Theft – hospitality’s big taboo subject explored

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Theft is one of the hospitality sector’s most taboo subjects. Yes, we grudgingly admit it might take place in other businesses but not ours. Because employee trust is one the fundamental cornerstones of our industry. No one likes to think their friends and colleagues would stray or that stark newspaper headlines shaming thieves would apply to people they know.

Like the former financial controller at the Cowshed restaurant in Bristol who was jailed for 20 months for stealing at least £170,000 from the business. Turnover was rising from under £1m to £3m in four years but profits were not. Like the Yummy Pub Co, which runs four pubs but had to slow down expansion plans after it was discovered that a dishonest manager had stolen an estimated £69,000. Or the 21 year old Lancashire barmaid who, according to the Mail Online, helped herself to £3,000 from the till and spent it on paying off credit cards, cannabis and buying gifts for her relatives.


All three examples highlight the problem the industry and you as an operator face. And it’s a tough one. There are no definitive theft templates or blueprints that are easy to spot. Each situation is different because there are literally hundreds of ways for people to be dishonest. It is practically impossible to know them all.

What’s more, we live in a real world where the reality is that most business owners and managers think staff are honest and if you cannot trust them then it makes running a business unpleasant. So what do you do?

The most important thing is not to lose faith in your staff. Trust and believe in them but at the same time have the technology and procedures in place to reduce risk and temptation to a minimum.

At GS, we always advise hospitality owners like yourself to combine EPOS-based technology, watertight operational procedures and segregated responsibility. The latter ensures that no one person takes the money, banks the money and then reconciles it afterwards. A recipe for temptation can easily be eliminated by having at least two people looking at the day to day cash management.


By combining all three, you ensure you have instant access to the information and knowledge you need to know how your business is performing. This ability to see the whole of the business picture, and not just the individual pieces of the jigsaw, makes all the difference. With the right technology tools at your disposal and the processes in place to complement them, you can track all your transactions and easily spot trends by benchmarking and comparing data.


By using key performance indicator statistics generated by your technology you will be able to highlight unlikely trends at individuals sites. For example, maybe there are too many voids, complimentaries or refunds as a % of sales compared to other locations.

Once spotted you can question and interrogate your data with the technology tools at your disposal and investigate the transaction route. Something that is next to impossible with an Excel spreadsheet. We’ve recently made this task of tracking unusual or exceptional activity even easier with the launch of MAX Sentinel. This is an intelligent alerts system that red lights the breaching of pre-determined benchmark criteria. They are instant too as alerts can be emailed to head office or viewed on on-line dashboards the second they are spotted.


We’ve developed MAX Sentinel because we want to encourage the hospitality industry to be more pro-active about protecting its cash and precious resources. This means not only tackling theft but also poor business practices that undermine margins and profits (theft and losses are only two of the many challenges that technology can help you confront and win the battle to successfully grow your business).

Perks of the job (free coffees, food, taking the odd bottle of wine home after a shift) are just as damaging as a barmaid pinching £3,000 or a financial controller falsifying VAT returns.

Is that a big deal? It is when you want to open more sites and find you cannot because a trusted manager has walked off with £70,000 of your hard earned cash. We’re all about growing businesses and to achieve that goal we collectively need to knock theft and temptation on the head.


GS business development manager MIKE CHUNG was an O2 learning and development manager responsible for the coaching and the performance management of other trainers before becoming a manager at the Oddest Bar in Chorlton, one of three pubs run by Odd Bars Ltd in Manchester. Here he tackles one of the hospitality industry ‘taboo’ subjects, revealing why EPOS-led technology, segregated responsibility and procedures can combine to ensure business owners and managers like you can protect your enterprises from theft.

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