For small business profitability, it’s the little things that make a difference, and keeping tabs on employees can help prevent shrinkage. According to Subway franchise owner Kim Jordan, protecting her assets means that every bag of chips and loaf of bread must be accounted for. “The only way we can make money as a franchise is by keeping our labor expenses down…and by keeping our food costs down,” says Jordan, who owns six of the sandwich franchise stores in Alabama.
Because employees often work solo shifts in the store, Jordan has experienced food theft, which drives up business costs.
“The greatest loss to my business is employee theft, whether it may be someone walking out the door with a case full of steak, stealing products, or giving away products,” she explains.
While Jordan knew that video surveillance would help, the infrastructure for individual security systems at each store would have been burdensome from a financial and management perspective, she says. That’s when she turned to Hokes Bluff, Alabama-based security integrator Lee Investment Consultants, LLC, to determine the best solution for preventing the theft and robbery plaguing the restaurant.
After evaluating a number of manufacturers, the decision was made to choose two camera models and a video management system from Hanwha Techwin America. With this system, the end user can view live video remotely or from individual store locations, and easily review recorded footage.
The install at the first store location was completed in May 2015, and over the next year and a half the other stores were outfitted. The last installation, at the store located inside a Walmart, was completed in November 2016.
To keep infrastructure costs down, the integrator provides long-term video storage at its hosting facility. It keeps footage for 30 days for the Subway stores before overwriting it.
Given the limited bandwidth Subway restaurants use mainly for their point of sale (POS) systems, local SD recording has been a major benefit of the system. For redundancy purposes, recording is performed right on the device using an SD card, and the video is uploaded overnight to the storage servers.
Most store locations have two cameras–one pointed at the sandwich line and register, and another pointed at the back portion of the store where the coolers are. One of the larger stores has three cameras, and the Walmart location only has one camera at the entrance.
“We’ve had problems where employees are voiding out transactions at the register,” Jordan says. “Once employees get clever with the computer system, they might void out an order they just transacted…and stuff that money in their pocket.”
Now the problem with employee theft at the register has gone down, Jordan says, because they can view the cameras which are pointed at the POS terminals. “We can go back and view the video at the time that void was made, so we can see if the transaction is legitimate or not.”
Many of her individual store managers have access to the camera feeds, and Jordan entrusts them with reporting any cases of theft or unwanted employee behavior.
For example, one of her managers performed an inventory check and realized several bags of sandwich sauce were missing. Suspecting one employee in particular as the culprit, that manager decided to watch a live video feed the next time that employee was working.
“She just sat there...and actually watched the employee sneaking out the front door with the sauces,” Jordan says. The employee was immediately fired. “If someone’s going to steal a bag of sweet onion teriyaki sauce, they’re not trustworthy.”
The cameras have also led to the arrest of employees in more serious incidents. “A few months ago a customer had come in and had left her wallet behind, so my manager put it in a filing cabinet and told an employee that was coming in it was there,” she explains. “And when the lady came to pick up her wallet, she had a credit card and cash that was missing.”
Video revealed that the employee who knew where the wallet was had stolen a credit card, and used it to buy a bag of chips in the store. The security integrator helped Jordan upload the footage onto a thumb drive to take to the police. “We got a warrant, and they arrested her for using that credit card,” Jordan tells Security Management. “We could not have proved it if it weren’t for the cameras.”
Even more recently, Jordan noticed about $5,000 was missing from the franchises’ bank deposits that a manager was supposed to be putting in the bank. “Our cameras provided the evidence that she did get the deposits out of the safe and walked out of the store with them,” Jordan says. The manager was arrested and charged with felony embezzlement.
“I never give someone a second chance to steal,” Jordan says. “To me if they steal a bag of chips or give a sandwich to a friend, then they’ll take home five sandwiches for themselves when they get the chance.”
The return on investment from a business perspective has also been huge, Jordan notes. “At one location, our food cost for months had been above 40 percent,” she notes. “After we got those cameras, within a week our food cost came down within the margin we needed.”
The cameras have also led to a greater sense of security among her workers. “I have had employees say they feel safer because of the cameras,” she notes. “Especially with some younger employees, 16 or 17 years old, it’s been a comfort to their parents having the cameras when their child is closing alone.”
For more information: Tom Cook, [email protected], www.hanwhasecurity.com, 201.325.2623