Approximately 3:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, a robber described as 6' 5", 245 lbs., entered a quick-service restaurant, forced the manager at gunpoint to open the safe. He then forced her and co-workers into the store's freezer before exiting the building. One of the crew members called 911 on her cell phone from inside the freezer. Police stated that the robber got away with about $1,000 in cash.
At first glance, it seems like a typical news story about a QSR robbery. In that brief account, the facts are indicative of poor training and lack of knowledge in preparing the employees for the life altering encounter with an armed robber. The news account does little justice to the restaurant and neighborhood in the method of reporting the incident. There are a few critical mistakes on the part of the restaurant employees and the media, perhaps from ignorance in robbery prevention procedures. There are several components that a comprehensive loss prevention program addresses that promote a safer and more secure late night environment.
Dining room open at 3:30 a.m.: The article does not state whether the dining room at this particular restaurant was open to the public at 3:30 a.m. Typical 24-hour restaurant operations operate through the drive-thru only while the dining room is locked. If that is the case with this particular location, then an internal investigation should ascertain how the robber gained access to the building, and what internal policies were violated. There is, however, an industry movement to open the dining rooms to the public during the late night hours. If that is the case here, then employees must be trained in robbery prevention. Their life may depend on it.
Manager forced to open the safe at gunpoint: Restaurants handle cash, an attractive target to armed robbers. The article doesn't mention the number of employees that were in the building, but it is a fair assumption that they were held at gunpoint as well. All employees, particularly those working the late night shift should receive robbery prevention training. That training would include tips in handling and securing cash. Most importantly that training should include what to do before, during and after a robbery. If not properly trained, employees may be tempted to run, fight, or produce their own weapon. Any of those actions could result in tragic consequences.
Robber got away with about $1,000 in cash: Robbery prevention training on what to do AFTER a robbery includes not revealing the amount or cash stolen during the crisis. It is not germane to know the exact dollar amount stolen. The police will be satisfied that you need to take a proper accounting of the daily deposits and the exact dollar amount stolen will be furnished later in the day. The amount will not show up on the original police report that is available to the media. The exact amount can be given to the detective that will be following up on the crime. Publishing the amount in the media may tempt other potential robberies at similar or surrounding businesses.
Employee called 911 from inside the freezer: A sound loss prevention program includes devices attached to the freezer locks that are easily released from the inside. Freezers and walk-in coolers should be equipped with panic alarms in the event anyone gets locked inside. All employees should be trained on the locking mechanisms and alarms. Perhaps in this case the employee(s) did not want to risk their safety by exiting the freezer with the robber potentially still in the building. By luck the employee had a cell phone that wasn't taken away during the robbery.
Limited visibility to see inside: From the picture with the article taken of the restaurant from outside, the visibility to the inside of the restaurant seems to be limited by images on the windows. Very often windows are covered with advertizing or window clings. Limited visibility from the outside provides cover for a robbery in progress.
Security related equipment: The article did not mention if the restaurant was equipped with security related equipment. A security camera system with a public view monitor has proven to be an effective deterrent to robbery. Door stickers announcing the use of time delay/lock safes are also effective in deterring robbers. Robbers pick the path of least resistance, particularly those that can identify them or slow them down.
All of this arising from a brief news account of a late night fast food robbery. So many late night robberies of restaurants can be avoided with the proper training and equipment at minimal cost. Perhaps under the circumstances the robber would have committed this act no matter what preventive measures were in place. It just shouldn't be so easy.
Consider implementing a comprehensive robbery prevention program. Contact your local crime prevention officer at the police department or enlist the services of a restaurant loss prevention professional. It's a small investment to keep your environment safer and more secure for your customers and employees.
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
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.