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Jeremy has been working in the restaurant for a few months, usually after school and weekends. He's learned every station in the kitchen and even works as a cashier whenever needed. Several of his fellow employees are stealing both cash and product from the company on a regular basis. They cover the shortages by manipulating sales so that the register is never short. They borrow manager's keys to the back door and place cases of product by the dumpster where their friends pick it up.

Jeremy pretends that he doesn't notice and does not associate much with the other employees. Jeremy is uncomfortable about it and is now looking for another job. He's very apprehensive about telling one of the managers because he's not confident they will handle it well and may identify him as the one who told on them.

Sarah is 16 years old and has been working at the same restaurant for several months. It's her first job and she really liked it at first. She needs the job to help pay for her cell phone and other expenses. Every day at work becomes more frightening for her. The evening shift manager is a few years older than Sara and makes sexual remarks about her looks and body. Two days ago, the shift manager informed Sara that her performance review was coming up and made suggestive remarks on how she could get a great increase in pay.

Sara doesn't know what to do for fear that it if she told the manager about the situation, it would turn in to a "he said-she said." She is also afraid that the shift manager would retaliate and she would lose her job. It took her a very long time to get this one.

One of the managers of the same restaurant hired a lawn maintenance company to mow and take care of the landscaping on the property. The manager also made arrangements for the same lawn care company to do his home as well. The lawn care company was directed to consolidate both bills into one and send it to the restaurant. He then approved payment of the invoice.

The owner of this restaurant in all probability would want to know about these incidents. They are costing the business a great deal of profit through theft and unethical manipulation. The reputation of the business is also at risk due to the sexual harassment activity by a member of the management staff. Providing an avenue for these types of activity to be reported confidentially and anonymously makes good business sense.

Establishing this form of communication, commonly referred to as an "Employee Hotline" provides the forum that many types of issues can be reported, such as misconduct, discrimination, unethical behavior, safety concerns and theft. It also communicates to employees that their concerns are taken seriously and that the organization is committed to the security and safety of everyone. Many companies have experienced the benefit of the "Employee Hotline" by learning of security, safety, or criminal activity and reacting to them before being compromised and the organization faced exposure and liability.

A comprehensive restaurant loss prevention program includes an Employee Hotline. It encourages employees to report incidences when they observe unsafe conditions or inappropriate behavior. It helps promote a culture of ethical behavior and honesty. The key components of an effective Employee Hotline are:

  • Reports can be made anonymously, confidentially
  • Reports can be made on-line or via a toll free telephone line
  • 24/7 accessibility
  • Communications are handled by a professionally trained third party operator
  • Third party case management
  • Educational materials on how to use the Hotline

For the communication structure to be effective, all employees must receive training materials on how to use the program. The management staff must be trained on how to follow up appropriately on the reports. They must resist the temptation to figure out who reported the incident and attempt to get more information directly from an employee. This is "passing in the no passing zone."

The staff must allow for the reporting process to unfold and the third party administrator of the program to be the intermediary. Immature or impatient managers tend to want to speed up the process. Staying in the proper lanes will avoid head-on collisions of accusers and accused, perpetrators and whistleblowers, and of course any hint of retaliation.

The costs associated with implanting anonymous employee hotlines are minimal when compared to potential losses from abhorrent employee behavior and prolonged fraudulent activity. If interested in implementing an anonymous, confidential hotline, contact several companies that offer the service, obtain references, and then make a choice that fits your needs. Give Jeremy and Sara an opportunity to tell you what's going on – anonymously if they so choose.

For more information on security, safety, loss and crime prevention for restaurants, visit www.LossBusters.com. For daily tips on restaurant loss prevention, follow on Twitter @LossBusters.

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Latest posts by D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D. B. "Libby" Libhart
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.
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