5 Ingenious Ways Employees Steal From a Restaurant

Posted by Brandon Tucker

Brandon was the Marketing Content Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2019 to 2022. He ensured the content we provided was the top-notch quality we are known for by staying up to date on industry trends, tips, tricks, and best practices to help our customers' businesses grow.

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As a restaurant owner or manager, it can sometimes feel like everyone is coming after you. Not only do you have to worry about customers stealing, but also potential internal thieves in employees and even other managers. In fact, it is estimated that about 56% of servers have stolen from a restaurant at least once. 

Here are some other restaurant theft statistics that should scare you:

If you’re going to overcome the challenge of employee theft, the first step is figuring out how employees can steal from you. Only then can you determine how to prevent future theft from happening.


Scam 1: Faking a Walkout

Every server who has been in the game for more than a year or two will have likely experienced a walkout at least once. It’s a pretty upsetting experience for the entire restaurant staff, as it eats away at their earnings. While a genuine walkout is rarely ever the fault of your employees, a fake walkout is a different story. 

There are a couple of different ways that a walkout can be “faked”:

Scenario A - The server discreetly presents a table with a check, immediately collects a cash payment, and then wanders off to other areas of the restaurant until the customers leave shortly afterward. They then put on a show about going to the table with the check and finding the customers gone without leaving payment. The server pockets the cash they were given and informs the manager that they’ve just had a walkout. 

Scenario B - The server coordinates with a second employee, who lets the customers know that if they pay half of their bill in cash to them, they will be allowed to leave without paying after their meal is finished. The second employee will then signal the customer when the server is sufficiently busy with other tables, and the customers can sneak out the door before being given the bill. The second employee then splits the cash they were given with the server, and the server maintains plausible deniability when reporting the walkout to the manager. 


Scam 2: Swapping Products for Cheaper Alternatives

While offering a lot of menu items is appealing to customers, it presents a great opportunity for employees to steal from you. How they do this is by routinely swapping out one product for a similar one on your menu. 

For example, if a customer orders a large fountain drink, the server can give them a large and charge them for a large, but only enter a medium drink into the point-of-sale system. This might only be a difference of less than a dollar, but if the employee does this routinely for multiple types of items, they could be walking away with dozens of pocketed dollars each day. 


Speedy Tip

When using SpeedLine, you can catch examples of inventory theft, which are known as a “change down”. They will be automatically flagged for review and put on your Notable Activities report.


Scam 3: Faking POS/Processor Failures to Encourage Cash Payments

Nowadays, only 20% of customers still prefer paying for purchases in cash. This instantly nullifies nearly all of the methods of theft that restaurant employees used a decade ago. However, there are still a few ways that clever employees can get around this issue. 

One of these methods is to fake a failure of the POS terminal or card processor in order to encourage more customers to pay for their food with cash rather than a debit or credit card. All the employee needs to do is make sure a manager isn’t within earshot, then tell the customer that their system is down and they’re only able to create hand tickets and accept cash payments at that time. This then allows the employee to pocket the cash, toss out the hand ticket, and act like the order never happened. 

They can even pretend to try and enter the order in the POS or take the payment via the processor, while secretly hitting random buttons and then feigning confusion when it doesn’t work, forcing the customer to agree to a cash payment. If the customer doesn’t have cash, they just try the machine again and pretend that it magically started working. 


Scam 4: Taking Stock From the Restaurant

Not all forms of employee theft need to be super complex. Sometimes, simple methods tend to be the most popular and effective at draining your pizzeria’s profits. A good example of this is when staff members take product off of your shelves and take it home. When employees know that they aren’t being monitored and inventory isn’t being tracked, they’re far more likely to think that they can get away with stealing raw ingredients like a log of pepperoni or a wheel of cheese. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up when even one employee is stealing ingredients each shift. 


Scam 5: Getting a Manager to Void an Order

This is one of the scariest forms of employee theft because not only does it involve management (who you’re supposed to be able to trust with your business), but it is also really hard to catch. 

If an employee and a manager have joined forces to steal from your restaurant, then one of the easiest ways for them to do this is to void an order here and there throughout their shift. When an order has been voided, the money that the customer paid for it will no longer be needed to balance the register at the end of the night. Therefore, they can take that money and pocket it without raising any red flags. And if you’re not monitoring the number of voids that occur with POS reports, there’s practically no way for you to ever know that it is happening. 

Knowing how employees are stealing from you is only going to get you so far. You also need to know what you can do to stop it from happening in the future. Luckily, we’ve provided you with an article about the best ways to prevent employee theft.

Posted on Mon, Oct 25, 2021 @ 08:10 AM.
Updated on October 25, 2021 @ 3:30 PM PST.

Tags: Employee Theft, Security, Increase Profit Margins

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