As a member of restaurant management or ownership, it is imperative that you know your business. Not only must you know food and menu, kitchen efficiency and the level of customer service from your staff, but you also need to be aware of all the back-of-house operations and all it entails.
This includes being aware of your food cost and all that can affect it and your profitability. Food cost awareness not only consists of shopping and purchasing the best value food from the fairest and most respected vendors but also keeping a watchful eye out for employee theft.
Know Your Daily Sales
The first step to identifying potential theft is being present and aware of your product inventory and usage. Knowing the typical volume of business and keeping a close eye on how busy your locations are during different days and day parts will help you determine benchmarks and expectations. From those benchmarks you will be able to spot if any diminishing products are due to a busy meal period or because the employees are helping themselves to the food. By knowing the typical volume of business and keeping a close eye on how busy the restaurant is on any given day, compared directly to the amount of food being ordered to replace empty shelves and the returns on the day’s receipts, a manager or owner will quickly be able to ascertain if theft is occurring.
Know Your Inventory Levels
Food cost is all about item level ordering, waste prevention and proper portion control and plating. Knowing your yield for your key inventory items (proteins, certain vegetables and breads, etc.) will help you determine your weekly inventory needs. Weekly inventories that don’t match the listed number of meals sold are a quick indicator of possible theft or misconduct. Are you suddenly ordering more of an item than ever before? Do you have to replenish your stock for something that never moved in the past? If you are answering these questions with a “yes” then you may have a problem with theft and inventory control.
Know Your Comps
Along with monitoring daily sales and inventory levels, you must control the comps that you provide. If you make shift meals available to employees, that may curtail the desire to steal food. If you do provide comp meals to employees or anyone else (local law enforcement for example), then make sure those are tracked and factored into your inventory levels. Comp meals will increase your food cost, but may be worth it in the long run to prevent potential theft or “grazing” by employees.
As the owner or manager of a restaurant, it is also of critical importance that you yourself never take food or meals outside of proper policy. Tasting food to better educate a customer is one thing. It is done out in the open and all of the wait staff and/or kitchen is invited to partake. There is nothing hidden or secretive about it. As an owner you may feel that it is “your food” anyways, but if an employee who had been thinking about stealing previously witnesses the boss taking food without paying, they fail to see a difference between you and them. As a part of management it is even more important to never steal or even “sneak” food. Once the employees see you engage in that type of behavior, they may think it is okay for them to do the same.
Know Your Employees
Preventing theft requires that you know quite a bit about your restaurant operations. However, the most important part of the business you can know is your employee. Train, educate and make employees part of your team. Build rapport with them and take an interest in your employees. Making sure all employees know they can come to you with any problems or concerns will help as well. An employee who trusts his boss is more likely to ask for a raise or help with money than he is to make the decision to steal from you and your restaurant.