Preventing Employee Theft: A Restaurant Primer

By Elizabeth Kelly

Employee theft is a problem that plagues the restaurant industry. Every manager wants to trust the people they hire, but that doesn’t mean managers and owners should be naïve to popular tactics for theft detection and prevention. Using the theft controls in your point of sale system doesn’t mean you don’t trust your staff. But it makes it much more difficult for any employees who might be inclined to abuse your trust.

Recognizing the Types of Employee Theft

The impact of employee theft may be broader than you think. Some of the most common ways employees may be taking advantage include:


When people think about theft, they tend to think first of money. Restaurant employees can be creative in helping themselves to your hard earned cash. Some may steal directly from the cash drawer, but typically, the thief will try to cover his tracks by manipulating a ticket total (for example, by adding a coupon not received from the customer), and pocketing the difference.


Are you paying your employees for time they’re not working? Falsifying time clock entries by clocking in early, having someone else clock them in, or editing the clock after the fact is a path some employees take to cheat the system. While you may not notice small discrepancies of 5 or 10 minutes, over time they add up.


Sometimes there is a legitimate explanation for inventory and supplies that appear to go missing, but not always. Stock items such as cheese, finished pizzas, beverages, or paper towel are commonly stolen because they can be hard to track. Not using inventory software? You may not even notice the pattern of theft of small quantities of stock from your shelves.


Trade secrets, original recipes, and customer information are protected under US and Canadian law. An employee sharing this information with competitors, or using it for her own gain, could damage your brand and cost you business.

Key Steps to Prevent Theft

The most effective way to combat theft in the restaurant is to prevent it in the first place. Employees who know they will probably get caught are much less likely to steal.

  • Regularly monitor your POS reports for unusual activity. Let your staff know you review reports regularly, and point out and ask for explanations of unusual activity.
  • Track your inventory. Using a POS system that tracks inventory sold and compares it with actual inventory levels, it is easy to spot variances. Then investigate to determine the cause. Are you experiencing theft, including incorrect portion sizes, or unreported waste?
  • Restrict employee access in your POS to only the functions they need to perform their jobs. Use authentication methods such as fingerprint scanners for thorough audit control of every transaction.
  • Use security cameras, and integrate them with your POS. When something unusual does occur, integrated video security systems will capture footage of it. This makes it easy to check the video associated with suspicious ticket activity, and it makes proving theft much easier.

Learn practical steps to investigate and prevent employee theft in the restaurant:

SpeedLine Solutions and Pizza Marketplace hosted a free webinar focusing on employee theft prevention. The webinar, POS “Locks & Cameras”: The Controls You Need to Stop and Prevent Employee Theft, can be downloaded on the website.


Posted on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 @ 07:11 AM.
Updated on April 29, 2019 @ 9:52 PM PST.

Posted by Elizabeth Kelly

As the Marketing Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions Inc., Elizabeth is the Managing Editor for On Point: The Restaurant Technology Blog. Have an idea for an article? Send her a message!

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Tags: loss prevention, Restaurant Management

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