies occur. Is there shrubbery that creates an easy place for thieves to hide? Consider trimming it back and even replacing it with a thorny variety.

Check out the lighting in the evening. Are there areas that appear dark? Make sure it’s well-lit and install motion sensors that trigger flood lights. One common entryway is openings in the roof. Make sure there is no access to this vulnerable area.

Consider an Alarm System: Many restauranteurs eventually install alarm systems. These may create a blaring siren when door or window contact sensors are broken. In the past, operators experienced false alarms that annoyed them and first responders. Today’s systems are smart, with sensors that tell the difference between people and animals. They also send an immediate notification when a person is detected after hours, enabling you to take a quick peek at the security feed to determine if the situation warrants a call to the local police or fire department.

A Smart Closing-Up System: Always ensure multiple staff close-up for the night. Part of the closing procedure is checking bathrooms and other areas where people could hide out. And all employees must leave the premises together after locking windows and doors and setting the alarm. 

Some restaurants have invested in smart security systems that secure the building with one tap. When employees leave, they press the ‘Closing Up’ button by the door, and the doors lock, the alarm arms and all the lights turn off except for the security lighting.

A theft leads to a feeling of vulnerability for you, your staff, and your customers. Take proactive measures that reduce the chances of this traumatic event occurring.


How can restaurants prevent theft? 

A few strategic tips for preventing theft in restaurants include investing in security cameras and installing motion detectors that work with lights and alarms.

How do employees steal from restaurants? 

The National Restaurant Association estimates that about 75% of inventory shortages are due to internal theft. Register voids and cash skimming have long been known targets. Some other methods of stealing, though not always intentional, include overpouring, food waste, and supply and food theft.

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