Can incentives deter employee theft?

There is no way to prevent every possible scenario of theft in your restaurant. However, you can put programs in place to discourage your employees from stealing from you.

A good place to start would be to simply educate your staff. This education should begin with your policies and procedures related to theft, what controls you have in place to prevent it, and what the consequences are. Providing guidelines and expectations makes your team more aware as they go about their daily tasks. Employees should be trained and updated annually on these policies, and sign an acknowledgement each time that they have received the information and will comply with it.

As part of that process, you can make them aware of the impact that theft can have on the bottom line and what the ultimate consequences for everyone will be. Educate your employees on how theft can affect your company in either increased costs or lost revenues. They may know that, but they might not understand the overall impact on the business. It is your responsibility to make them aware how quickly this number can multiply based on the number of team members who might be engaging in this type of activity and /or the types of theft.

To discourage or practice prevention of employee theft, consider giving them incentives. It’s important that the incentives are relevant to your crew, which is another reason to have the discussion with them. A program won’t work if the result is an envelope with something in it that no one wants. Some examples might be:

  • • Set a target time frame that you are trying to achieve zero tolerance. Remember that the general rule is the shorter the better. It will not be helpful to set a six-month target. If, within that time frame nothing has been discovered (surveillance, register monitoring, employee monitoring) then give all crew members a small incentive.
  • • Reward employees that speak up and turn others in. Anonymous tip lines are great, but employees will be motivated to speak-up if there is something in it for them.

The incentives don’t have to be monetary. Here are some ideas:

  • • Choice of shift
  • • Choice of station (drive-thru/register/prep)
  • • Choice of location (if multi-unit)
  • • Gift card
  • • One hour of pay
  • • Other as customized to your team!

It is management’s responsibility to communicate this to the team and support it. IT might take a bit of administrative work or even a small investment in technology to assist in the monitoring, but the time invested will have big returns for you.