They watched from the shadows as the employee propped open the back door to take his nightly run to the trash corral. He did not deviate from the routine the last two nights. It was 1:35 AM, right on schedule. As the young man returned with his empty cart, they pulled the ski masks down over their chin and jumped out with guns drawn. They pushed the employee into the restaurant. Upon entering the office area, the two robbers sprung into frenzied action. One robber grabbed the manager, pointed his gun at her, and screamed for her to open the safe, while the other forced the other closing employees to lie down on the cold tile floor of the kitchen. The employees’ lives are changed forever as they experience the terror of peering at the edge of life – and death.
Unfortunately, this scene plays out somewhere each night in the world of fast food. A world serving the public, late at night with predators lurking, waiting and plotting to take advantage of every opportunity to forcibly rob others hard earned cash. Crime prevention solutions cost virtually nothing other than implementing changes in policy, routines and discipline.
Opening of the back door exposes the business to cash and product losses and the employees to serious crime, including homicide. Opening it at night greatly increases the chances of bad things happening. Yet it is one of the most serious breaches and most often violated of all security policies. It is a virtual weak link that can be turned into one of the strongest bonds in creating a safer and more secure environment for customers and employees when executed properly.
This particular scene is avoidable with simple policy and procedures on limiting these dangerous exposures to crime and theft. Most importantly, the procedures must be engrained in the training and routines of employees in the restaurant and violations met with appropriate discipline. Not only is control of the door essential in keeping employees safe and secure, but is a major component in preventing theft and inadvertent losses.
Effective policies regarding the back door include prohibited opening times such as night time and possibly peak rush times when every employee should be focused on serving the customer. Sound loss control programs insure the door is locked at all times and monitored by a member of management whenever it is opened. The keys to the door lock and alarm do not leave the possession of the management team or be readily available to non-management personnel. Trash runs made after dark should be made through the lobby doors while the restaurant is open for business and never made after the doors are locked at closing.
When opened, the door should not be propped open. During a trash run, all the trash is placed outside the door, then closed and locked unless the open door will be monitored by a member of management. Clear trash bags are to be used and all cardboard boxes broken down. No one is allowed to enter through the back door. Any request to enter or open the back door is to be made at the front counter. Audits should be routinely conducted for adherence to company policies pertaining to opening of the door, key control, testing of alarms, and procedures regarding the removal of trash.
The back door should be equipped with an audible, push bar alarm with a key that cannot be removed while the alarm is in the “off” position, a peep hole or small (less than 4″) covered window and anti-pry plates at the lock. Outside lighting illuminates the back door and trash corral areas. If the restaurant is equipped with a perimeter alarm system, the back door is to be included. A sign in applicable languages on the door stating the rules of authorized openings assists in communicating clear expectations.
Apply simple technologies to audit compliance and report the unauthorized openings that jeopardize the lives of employees and the profitability of the company. Effective digital camera systems include monitoring of the door’s activity. Audible enunciators and/or strobe lights near the manager’s office notify when the door is opened. Exception reports can be generated by connecting alarm contacts with a restaurants camera system. The reports can be transmitted to supervisors and/or security representatives with attached video of opened door activity. Additional combined video and audio technology is able to interact with store personnel and/or customers causing problems from an off-site monitoring station.
The back door to every restaurant is essential in maintaining effective operations from trash removal to the receiving of inventory. Sound loss control principles involve the control of when the door is opened. Old habits of maintenance or stockroom employees having possession of door keys, keys hanging on a hook or indiscriminate loaning of management keys are difficult to change. Maintaining control is often considered an inconvenience by management. The costs of implementing new policies, procedures and disciplines in the use of the back door are inexpensive. When the door is uncontrolled, the chance for bad things happening increases dramatically, as depicted in the opening passage above. When “nothing bad has ever happened here” and “if it ain’t broke, why fix it!” are the responses to not having proactive loss prevention procedures in place, the ultimate price may be extremely high.