Im a new owner in Las Vegas have a take out and delivery Pizza shop, Ive been in business just 3 weeks. This I can tell you, something is majorly wrong with my nightly deposits by my employees. I have a regular day job and I only show up at the pizza place for a few hours during the week and on Friday and Saturday nights. How can I tell if my employees are stealing, I know about counting boxes. Is there another set up I can try to catch them? Thanks for any suggestions. One more thing, everyone I talk to said I should fire the entire work force and bring in my own people, Im green so me teaching new employees is out. Help!

Ouch! You are in a tough situation! I think the first thing I would do is get a very good security camera system that is viewable over the internet. This way you can check in from home or work, and your staff knows it. You also really need to get inventory control policies in place so you can quantify what is going on. Do you have a POS system, or are you on a simple register system? POS would help out tons if you don’t already have it. Another huge thing you have to do is commit to learn the business. Until you can do it yourself you will be stuck with what you have so try and spend more time there and learn every single part of the operation. Let your employees know that you will fire on the spot for theft, and start weeding them out one by one. Good luck!

If I don’t record an order, I get to keep the money generated from the order. Chances are that your whole staff isn’t stealing from you. You need to implement some sort of positive cash control.

  1. Order must get input into a system of some sort (consecutive numbered tickets, computer system, whatever).


  3. Any void has to be kept. You’ve then got a record of all voids.

Even with a good computer system, if a person has the right passwords, the completed order can then be deleted.

A very crude method is to have the dough maker record how many dough balls he makes each day. The closer does inventory before he leaves and the opener takes opening inventory. These numbers must match. Add the amount made that day, subtract the pizzas sold, and voila, you have a crude accounting system. Yeah, the closer could make a batch of dough, but 12 hour old dough looks different than 24 hour old dough.

take inventory after the store closes one night (boxes, doughballs). Then come back the next night and count inventory again, seeing what product was used… you can probably nail down the exact number of pies by the amount of boxes used and doughballs used. Go with your gut instinct, if u think they’re stealing from you, they probably are. I finally broke down and bought a POS system, and then got a camera system integrated with it. Best money i ever spent. The first night i caught my bread delivery guy stealing soda and taking some supplies. if you have a camera system put in… they’ll think twice about stealing. another thing would be have someone sit outside your store in their car and count the amount of customers going in & out of your store and how many boxes they leave with, etc… write down time of sale… then check the register tape later on…

the most sophisticated (and expensive!) pos system will not prevent an employee intent on stealing from, well, stealing - you would have just as much luck using a cigar box.

the following is essential imo:

  1. upon hiring a new employee you must explain that theft will not be tolerated - many owners/managers make the mistake of assuming that employees are already well aware of this and therefore don’t feel the need to mention it. but mention it. as a matter of fact also explain to each new employee that when it comes to theft of any kind that it is your policy to prosecute without exception and to do everything in your power to ensure that they are punished to the full extent of the law.

  2. assuming you are a small operation consider creating an atmosphere which alleviates some of the urge/need to pilfer - i offer pay advances whenever needed and i also allow repayment in installments. while this may sound risky, i have never been burned in 11 years of doing this and, needless to say, it is very much appreciated by my staff. just knowing that they will always have access to emergency cash for a special occasions, a special gift or an emergency goes a long way. always try to remember (imo) that you are not a huge corporation bound by strict accounting policies & procedures which would not allow such advances - be flexible.

  3. install security cameras - no ifs, ands or butts. you can pick up some inexpensive ones that are very easy to use, very easy to install, wireless and that feed into your computer. cameras don’t have to be a huge investment or a huge process. once installed, make sure you show your employees their capabilities so they know that they are “live” and will pick up everything - you can also explain that the cameras are there for everyone’s protection, which is true.

  4. nothing (cameras, policies & procedures, controls, pos systems, etc.), and i mean nothing, will better protect assets than an owner that is perpetually visible and involved in the operation.

I remember some things I read many, many years ago about theft.

  1. there is no such thing as elimination of theft; only acceptable levels.
  2. Theft never remains constant; it always increases until the thieves are terminated and/or the proper controls are in place.
  3. 25% of your employees are honest because they are operating by their own internal standards of morality.
    50% of your employees will be honest if you have systems that keep them that way and a philosophy of business that is fair, reasonable and just.
    25% of your employees are dishonest and no matter what you do they will be dishonest and they will get to you for something.

Initially I thought these numbers were harsh but after many years and many restaurants I find they are closer to the reality. It almost seems that today conditions might be worse. A little bit of theft and a little bit of lying are elements that just do not seem to have much of stigma any longer. Too many think that stealing is o.k. as long as they don’t get caught. Read the newspapers, listen to the news. How many culprits, when caught, immediately go into the victim mode. Lousy childhood, poor neighborhood, depressed, just divorced, you name it. All reasons they feel, to cheat, lie and steal without consequences.

I believe that one poster said it best. There is no substitute for the owner or that singular person in charge being on premises. Your values become the basis for the operating culture of the business. You impart them by performance, verbally, and by the written word. If the culture is strong enough then it will embrace or reject new employees. Is your culture one of honor, integrity, and fair treatment of employees without favoritism? If so, then it will be difficult for a new employee without some semblance of these traits to exist in this culture. Does your culture accept taking advantage of people (including customers), or not being honest in its relationships? If so, this is fertile territory for employee thieves and others who will do nothing but help to bring a business to its knees.

I would like to see if anybody has any comments about this scenario.
A family (two children) walks into your restaurant. They order food and two soft drinks. (I have observed some order just one soft drink). The family sits down and waits for their food. They then begin to make several trips to the self service soda station with the whole family sharing the one container or maybe two.

Thanks so much for your post. PMQ is currently working on a story about employee theft and we’d love your imput, especially from the perspective of a new operator. Keep us posted on your progress. We’d also encourage others to share their insights into employee theft, an unfortunate topic, but one that isn’t going away.