Q. What are some of the biggest challenges operators are facing when it comes to restaurant safety and security?
A. It depends on the lens in which their business is impacted. If their business is closed or has reduced hours, the fundamental assumptions about security may have shifted. The owner may have historically had a location that had staff in 18 hours a day, whereas now it’s only 9 hours a day. While the majority of their challenges are business challenges, what’s important to remember from a safety & security standpoint is that this event too shall pass and when they open again they will want to be as functional as possible. Many restaurants don’t have alarm systems, or are de-activating them to realize savings when, given the reduced hours and operating schedule combined with what could be a million dollars of fit-out and equipment in a restaurant, it’s important that they keep these areas secure and monitored.
Now, if the location is open and primarily doing take-out or drive thru (or WHEN a location re-opens), their “safety” challenges are suddenly very different from a month ago. The biggest challenge is now cleanliness, hygiene, and safety, and after those loss prevention is emerging as a critical area. With respect to job #1, the consumer (and team members) are simply demanding a cleaner, more hygienic, and safer environment. This is actually a marketing opportunity for the restaurant brand, as those which master this will win support of customers and key staff in ways that their next door competitors do not. The family that wants take out, or the essential employee that wants coffee in the morning is simply going to choose the environment with a perceived safer hygiene. Regarding challenge #2 – loss prevention – there is a perfect storm here that our data shows has already led to a 2x increase in employee theft. This is a perfect storm – there is less management, less ownership presence, fewer employees, less customers inside, and more financial needy employees – especially in QSR/cash-centric businesses, we’ve seen incidents of these kinds of events go way up already. This is unfortunate, because as an operator you’re fighting to survive and shift models, yet people are taking more advantage of you.
Q. How are operators responding to those challenges?
A. Operators are using more remote tools to stay on top of the ever changing landscape. Video, remote monitoring and exception reporting are all more significant today than ever. Owners and managers need to ensure teams are operating smoothly, policies are followed and potential risk can still be identified and handled even when they cannot be at their locations. If you look at all the major brands, they’ve also come out with statements and policies around the hygiene aspect of COVID-19. The first step is policies, and they’re continuing to enhance those and revisit those on a weekly basis. These policies cover sanitization and cleanliness, employee behavior, and even when it comes to food packaging and preparation. There are countless examples:
- A popular pizza chain is describing how their Pizzas come out of the oven without human hands touching the food.
- Pretty much everyone is doing “contactless” delivery
- A popular table serve restaurant has moved all their portions and food to single-serve packaging only
- A popular QSR drive thu chain has implemented multiple times per hour sanitization/cleanliness including keypads/POS, etc.
What’s important here is that you think of “safety” from a hygiene standpoint and either implement larger brand standards, or develop your own, and then revisit them on a regular basis. I can’t stress this enough, the consumer simply demands it.
Q. How has (and how will) COVID19 shaped the landscape of restaurant security? What are some other technologies that have you excited about the current state of the industry?
A. We have had an enormous response from our customers to help with ensuring that employees are following strict CDC guidelines on proper cleaning and sanitation. And I think it’s still too early to make big bold predictions. I’m old enough to remember some of the predictions around 9/11 and the airline industry never being the same. What happened was the airline industry came back, thrived again, but there were aspects that were different. TSA was created, security at airports became tighter. I think that we’re social beings and I think that food and restaurants are a fundamental part of our human connection and culture and I see changes to their businesses, their hygiene, around the edges – much like TSA changed airport security – I don’t see restaurants with big bold dramatic changes. Let’s see.
Regarding technologies, we’re simply biased. Video is the only technology that can measure the kinds of things I’m talking about here around safety. If I operate 5 or 500 restaurants, how do I measure across my teams, which are wearing gloves, which are cleaning to the proper schedule, which are not cross-contaminating, which are wearing masks to compliance rules, etc. etc. etc. – video is simply the single BEST technology to do this. We do 28,000 video audits a month using both restaurant video analytics (to measure people, traffic patterns, etc.) and all these kinds of safety areas. Frankly, this is the technology, and having hygiene/COVID-19 audits that map restaurants to compliance, and present the consumer with a third-party auditor certification – have us very excited. As we recover, the brand damage to a restaurant or brand that gets this wrong is simply too great and video technology is perfectly positioned to solve it.
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see operators making these days when it comes to restaurant security?
A. Owners and operators are closing down locations and not keeping their video surveillance active, or not using it to it’s full advantage. Around traditional security right now, the biggest mistake is not considering and planning for the fundamental differences in your operating schedule and the environment around you. Police/traffic/external patterns may be very different. Property crime/vandalism is spiking in areas of the country. Your Employee’s wellfare and financial security may be very, very different.
These past two months we have seen a tremendous increase in employee theft among our customers. Not just cash but more importantly food . They are supplementing their income due to high food costs either by cash theft, employee discounts or outright stealing of beef etc from freezers. Now is the time to revisit all those security basics:
These all offer security check-points against vulnerabilities that operators need to consider
Q. How often do operators approach you after it’s too late? Can you think of a specific story that stuck with you, something that happened to a restaurant or operator that wouldn’t have happened had they beefed up security sooner?
A. It’s not that it’s “too late” – but we handle approximately 300 security requests from major restaurants per month. These are almost all responses to something bad that happened. One example of the tremendous increase in employee theft I mentioned in the previous question was an area of concern brought to us by an operator with 60 locations. After setting up proper alerts through exception based reporting for discounts and voids — he found voids being used every day on every shift by numerous employees. He stated based on this simple alert his annualized savings is over $1.5 million. And that’s with a new alert set just this year. Imagine what his savings could have been the year prior?
Q. What is the future of restaurant security in general?
A. We can talk about video surveillance because it’s near and dear to our heart. Our vision is for an interconnected restaurant– safes, cash management, and video should all be tied together in such a way that the data is easily able to be “seen” and tied back to video in ways that were not traditionally possible. When you then layer in an intelligent video system which does proactive things like measure cleanliness/hygiene – this is actually exciting.