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If you are wondering who can commit pilferage and theft in your restaurant, take a look at the list of who makes up your staff.

Food theft can and does occur at all levels throughout a restaurant unit.

Sounds harsh, but many employees commit these acts because they know they can, and they have familiarized themselves to any lax systems in your kitchen. But if you have a system in place that will trace these actions, it will limit the temptations to do so. 

While you can do focused monitoring of all your sales and inventory, limit access or locking alcohol, or install security cameras,  I feel that it is more important to identify the factors for motivation. Motivation, opportunity and rationalization are the primary forces that cause employees to steal. 

Often, it is the culture within the work environment that influences your employees on whether to respect the policies as well as the restaurant owner (you). Or disregard the rules and intentionally commit food theft.  

Which is why as an employer, you must take an honest look at the environment that you’ve created. Feel for the internal rhythm of your business because not only will you have a better chance of limiting BAD behaviours, you will also have the opportunity to foster great relationships with everyone. The result often is a sense of ownership within each employee as they take pride and accountability for their work because they feel valued.

Here are three tips to remove the risks of employee pilferage and food theft in your kitchens:

  1. Pay your employees on time. 

People work for income. 

While there are a few who are “just-looking” for experience, it is safe to say that all your employees are working for you for pay. They plan their expenses around your given payroll date – expenses that affect their quality of life such as food, bills or medical expenses. Therefore, please RESPECT your payroll date and make sure that they receive their salaries on time. 

In a perfect world, all employers will be able to offer the most excellent salary rates and benefits to deserving employees. Still, we all know that’s far from reality, especially in the restaurant industry. Just last year, restaurant owners here in Australia have requested for a minimum wage freeze

Therefore do your best to offer a respectable wage and that you compensate your employees timely. This will limit the temptation to steal from the workplace. You can also freely visit the Australia Fair Work Commission and read about wages issues so that you can create fair decisions in your own business. 

An employee who feels short-changed by an employer will be left to think that they have no other option but to steal.

 

2. Create and foster a working culture of openness, assistance and accountability.

It may sound demanding for you as the business owner to go deep into the human dynamics of your business on top of the current demands of the business operations but, that is a real necessity.

Unless your restaurant kitchen is entirely run by robotics, you will always be involved in a human element which can make or break your business. So stop looking at your employees as individuals who should be grateful because they are being paid to work.

You want, no, you need employees who are happy and loyal. 

Are they telling you things about the dynamics in the restaurant? Listen to them. Be the kind of employer that employees can approach for clarification and assistance. If a staff member appears particularly resentful towards you, sit down and have an open discussion. Air out issues using respectful communication and defuse any tension. Sometimes, employees are aware that you cannot quickly resolve some problems, but when they feel heard, and they feel your sincerity in fixing the problem, they can end up willing to work hand in hand to create a solution. 

If you can, provide them with resources to support their physical and emotional health. Within respectful boundaries, don’t be afraid to share your life story and struggles so that they can relate to you. Relatable employers have better chances of making employees more comfortable with them. Once you have gained genuine respect from your staff, it is easy to create openness with healthy boundaries. 

Offer help, then follow through. Empty words can easily make one lose trust. Disgruntled employees carry less guilt in committing thefts.

Encouraging accountability in your employees is easier when you already sought those traits when you first interviewed them for the job. Look for applicants who have shown accountability in their previous roles. These people already know the value of taking charge of their actions, making it easy for you to foster it, even using them as inspiration for others.

RELATED READ: Why Chefs Should Speak Up About Their Mental Health

 

3. Include free staff meals

If you can, provide free and filling staff meals. It demonstrates your care for your team. Some restaurants have employees gather at the end of the closing hour for a meal in the kitchen. This promotes bonding and creates opportunities to identify current concerns in the operations.

If your staff are unable to feed themselves or their families, there is a higher risk that they can steal food items or take items from your inventory. 

In Summary:

Your role as the restaurant owner encompasses so many responsibilities beyond simply making profits. Value your employees. Impulses to steal result from feelings of unfulfillment in work and financial desperation. When you are in touch with your staff, you are in a better position to help address their personal concerns that can greatly affect your own business. Most importantly, you are able to help a fellow human being. 

That’s it for this week.

As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,
Thomas 



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