Controlling Employee Theft
None of us want to think that we are working with a kitchen full of thieves, but there are times when product suddenly starts missing. How can we, as chefs, control our inventory without seeming too much like Big Brother? This month, we’ll take a look at some simple controls to put place which will help curb any runaway supply lines you may have going out the back door.
First, we have to realize that there is always going to be some theft. It would be naïve to think you can clamp down on everything. The truth is, many of us don’t even realize how much theft goes on right in front of us: over-portioning a sandwich for a co-worker, dropping some extra fries to munch on, adding side dishes to a plate but not charging, etc….There are two main ways to keep theft in check; don’t set yourself up to be an easy target, and two, don’t make your employees feel like they need to steal. These are very simple ideas, but they are effective. Let’s examine each:
Don’t be an easy target. The staff needs to see you doing regular inventory, weighing products, counting your shelves, filling out requisition sheets, etc. so that they are aware that items are being inventoried correctly. If you never see a manager count anything, it’s pretty obvious they don’t know how much product they actually have. Keep your canned goods in neat lines, and, when possible, keep them all in the same counts. When you do this, a manager can instantly see when a product has been taken. This may seem silly, but actually show your employees different ways to steal and then ask for their advice on how to stop it. Showing employees that you know how the game is played really leaves an impression that they can’t pull the wool over your eyes. Also, by encouraging them to show you how to prevent theft, allows them to take ownership in the process being successful.
Keep a daily inventory on likely theft items such as meats and alcohol. The final count should be compared to an opening count to make sure theft isn’t occurring after the counts are made. Remember-everything should match up, if not, there is a reason and it needs to be addressed.
Don’t give your staff a reason to steal. If you work in a restaurant, you are going to have an employee meal, regardless of whether or not one is provided. If you don’t offer a meal to your staff, and I recommend it should be free, then they are going to eat somehow, but on your tab. Usually, the meal they take will be worth much more than the one you would have given away. Even if you charge for a meal, staff typically makes sure it’s bigger than normal just to make sure everyone gets their money’s worth. You don’t have to give away everything, but just making sure they are fed and treated fairly goes a long way in protecting against theft.
Chef William Knapp; FMP, CEC, CCA, CHE, MIHTM