Why do people steal and what can you do to prevent it?

The burglar does not always come in with a mask and crow bar. The burglar may be the person to whom you entrust responsibility and keeps you close. The burglar may be coming in the back door or front door. The burglar does not care. Decades in the industry has proven that when a business does not pay attention to removing opportunities for theft or fraud, someone will exploit that gap. It is as certain as night following day. Experiences of owners being robbed of cash, product and services by ‘friends’ shows the disregard that ‘burglars’ of every hue have for their victim.

Because restaurants, cafes and pubs deal in cash – the greatest temptation- and easily removed products, thieves will target the businesses where opportunities abound. When discussing the introduction of robust security systems across a business, many owners and managers are appalled that anyone might steal from them. ‘ But, surely we can trust our staff and customers?’ Of course you can trust your staff and customers, however it only takes one dishonest member of staff or customer to put you out of business.

When theft is first detected in a restaurant, cafe, bar, food truck, every single member of staff falls under suspicion. It completely changes the working atmosphere for the time it takes to identify the culprit. It can very quickly become a toxic and stressful environment which can be difficult to retrieve.

 The emotional fall out of a trusted member of staff defrauding, wilfully stealing or knowingly and continuously removing your property is in many cases more traumatising than the crime itself.

The three elements that need to come together for your business to be hit by theft or fraud are

Opportunity – the chance to steal something with or without too much effort or planning. ‘it was just so easy’.

Motivation -a reason; which can be anything from real need to ‘ you have it and I want it’.

Rationalisation – the would be thief believes that they can morally justify what they are doing. ‘sure aren’t they making a fortune’.

Of these three, you only have control over one – Opportunity. As Oscar Wilde famously said The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation’. It is our job to remove that.

A service business is like a giant sieve,

The many opportunities for theft and fraud in a business.

 How can you prevent stealing? Remember that the systems you will put in place are to protect honest people.


  • C.S.I. Culinary Scene Investigation: Analyse your business section by section and identify the opportunities for theft or fraud.
  • Back door – or where ever deliveries are received. This is the first place that your business will lose money and you can never retrieve it. If product that you will be paying for never gets into your business in the first instance, you cannot sell that product at a profit. If the product is being sold by someone else from your back door at a profit and you are also paying that person to work for you; that is quite the betrayal. If the product you have ordered and paid for is short a half kilo here, a kilo there, it won’t take long for that to affect your bottom line. Make no mistake about it, if your back door security systems are not iron clad, you will be robbed.
  • Cash Control – more and more businesses are recognising the temptation of cash and there are many robust control systems around same. Treat cash like live ammunition. In the wrong hands it can cause quite an explosion.
  • Do not under any circumstances allow one person complete control of the cash/takings from register to bank.
  • Product Control- strong control systems around Ordering, Receiving, Storing, Prepping and Serving are essential. It is not enough to hope that none of it is going astray at any point.
  • Accounting: set up robust, regular – monthly minimum, weekly preferably management accounts. Unless you are fully in tune with financial affairs very regularly, none of the above will be picked up