Steal from me will ya…..

Alright, so I hate to go there but theft, shrinkage, and stealing goes on in every restaurant. If you think it doesn’t you are having more stolen from you than realize. The best way to reduce your loses from theft is to first acknowledge it happens and then put controls in place to stop it. If your team knows your systems are so tight they are a lot less likely to reduce your inventory unethically. Here are just a few examples of theft happening right now in your restaurant.Servers don’t ring up sodas, teas, or coffee – somehow FOH staff translate not ringing up non-alcoholic beverages as some sort of odd benefit for their guests. I think they strangely think if they don’t charge someone for a $2 soda, their tip will go up….weird, huh…I was always taught if you raised the check you would make more money. Audit some of your tables on your next shift that are drinking sodas, iced tea, or coffee and see if they have all been rung up. If they aren’t, ask the server and I bet you hear this one…”I don’t ring those up until I am getting ready to close the check.” Thief…..Bartenders over pour – Bartenders think if they pour 2oz into every drink instead of 1 ½ ounces your recipe calls for the guest will appreciate their generosity and they will tip more. Not to mention the side benefit to the business of building a regular, drunk, clientele….right…note the dripping sarcasm. Thief……Bartenders give away drinks – yep, I know you are shocked but if you have bartenders, they give away drinks and mysteriously translate that into building business. Ready for this epiphany….watch your bar cost at the 1st of every month and watch it go up. Why? Rent is due and the bartender has to make the bills. Thief……Hiding product in the bottom of garbage cans – I know, I know, this is gross but here is how the scam works. BOH team takes out the garbage at the beginning of their shifts. They put pre-packaged items in the bottom of the can, put in a new garbage bag, work the shift, take the garbage out later, pull the items out of the bottom of the can and take it to their car while you are finishing up the closing paperwork. Thief……Happy Hour - ringing up drinks before time ends and then giving out drinks rest of night – Do you have happy hour? What time does it end? Check your ring ups just before Happy Hour ends. Got a big load of drinks being rung up just before the special ends? Watch out how long your regulars stay at the bar after Happy Hour ends to finish up their cheap drinks that were rung up BEFORE the special ended. Thief…..Bartender vs. Server theft – you think creating some sense of separation keeps them from stealing from you. Wrong. Ask around and find out which bartenders are dating the staff and you will find drinks not getting rung up, server collecting cash, and you get nothing but high bar cost. Thieves…..Server versus line cook theft – Same as bartender server theft but normally the line cooks are getting a cut of the take. Thieves…..Keg theft – In some place those empty kegs are worth $30 a piece empty and your local keg shop will buy the empties no questions asked. Employees will shove those bad boys out the back door and pick em’ up later to sell for a pretty chunk of change. Chain em’ up or lose em’. Thief…..Vendor theft – Ever been to one of those parties where all of the food and beverage being served looks familiar? Mysteriously the big semi-trucks full of food leave the docks full and return empty but whatever is left at the end of the last drop goes in the back seat of your driver’s car for the big party later. Don’t check your order in….get hosed! Thief….Some hints and tips to keep your product yours….1. Do a shift or daily inventory of your hot selling items – steaks, bottled beer, etc. Let the staff know you count it every day and track how many you sell. Line cooks and bartenders at least won’t steal or give those items away2. Audit your checks. Randomly pull up checks on your POS and validate that everything you see on the table is on the check. If you don’t have a “ring it before you bring it” policy, create one3. Make sure you know on your team who is dating who and follow up accordingly. If you see it between FOH staff, audit those areas4. Count down your bartender’s cash drawer in the middle of the shift when it is least expected. If it doesn’t balance then….you got a problem5. Check in your own order, initial every box as it comes in, and inventory weekly6. Regulars – get to know them, watch what they drink, make sure they pay7. Garbage can audits – take the garbage out with them and see what they do? Never open the back door without supervision.8. Make your bartenders ring up every drink they serve at the bar before they serve it and then have them leave a copy of the receipt in front of every guest so you can validate all drinks are being charged. Helps with more responsible service of alcohol as well as you can tell at a glance how many drinks your bar guests have sucked down.9. And the most important....lock your back door, lock your office, lock your coolers, and never, I repeat, never, give your keys to anyone no matter how trustworthy you think they may be....I know there are a lot more ways to steal and I can’t wait to hear your story. Remember this…I am always surprised by those that have taken from the business, sometimes some of the most trusted. Keep honest people honest and don’t give them a chance to steal. A strong business culture with good systems will keep good people from doing bad things.Steal an egg, steal an ox…..
Email me when people comment –

You need to be a member of FohBoh to add comments!

Join FohBoh


  • I just recently stumbled upon this social site and find it rather informative. I particularly enjoyed this post as it is parallel to what we do at Eye Spy Spotter Service I thought I would go ahead and insert a post from our blog at any comments are welcome.

    Bartender Summary

    Bartender: Female, 5’5”, Caucasian, in her forties, with a medium build and short, reddish-blond hair. She wore black shorts, a blue polo or tee shirt, and a ball cap. She introduced herself as Xxxxxx.
    The agent approached the bar. Xxxxxx approached him quickly, placing a cocktail napkin on the bar top and looking at him in a less-than-friendly manner. Her manner of asking him whether he cared for a beverage was: “Yea?” in a brusque tone. If Agent wasn’t on duty I most likely would have chosen to leave and spend my money elsewhere.

    Xxxxxx filled the round and asked in single-word prompts for the agent’s preferences for applicable modifications.

    She did not suggest upsell options or sizes.

    She did not ask for identification; the agent is thirty years of age.

    Xxxxxx delivered the round promptly and immediately walked away. She returned shortly and asked, “You wanna keep a tab?” She did not require a credit card to secure the tab.

    Xxxxxx next approached the agent several minutes later, asking, “You want chips?” Her sour expression and rough tone continued. It was very disconcerting. Agent was puzzled why she would treat the people who are literally paying her with such rudeness. Again, based solely on her curt behavior, the Agent would never return to this establishment.

    Several minutes later, Xxxxxx approached again and remarkably offered the agent a menu. Her tone warmed considerably at this exchange, and she introduced and offered herself if the agent needed anything.

    Xxxxxx returned after approximately ten minutes to ask if the agent cared to order anything. She offered applicable modifications, but no upsell options. She repeated the order back to the agent, and returned to verify the order twice before placing it.

    The appetizer arrived in appropriate time, and Xxxxxx checked on the agent after several minutes. She yelled across the bar to verify the agent’s entrée order, and thereafter rang it in.

    The entrée arrived approximately twelve minutes after the appetizer. Xxxxxx passed by the agent several times but did not ask him if everything was to his liking, or whether he needed anything else. Shockingly, the agent had neither silverware nor napkins, and therefore was unable to eat the meal. Only after the employee later described as Busser cleared the agent’s appetizer plates did the agent receive silverware; Busser provided a knife, fork, and napkin atop a side plate.

    Xxxxxx juggled the bar and table business with the server orders well. She offered additional rounds at the appropriate times, but immediately rang in items only, approximately, half of the time. She did not keep printed tabs in front of any guest, and dangerously grouped transactions; therefore, the agent could not substantiate how many items Xxxxxx ultimately recorded or much more importantly didn’t record.

    The agent’s tab omitted one non-alcoholic beverage; please refer to the Food and Beverage Summary for details.

    This bar system sorely needs to be modified as it is a sieve for bar theft opportunity. Please contact the Eye Spy office for suggestions in modifying the bartender’s process development. Because of the system in place it is next to impossible to fully substantiate the theft that may be occurring. Again, it cannot be substantiated; however, Agent extrapolates that a theft problem is present and probably very large. Bottom line is you simply can’t tell if the bartender doesn’t ring things in right after they are made.

    Xxxxxx drank from a plastic soda cup kept behind the bar. She also was seen putting food in her mouth and chewing; however, the agent could not discern what she was eating. She did not wash her hands in between eating, and handled fruit with her bare hands. All of these are Arizona Health Code violations.

    Xxxxxx had a cavalier attitude with respect to server tickets and protocols. When behind the bar, she filled the orders; however, she was frequently away from the bar, during which times servers freely went behind the bar and prepared drinks. Agent was flabbergasted by this protocol. Agent was very surprised that management has very lax controls on the product. These controls are “basic” restaurant management and they simply are not being implemented here. Agent highly suggests modifying these procedures and implementing new theft prevention controls.

    The servers did not pull their tickets, and when Xxxxxx returned, she asked the servers if they still needed items. It would have been very easy for a server to give away free drinks by simply making an order for themselves in Xxxxxx’s absence, then waiting for Xxxxxx to fill the ticket, as well.

    The servers also delivered verbal orders on several occasions, and Xxxxxx filled the verbal requests without question. Once such example occurred At 7:30 pm, when the female employee pictured at right received a Negra Modelo from a verbal order; no ticket was produced for the beer.

    Xxxxxx did not handle cash from the tip jar, and did not pull her charge tips when closing out credit card checks.

    Xxxxxx appeared to have a good rapport with guests, and encouraged guests to return, advising them of what nights she worked when they departed.

    Xxxxxx failed to adhere to state laws that govern the service of alcohol. Of the ten patrons in the bar when the agent entered, two were visibly intoxicated. Xxxxxx remarkably continued to serve both of them throughout the visit subjecting the restaurant to ADLLC violation fines, as well, both her and the restaurant to possible negligence charges if an accident should occur.


    4-244. Unlawful acts

    14. For a licensee or other person to serve, sell or furnish spirituous liquor to a disorderly or obviously intoxicated person, or for a licensee or employee of the licensee to allow or permit a disorderly or obviously intoxicated person to come into or remain on or about the premises, except that a licensee or an employee of the licensee may allow an obviously intoxicated person to remain on the premises for a period of time of not to exceed thirty minutes after the state of obvious intoxication is known or should be known to the licensee in order that a nonintoxicated person may transport the obviously intoxicated person from the premises. For purposes of this section, "obviously intoxicated" means inebriated to the extent that a person's physical faculties are substantially impaired and the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction that would have been obvious to a reasonable person.

    Xxxxxx delivered the check to the agent with no check presenter and without the agent requesting it making us feel pressured to leave.

    She did not offer dessert, coffee, any additional drinks, or ask whether the agent was finished.

    She provided a carryout container to the agent when he requested; she followed several minutes later and removed all his plates.

    Xxxxxx collected payment, which she processed without asking for identification, as instructed on the back of the agent’s credit card. By law because she failed to do this, Agent could notify bank and cancel the transaction. Just make management aware.

    She returned two credit card slips with the agent’s card; she did not return the itemized receipt, which omitted one beverage item and one food item. Please refer to the Food and Beverage Summary for details.

    Xxxxxx thanked the agent in a friendly manner when she collected the payment. She invited him to return. She thanked him again and wished him a good night when he departed.

    Xxxxxx’s appearance and initial attitude left much to be desired. Her knit shorts were very short and barely extended underneath her untucked shirt. She also wore flip-flops, which were both a safety concern and a violation of Arizona Food Handler regulations. She reminded the agent of someone extracted from their couch, against their will, on a lazy Saturday afternoon—her appearance and attire were unprofessional, potentially-hazardous, and inappropriate for an environment in which food and beverages are served.

    Additionally, Xxxxxx’s demeanor and manner of service in the beginning of the visit were extremely rude and inappropriate. The agent could not believe how unfriendly she was.

    As the visit progressed, Xxxxxx became friendlier, but her initial interaction was completely unacceptable for the service industry. The agent could tell Xxxxxx’s demeanor is typically “rough” or “no nonsense,” to which some guests, particularly in a bar setting, will respond. However, in order to keep , as ell as, build new business and appeal to a wider demographic, a median level of courtesy and effort should be standard. Had the agent been a normal guest, he would have likely left after one quick drink and would have never patronized the establishment ever again.

    Lastly, the Agent hypothesizes that ownership is losing an alarming and possibly an enormous amount of profits via loopholes in the system that openly allow theft opportunities. Agent would highly recommend contacting the Eye Spy office for further assistance in this matter.

    Management Summary

    The agent observed no member of management during the visit.

    Addendum A

    The first impression the agent received in the first three minutes of the visit was enough to make him want to leave; had he been in the establishment for leisure, he would have left.

    The hostess ignored him while he was, awkwardly, trying to find out if there was a bar, and where it was located.

    When he got to the bar, Xxxxxx was extremely brusque to the point of rudeness in her first few interactions with the agent.

    The older, casual, mom-and-pop atmosphere of the establishment is quaint, and the facility is well-maintained, despite its age. However, the appearance of most of the employees discouraged the agent from wanting to eat food prepared and served by their messy and unprofessional hands. Ill-fitting uniforms, un-restricted hair, and a general lack of concern for appearance detracted greatly from the professionalism of the staff, and showed a level of disregard that the agent feared extended into more personally-consequential areas.

    Although, the comments are a rather harsh, Agent hopes that management does not take these statements personally, but rather as a stepping stone to modify the controls in the restaurant. It’s as if there is no one actually running this restaurant and if there is, they are totally inefficient at doing so. Again, please take the criticism constructively.

    Addendum B

    When the agent exited the facility, he observed the rear door of the building propped open. The open access posed a security concern.

    At 8:15pm, shortly after the agent went to his car, he observed a maroon mid-sized SUV pull into the lot and park directly behind the open rear door. The vehicle was an Explorer-style SUV. A female, approximately 5’6”, Caucasian, with an average build, light-brown or blond hair, wearing black pants and a red blouse, emerged from the vehicle and went inside.

    Shortly thereafter, the agent observed two males exit the door: one was approximately 5’5”, with an average build, wearing a white tee shirt, and carrying a cellular phone; the second male was 5’3”, with an average build and shaggy dark hair, and wore a green shirt.

    The two males slowly rolled a trash can to the front of the dumpster, and then walked behind the dumpster and out-of-sight. Eight minutes later, they emerged from behind the dumpster, emptied the trash can, and returned through the rear door. The agent could not substantiate their actions while behind the dumpster but suspects that they were smuggling items out of the restaurant via the trash and recovering them at a later time.

    At 8:41 pm, the woman exited the rear door carrying a large package, which she placed in the back seat of the SUV. She reentered the building. At 8:51 pm, she emerged again and departed. Again, Agent cannot substantiate theft but highly suspects it was happening.

    The agent also observed a male, 5’8”, with short, dark hair and wearing a black tee shirt, exit and reenter the establishment several times through the rear door. The employee appeared to be hosing down mats and a fenced-in area immediately outside the door.

    The agent strongly discourages allowing employees to enter and exit through the rear door. The clandestine access is both a security concern and a portal for theft.

    Additionally, the agent suggests employees who require access to the rear of the building—such as those who would empty the trash or hose down kitchen mats—be accompanied by a manager both for their own security and that of the establishment, as well as to ensure that only appropriate actions are taking place on company grounds.

    While observing the actions of the aforementioned employees, the agent also observed a small pick-up truck enter the lot, park, and its inhabitants go inside, presumably to eat. They returned within four minutes and left, speaking in tones that suggested they were unhappy. The agent could not substantiate why they were turned away; however, as he observed many employees departing around that time, he suspected the patrons were informed the kitchen was closed. They entered prior to 8:40 pm.

    Michael Zenner - CEO

    Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. (blog)
    Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
    Lic. 1597616
    PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299
    Office: 480-777-7056
    Mobile: 602-622-0875
    Toll Free: 800-880-0811
  • Yowsers Cindi, those are some good ones. Amazing.....
  • Well working for 2 casual dining franchises.... I have seen everything.....

    I didn't ring up an Iced Tea cause they brought a packet to mix it with......Yea, right.......
    Max and Erma's had these " Good Neighbor Cards" which would entitle the guest 10% off a check....when I worked there the servers would keep a log of names/card numbers and if it was a big check who paid cash discount it...and make more money..I never did it cause my parents were HUGE on honesty and I liked my job cause City Center was popping then!

    ...Also at Max and Erma's they would print on the Columbus Dispatch Buy 1 get one free Burger coupons that servers would go nuts over! Like buying 10 papers, to make the 6.99 if tables paid cash.......
    ....I know shocker..M&E's you never needed a manager card for a void, or buy just kept the receipt and marked the corresponding reason: undercooked, overcooked, etc...and explained it once the manager ran your cashout at the end of the night.......Glad they did table visits...(NOT)

    Might be why they got sold, and are going to be no mas soon.....I'm glad I don't work for them anymore!
  • Thanks Doyle for sharing your story. I don't think you are alone in this one. It happens a lot! We just get sidetracked by all the things we have to do that auditing checks like this never seems to make it to the top of our priority list.
  • I read your post last week,and this weekend had to drop the hammer on someone for just these reasons. We are now spot checking all employees for items on the tables just to make sure they are on the checks. Old bar logic says employees will make their money any way they can when the chips are down. Everyone keep your ears up, I am sure I will not be the only one playing detective, and document everything. Nothing is worse then a clean shoot being taken back for poor documentation. I made sure I had more then one document on this employee to make sure I was right. Good Luck!
  • Thanks Keith.....that one happens more than you know!!
  • Great stories.
    My brother and i had breakfast one time, and when we went to pay the bill, the cashier said it was $2. "For all we had ?" I asked.

    The "computer" only rang up the drinks. I had orange juice and my brother had milk.
    We ballparked the figure of what the total bill should have been and paid it.
  • Great story Charles! Crazy what some people will do for a buck...
  • Chef Ryan - you are 100% right! I should have said back door locked SAFELY.....
    Leslie....idle hands are the devil's....
    @John - I am always encouraged by your thinking. Understanding why people steal is also another path to stopping theft to begin with
    Don - all great stories, thanks for sharing

    Keep the stories coming!
  • And then there's customers who steal from you:

    This restaurant placed the surveillance video of a customer heisting one of their restaurant chairs on the HOME PAGE of their website! (Strange way to handle theft, indeed...)
This reply was deleted.

Food Tech Vendors