How to prevent and handle employee theft in hospitality

by Jan 17, 2022Running a business

With 5,167 cases reported in England and Wales in 2020/21, employee theft is understandably a major concern for business owners.

It’s a difficult topic to talk about, but one that costs the hospitality industry serious money – and when you work with a lot of consumables as you do in a restaurant or bar, things can get even trickier to deal with.

While there’s no sure-fire way of preventing theft from ever occurring, building the right systems and controls into your business can reduce the risk.

Culture and communication

Addressing theft with your employees is uncomfortable at best. At worst, it can damage your relationship with them and make your staff feel you don’t trust them.

That’s why it’s important to define your anti-theft policy, and communicate it in a clear and professional way.

You should never assume your employees are stealing or frame this as an accusation – not just because it’s bad for morale, but because throwing around words like ‘theft’ without enough evidence could land you in a tricky legal situation.

In many cases, theft can be a result of poor communication of workplace expectations. It might be, for instance, that your bar staff see no problem with pouring a glass for their colleagues at the end of the day. Or in a restaurant, your employees might routinely offer a free dinner to their friends and family.

Being clear from the start about the kind of behaviour that’s acceptable will keep everyone on the same page.

Building in perks for your employees, such as discounts for family or free meals on regular occasions, should also help to nip any underhand activity in the bud.

Most people don’t want to steal from an employer they like and respect, which is why creating a positive working culture is so important.

Spot problems early

If theft is happening in your business, you want to spot it as early as possible.

You could do this through CCTV or by paying attention to your employees’ behaviour, but you should also make sure you’re keeping proper accounting and inventory records.

With everything on the books and visible, you’ll be able to see much faster when something isn’t right.

Online accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks is the most efficient way to keep accurate financial records, pulling through all your data in real time.

And because you can access this software via an app or web browser, it’s easy to check at any time – so you can always have an eye on the cash flowing in and out of your business.

What’s more, using this type of software makes it easy to integrate your systems.

Linking your EPOS with your inventory records and accounts should provide a connected stream of information, helping you to see the cash and stock moving around in your business as part of the same thing.

Even better is to encourage cashless payments as much as possible. The UK as a whole was already shifting towards cashless payments before the pandemic accelerated this trend – recent figures show the number of payments made using notes and coins fell by 35% in 2020, with 13.7 million consumers using cash only once a month or not at all.

Because cashless payments are instantly recorded at the point of payment, it’s much easier to get a clear picture of where and when money changed hands, and to make sure nothing goes missing.

We can help you set up a secure, integrated system for managing cash in your hospitality business.

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