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Theft in your Foodservices operation

Theft is an unfortunate problem that every retail operation deals with, and your café or coffee bar is no exception. In this week’s Blog, we identify the creative and not-so-creative ways customers and employees can steal from you, and take a look at how to prevent or minimize it happening in your operation.

Who is stealing?

Theft comes in many forms. It can be the cashier who doesn’t ring up all the items a friend or colleague has on their tray at the checkout line, or gives an “unauthorized” discount to a coworker. It may be an employee boldly stealing cash out of the register till when they think no one is watching or will notice, or a customer casually walking out the door with unpaid food or beverage items. Whether the intent is to do a friend a favor, a feeling of entitlement or deliberate malice, the financial impact is the same because theft hurts the bottom line of your foodservices operation. Even if you are operating your Café or Coffee Bar as a convenience to your employees, operating costs are still measured and theft is a huge cost.

How do you identify employee theft?

It’s really important to have security measures in place in your operation to identify any problem areas. Your Point of Sale system should be tracking all sales, and allow you to use either shift or transaction security on your registers. The ability to reconcile each cash drawer by cashier is particularly needed in foodservices operations. Always review your system variance reports for discrepancies, and look for patterns in frequent cash shortages to see they map to when a particular employee works. Frequent cash overages may also be a sign of stealing, resulting when an employee stealing cash from the register “light rings” too much to cover for the amount taken. Also look for a high number of “no sale” or “void” transactions during anyone’s shift, as this is a potential red flag for theft activity. To learn about POS solutions for Corporate Dining visit us at or POS solutions for Hospital Food Services at .

The scenario that’s a lot more difficult to identify is when cashier are giving “freebies” to their friends, and not all sales or all items are being rung up at the cash register. Security surveillance helps to control this problem, and serves as a deterrent to theft when employees see surveillance in place. There are many ways to see what is transpiring on the floor, even when you can’t be out there. Be sure to review your sales reports for emerging patterns. Do the average sales of a particular cashier fall below the average sales of other cashiers during the same meal periods and the same days? Is there a higher amount of discounts given during the times a particular cashier is working? These indicate signs of possible employee theft. Find out more about POS solutions at

What can you do to prevent or reduce customer theft?

It’s a good idea to train you staff what to look for, and be alert to out of the ordinary customer behavior. Positioning the cash registers in such a way that it’s just not possible to exit the café without paying for food and beverage items is a huge deterrent. Many facilities have installed mirrors and surveillance cameras, and position the most tempting items in a place where taking them is more difficult.

Reduce Cash Management

The Cafes and coffee bars that offer cashless payment options such as employee payroll deductions and credit cards minimize the amount of cash that their staff handles, and as a result experience less cash overages and shortages. Payroll deductions and credit cards are simpler to manage from an accounting standpoint, and their use certainly reduces the amount of cash overages or shortages. To learn more about payroll deductions, visit

Have you had the unfortunate experience of theft in your foodservices operation? Share your story about how you discovered and dealt with this all-too-common problem.