A friend of mine is a district manager for a fast casual restaurant franchisee who was recently sharing the details of a late night robbery at one of his restaurants. As the closing crew was exiting the restaurant, the shift manager told the crew to go on ahead; he had to re-enter the restaurant to retrieve something from the office. As the manager exited the restaurant alone and approached his vehicle, he was confronted by two masked and gloved gunmen that had been hiding inside. They demanded re-entry into the restaurant where they forced him to open the safe. After bagging all the cash, the two gunmen fled the scene.
I have investigated hundreds of robberies and several homicides at restaurants. As he related the story, I became more and more suspicious. Perhaps instinct, experience, or a hunch, made me ask, “Do you think this may a bit suspicious and linked internally somehow?” He replied that the same scenario occurred the previous evening at a rival business across the street. He happened to see the video from that robbery and when compared to the video in this incident, the robbers appeared to be the same. He said there was no way his robbery was “an inside job,” since he knew his management and staff so well.
I had serious doubts due to the familiarity the robbers had with the business. I asked myself, “How did they know which car was the managers when he didn’t close every night? Why would they take the time to break into it and hide? How would they know the manager would be alone? The answers to these questions suggested a legitimate conclusion – internal. I wasn’t actively working the case and my friend was adamant that the robbery was random. I wished him well in his investigation with the local police.
The following day my friend called and asked, “How did you know?” The police investigation revealed that the one of the suspects was recognized by a crew member during the first robbery at the business across the street as a former employee. The person identified was also a former employee of this restaurant – hmmm … coincidence? No! The former employee and his accomplice were charged with both robberies.
So, how did I know? It’s the sense that is developed in investigating many robberies and understanding their behavior. Robbers are not unique, particularly ones that rob their current or past employers. They make the same mistakes with familiarity and it shows. It shows in what they do, what they say and how they go about perpetrating the robbery. After awhile, an experienced loss prevention professional knows that if looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … it usually isn’t anything else. It generally comes down to which duck.
My friend learned a valuable lesson from all of this -- one he won’t soon forget. It’s painful to watch him go through the emotions and experience of realizing someone he hired – and trusted, could do this. I let him know that it will make him an even better manager. He certainly won’t be as naïve. He will make better decisions and consider more options and possibilities, as hard as they may be. He has already vowed to review hiring practices and has plans to implement robbery prevention training for all his locations. He is a better leader already.
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.