Four Best Practices for Restaurant Security

A busy restaurant kitchen with a security camera overhead
A Restaurant Industry Security White Paper
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Restaurant owners and managers should consider a proactive approach to their security program.

As a restaurant owner or manager, protecting your employees and customers is undoubtedly one of the most important—yet challenging—security concerns. Drawing customers into your restaurants for increased business must be balanced with the concerns of crime, loss, liability, and food safety and security.

The Statistics

Over the years, the baseline for the level of security required for a restaurant has increased.

  • Robbery is always a problem in fast food restaurants because these businesses tend to handle large amounts of cash and typically open early and close late
  • The food and beverage industry accounted for nearly 44% of all investigations into data breaches in 2012
  • Most incidents likely concerned credit card theft, despite global PCI compliance standards
  • Three out of four employees steal from their employer and this theft accounts for $20 to $40 billion in losses annually

Ordering up a New Security Strategy

In years past, a restaurant owner might disregard the need for such systems as burglar alarms or video cameras, but today these are considered primary security tools in addressing issues from loss prevention and violence to premise liability and compliance. Having the appropriate level of security can help to address these traditional security issues as well as food safety and security, employee safety, slip and fall and workers compensation claims. Restaurants should have a minimum standard level of security at every facility, accompanied by an ongoing employee training program.

The security strategy for one leading restaurant chain was that their restaurants would be safe enough for family members to work in. With this vision in mind, you have an excellent reference point to plan your security program.

A Proactive Approach

Restaurant owners and managers should consider a proactive approach to their security program. From quick serve to fine dining, four key best practices can be taken to protect against losses and increase the safety of employees and customers in the restaurant environment:

  1. Complete a Risk Assessment
  2. Install or Upgrade Your Security Technology
  3. Regularly Train Employees on Your Security Program
  4. Evaluate and Monitor the Effectiveness of the Security Plan Assessment

1: Complete a Risk Assessment

A thorough risk assessment will help provide an objective review of your existing security plan, identify vulnerabilities and pinpoint opportunities for areas where you can efficiently reduce risk. The risk assessment should be completed by a knowledgeable and reputable provider for each and every location—whether you are considering site selection of any proposed restaurant location to be built or purchased, or to update security at existing locations. While discussing typical concerns such as restaurant entrances, food product storage areas and cash register stations, you should review areas that may need monitoring, such as vendor delivery areas, ventilation system access, food preparation areas and food storage temperatures.

Conducting your own crime survey and security risk analysis of surrounding businesses can help you determine the potential for the rate of crimes in your area, as well as what crimes are common. Utilizing services like CAP Index can help you examine the following:

  • Crime risk rate in the area
  • Review surrounding businesses with similar characteristics: operating hours, customer base, type of offerings (table service, QSR, fast, casual)
  • Determine nearby businesses, including those businesses with dissimilar characteristics, that might be more likely to attract a customer base that could potentially increase the crime rate

It is critical that you update the risk assessment for each location every two to three years to ensure that you are using recent, relevant information to form your security decisions.

2: Install or Upgrade Your Security Technology

Based on findings from your risk assessment, install or upgrade your security technology accordingly. The solution may include a combination of intrusion detection with monitoring, CCTV video surveillance, critical condition monitoring and temperature monitoring. Innovative solutions such as video verified alarms and video analytics can help increase the profitability of your restaurant by reducing losses from false alarms and sweethearting.

The integrated solution should allow you to have an audit trail of critical areas of your business and employees at all times.

Key components of your physical security program should include:

  • Intrusion detection system with holdup buttons, back door alarms and motion detectors to protect from burglary
  • Video surveillance system with DVR and cameras placed to monitor entrances, the drive-thru, parking lots, cash registers, customer service lines, food prep areas, and manager/cash office
  • Public view monitors to deter crime, since criminals are less likely to strike where it is clear they are under surveillance
  • Use of time lock safes, smart safes and armored car services
  • “View windows” for back doors
  • Appropriate security surveillance signage posted in plain sight at entrances and throughout property

Video surveillance with exception-based reporting can point to issues that result in significant savings to the bottom line.

3: Regularly Train Employees on Your Security Program

Training employees is a critical component of executing an effective restaurant security program. Employees must be trained regularly on cash handling polices, as well as how to handle security-related incidents, such as a robbery. Training sessions can be done through videos combined with simple tests.

Training—and re-training—employees on the proper use of security systems and processes is a critical component to a successful security program.

Installing cameras at various locations is a principal step to monitoring activities, but your employees should be aware that they are being monitored. Instructing employees that you will be observing for incidents such as theft of cash, food and beverages, as well as passing free food items to friends and family, will help deter these common forms of employee theft. A relevant training program, complete with documentation that the training was completed, can also help protect you in the event of a lawsuit.

Regularly training employees on the proper use of the security systems can ensure that your employees, customers and assets are protected and help avoid false alarms. As you implement your plan and integrate your security systems, engage your employees in the plan. Soliciting constructive feedback and support will communicate that your employees are a valuable asset.

As you implement your new technology, it is important to test and monitor the components regularly to ensure the systems are working as designed.

4: Evaluate and Monitor the Effectiveness of the Security Plan

As your security plan is implemented, it is critical to build in metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan. Conduct your evaluations regularly and consistently, analyzing events to check progress and identify any gaps. When actual security incidents occur, debrief and document the details for training purposes, and adapt your security plan if necessary.

Security planning is cyclical, so it is important to regularly revisit your plan starting with step one. As your restaurant or chain grows or changes, you will want to consider scheduling a product technology update with your security provider in order to ensure you are applying the most effective solutions available within your budget.

Applications Beyond Traditional Security

Theft prevention is a primary concern for restaurant managers, and recent innovations in video surveillance can provide a quick return on investment in this regard. By providing actionable data through recording incidents, restaurants can deter crimes such as employee theft, and undercharging. For instance, by integrating video recording with your POS exception software you can have actionable evidence to remove employees that commit fraud or steal. Acting on exception-based incidents and training employees about your integrated POS/video system is an effective deterrent to employee theft. These actions, coupled with video surveillance provides the potential to save 1% or more of sales, which can be a significant impact to the bottom line.

Physical security supplemented by remote and managed services can help mitigate risk and losses while helping to increase your productivity. Remote video services allow you to access cameras remotely to view live video of your operations when you are not on-site. Managed video services can provide video alarm verification to reduce false alarm and associated fines.

Develop a Business Partnership

The vision of managing a restaurant secure enough for family members to work in while providing significant savings to the bottom line can be an achievable goal for your company. Employing a proactive approach to a security program can turn the loss prevention department into a business partner. It is absolutely critical to be able to understand and interface with many different departments within your company, including Operations, Finance, Human Resources, IT and more. Communicating your vision and security plan components early will prove that you understand the business and support the overall company goals.


Establishing an effective, proactive restaurant security program can increase security and safety for your employees and customers, while contributing to the company’s overall profitability. By applying these steps in your approach, you can help to protect against losses and keep your customers and employees safe and secure.

†Trustwave 2012 Security Report.
‡U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2012.

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