Keep your employees safe and protect your assets with a proactive approach to security

Protecting your business against a variety of possible dangers should always be a top priority for pizzeria owners. As recurring headlines about delivery driver murders, pizzeria robberies and similar crimes amply demonstrate, there are many reasons to properly equip your building and your employees to handle any threatening scenario, but too often operators wait for something to go wrong and then install the proper equipment and procedures—when it’s too late. By being proactive about your business’ security, you can ensure a greater level of safety at your pizzeria and deter fraud, employee theft and, most importantly, potentially violent crime.

A Culture of Safety

Before you buy high-tech alarm systems and surveillance cameras, ensure that your company makes safety a priority through training, education and constant vigilance. “Security measures like cameras and alarm systems are excellent tools, but they’re not that helpful unless there’s an underlying culture of safety and security,” notes Mike Brumagin, CEO of Flippin’ Pizza (flippinpizza.com), with 15 locations in California and the Washington D.C. area. “As with all things regarding culture in the workplace, it starts with leadership at the top and down through the leadership chain. If they take safety and security seriously, then layering on these tools makes sense.”

Proper employee training can prove even more important than the right equipment. “Cameras record crimes; they don’t prevent them. So just because you have cameras doesn’t mean you’re safe,” says Jeff McKissack, president of Defense by Design in Dallas. “The best key to a locked door is a good story—so many operators tell me of people coming to the door late at night saying someone has been injured or needs to use the bathroom, and employees unlock the doors for them.” So, first, staff members need to be trained about potential ruses that criminals may use; if they aren’t, it’s easy for a criminal to circumvent security.

“We average 30-something cameras per store to get good visibility in all areas, and it’s synced with our POS to examine potential employee theft.”
—Catherine Olivieri, CEC Entertainment

McKissack also suggests that operators instruct employees to keep a simple rule in mind: Don’t take what customers say personally. Violence often breaks out when verbal confrontation between a customer and employee escalates. Teach your employees to resolve these conflicts before things get out of control, and everyone benefits. Additionally, all employees should leave together at the end of the night (each time one person leaves, someone else can enter), and management should be informed the following day of any threats received or restraining orders filed. Meanwhile, McKissack adds, operators should assume that any fired employees may come back for revenge, so they should let all shifts know about terminations; retaliation usually occurs 48 to 72 hours after the incident.

Security has become a major issue for the Chuck E. Cheese’s (chuckecheese.com) brand, which has made headlines in recent months for outbreaks of violence among bickering customers. The company spends more than 8,000 hours annually training store employees to recognize signs of potentially escalating and unsafe situations. All locations undergo education on proper capacity management, robbery, crisis response plans, and cash management safety procedures. “Safety awareness training is really important,” notes Catherine Olivieri, senior vice president of human resources and risk management for Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment, owner of Chuck E. Cheese’s. “You must train employees on what to look for and report anything that raises a red flag to a manager. You want to be aware who’s inside and outside the building and ensure that employees don’t open the back door after dark or do anything that would set themselves up to be robbed. It’s not about money—it’s about protecting employees.”

Security Measures

Many businesses use video surveillance for a variety of reasons, and safety is only one part of the equation. “Cameras are not only for securing the property itself; they’re also helpful in slip-and-fall situations and food handling disputes,” says Robert Kramer, senior system engineer, security group, at Panasonic System Communication Company in Newark, New Jersey. “In case of litigation, you can review what actually happened. It’s also common to tie in surveillance with POS data and play back transactions—so if you notice a lot of voids on a particular day, the manager can check why. Surveillance is also useful to reduce shrinkage and liability for an owner.”

At Chuck E. Cheese’s, a family-friendly environment translates into rigorous safety measures to protect both guests and employees. “Our video surveillance system deters criminals because we have signage on the door that says security is in place,” Olivieri explains. “It also monitors against fraudulent claims, helps address poor employee practices and helps with police investigations. We average 30-something cameras per store to get good visibility in all areas, and it’s synced with our POS to examine potential employee theft.”

Because Chuck E. Cheese’s has so many locations, it also works with a security company that predicts how safe an area is based on criminal activity, which helps determine what safety measures to put in place (such as fencing around the property or on-site security guards). Meanwhile, their Kid Check program ensures families that come together leave together.

To create efficient security, use the surveillance systems according to instructions, and make sure they work properly at all times, Brumagin says. You’ll also want to ensure the cameras are visible and that customers and employees know about the security system. He recommends using camera technologies that have a secure recording system that captures and stores enough historical data to be useful (in many cases, claims come days or even weeks after an incident). Finally, you should let employees know now and then that someone in management is actually watching (for example, call into the restaurant and point out something so they’ll know—and tell each other—they’re being monitored). “Use this for good,” Brumagin advises. “Call a store and compliment an employee because you were watching through the camera and saw what a great job he did cleaning the dining room or opening the door for a customer.”

“For employee safety and liability management, it’s a good idea to have cameras to ensure that doors are locked or that no one is lurking around the corner when an employee leaves at night.”
—Brad Morehead, LiveWatch Security

Securing the System

To find the right security system for your operation, Kramer recommends looking for cameras with a small profile so as to not detract from your decor. Cameras with a wide dynamic range, he says, will be better equipped to record images in different lighting situations (for example, when bright sunlight is coming in through the window). He recommends placing cameras at front and back doors (or any other entrance points), at the cash register, near the freezer area or in the freezer (a common point of product loss), prep areas (to guard against improper food handling or contamination), in the manager’s office or near a safe, and anywhere else where important personal or financial information is stored. Finally, for dine-in operations, a camera with a wide field of view can be used to cover the restaurant floor.

With today’s technology, operators can monitor what’s happening in the store remotely and be alerted if something is amiss. “For employee safety and liability management, it’s a good idea to have cameras to ensure that doors are locked or that no one is lurking around the corner when an employee leaves at night,” says Brad Morehead, CEO of LiveWatch Security in Chicago. “Business owners can now set up alerts to know when openers arrive or closers close, and there are codes that can track which employees are coming and going.”

Additionally, security information can now be stored digitally “in the cloud,” and operators can set up rules so they’re contacted through text or email at certain times, such as if a door is open when it’s supposed to be closed. This “rules-based” approach can cut down on false alarms, while the company you work with can also monitor footage to know if something is amiss and contact police if you’re away from the store.

Morehead advocates making cameras clearly visible so that employees are aware they’re held accountable, although certain places—such as where there’s an expectation of privacy (i.e., bathrooms and perhaps even break rooms)—may be off limits. Operators should research local regulations for possible restrictions on camera placement. Cameras should be infrared to see through windows in the dark, Morehead notes. And, finally, he recommends asking any potential security system company whether you’ll be leasing or buying the equipment (he promotes buying), and look for short-term contracts. “You can go month-to-month or by the year; there’s no need to sign a five-year agreement anymore,” he says.

Additional Considerations

Delivery is a common concern for pizzerias, and drivers are often at risk for robbery and other crimes, so make sure you have proper procedures in place to protect your business and employees. McKissack recommends the following: Create a hold-harmless addendum for drivers in case they need to use self-defense so your business isn’t held responsible; don’t give a driver anything for self-defense (including weapons or pepper spray); offer training so drivers remain alert on the street and are familiar with common lures from criminals; document your procedures; and follow up on training to keep up with staff turnover.

Discuss in the Think Tank:Can your drivers carry [guns] on the job?

And don’t overlook cash management, advises Brumagin. “Consider time lock safes, very strict, well-enforced cash management policies and regular deposits with security measures in place (such as varying times or the route taken),” he recommends. “Many robberies have an internal component to them, and when word spreads about the tight cash management policies in place, the lock-down on the safe, etc., it deters theft.”

Chuck E. Cheese’s locations utilize drop safes for employee protection, since research on robberies has proven that criminals tend to target businesses that have easy access to cash. Some locations have a small safe for petty cash and a larger safe in which money is placed as a manager closes a shift. “The manager inputs information in the safe log and drops the money,” Olivieri says. “The safe has a dual key system, with the second key for armored access only. Signs on the front door, safes and manager’s office make it clear that employees don’t have access to this money.”

Finally, lighting in parking lots should be “bright enough to read a newspaper,” Olivieri says. Visibility is also important inside and around the store. “If you have signs covering the windows on the front of the store, people can’t see what’s happening inside. If you have high hedges or bushes, criminals can hide behind them,” she notes. “Robbers pick places based on visibility and ease of access, so even things like lighting and landscaping play a part in safety.”

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.