Cooking Good Security

When law enforcement veteran Kenneth Grover, Ph.D., joined General Mills Restaurants in 1994 (the company was spun off as Darden Restaurants a year later), he immediately faced a problem that was a cause of significant lost annual revenue. That year, the company — one of the largest full-service restaurant providers in the country — reported 144 robberies across more than 1,200 locations. As Director and later as Vice President of Corporate Security, it was Grover’s job to help protect the safety of employees and guests by reducing the number of robberies.
Since opening its first Red Lobster restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., in 1968, Darden now owns and operates more than 1,800 restaurants that employ approximately 180,000 people and serve nearly 400 million meals a year.
The Darden family of restaurants features some of the most recognizable and successful brands in full-service dining: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. Darden is headquartered in Orlando, Fla., and generates more than $7 billion in annual sales.
Grover says maintaining the safety of Darden’s employees and guests has always been his number-one priority. “We put all our resources into dealing with personal safety issues first,” he says. “Protecting property is second.
“Our company policy is that we (security) respond to any robbery site in person,” Grover continues. “We provide trauma support for employees as well as assisting law enforcement with resolving the case. We determine cause and initiate security solutions to prevent another incident. The first year on the job I spent my life in hotels. I had no time or other resources to do other things.”

Technology, Training Provides ROI
Working with ADT Security Services, Grover put a variety of electronic security equipment in place at restaurants and brought existing devices to the highest operational levels. That, along with policies and procedures written by Grover and his staff, and combined with manager training, began to have dramatic impact on reducing the rate of robberies.
“ADT helped by providing information and guidance on the type of technology available and how it could best be applied in a restaurant environment,” says Alan Schellenbach, ADT’s Regional Director of National Accounts. “But most of the credit has to go to Darden’s security team and Dr. Grover for creating new security policies and procedures and then getting the buy-in from top Darden operations management and the individual restaurant managers as well.”
As examples of the security policies implemented, Darden always requires that at least three employees be in the restaurant before opening and after closing and that the door to the safe always remain locked, except when it is in use.
To get some idea of the return on investment, Grover went to Darden’s controllers and asked for an estimate on how much each robbery cost Darden in lost revenue. The estimate was in the tens of thousands of dollars. The 144 robberies in 1994 were a real loss to the company’s bottom line. More importantly, the safety of guests and employees was being placed at risk.
Within a short period of time, robberies began to decline as individual restaurants followed the new security procedures and embraced the practices as part of the company’s culture. By 2009, there were only four robberies across the entire Darden system. The conclusion of Darden’s 2010 fiscal year has been the best in 15 years, with only two armed robberies across more than 1,800 restaurants.
“The return from our security investment has been unbelievable,” Grover says. “Now that the robberies have decreased so dramatically, we are able to provide asset protection and recovery and expand our services to our operators.”

False Alarm Reduction
Having successfully addressed the robbery issue, Grover turned his attention to helping reduce false intrusion alarms at Darden’s restaurants. This can be a major added expense as many municipalities across the country now charge businesses for sending law enforcement officers to investigate alarm activations that prove to be false alarms. For Grover, having Darden prioritize false alarm reduction was driven by a motivation to reduce the risk to law enforcement and members of the fire department as well as the general community. He has a better understanding than most how disruptive false alarms can be to first responders. Grover began his career as a police officer in Wisconsin and later served as Chief of Police for a suburban Illinois Police Department.
“The risk to brave public service professionals is high enough without adding false alarm responses to the mix,” Grover says. ”We didn’t initially have a handle on how big our false alarm problem was. We worked with ADT to determine which false alarms were caused by a system malfunction or by operator error. In the last couple of years, ADT has made great strides in helping us identify what caused a false alarm. They have also helped us drill down to the source of each alarm triggered by mistake and followed up to help prevent the mistake from being repeated.”
ADT Select Data Source gives Darden the information necessary to provide detail about intrusion alarm activity including the ability to view that activity by specific restaurant, date, time, zone and/or authorized user. Grover has requested a daily report of all false alarms, along with when, where, and why they occurred.
Armed with this report, Grover and two other members of his team contact restaurant managers, gain their input and offer the corporate security staff’s time to help instruct both managers and employees in the correct use of the systems.
One of the ways Darden has been able to significantly reduce equipment-related false alarms is by having a maintenance agreement in place with ADT. That agreement keeps the system at each restaurant working at peak capability. Grover says he holds the company to a strict response time for maintenance and repairs.
As a result of carefully following up with each alarm triggered by mistake, Darden has been able to determine the underlying reason for each instance. Many false alarms are the result of employee error such as workers cleaning a freezer after hours, a vendor delivering supplies at night or a fire sprinkler head being replaced near an alarm sensor.
Since 2007, Grover and his team, including an ADT Site Manager and Coordinator, have been able to help effect an annual 10-15 percent reduction in false alarms.
“We are trying to fix this problem and have even suggested that our managers call their local police department and apologize for false alarms they cause,” Grover says. “Although those of us in corporate security are responsible for helping develop policy, we are not responsible for enforcing it. Even so, the Darden security policy is so well accepted that executive management from each of the different restaurant brands enforces the policies on their own.”
“Here is an example of a company that makes it a priority to implement enterprise-wide best practices in an effort to reduce false alarms. Through their example, Darden has recognized that good security is good business.” says Stan Martin, Executive Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), a consolidation of alarm associations charged with reducing calls for service and strengthening communications with law enforcement and end-users. “In this way, Darden is taking a leadership role among businesses to identify causes and prevent false alarms.”
Schellenbach praised Darden’s comprehensive, corporate-wide security plan that includes electronic security as an important element, but also stresses following other important safety procedures such as making sure all doors are locked at closing and conducting employee and manager training on the importance of alarm systems and their correct operation.
According to the ADT national account manager for Darden, James Bond, ADT and Darden now have a more focused approach for the placement or removal of devices that have high false alarm rates such as glass break detectors or multidirectional motion sensors. With that, there has been an emphasis on strengthening the security around manager’s offices and safes, with the addition of hold up alarms.
“This type of dedication to security has been embraced throughout the company and become part of the Darden culture,” Bond says. “That really makes a difference — whether it is helping to stop robberies or reducing false alarms.”
When Darden opens a new restaurant, ADT plays a vital role by meeting with Corporate Security, brand design and construction management to compare the new location with others within the company. The goal is to always improve and create a safe environment for the new restaurant that focuses on personal safety, and reducing losses as well as false alarms.
“This is a remarkable success story because it illustrates how an innovative security leader, teaming up with a security expert can integrate solutions and best practices to achieve significant cost savings. Even more important is that these efforts are providing a safer, more secure environment for Darden’s customers and employees,” says Ed McDonough, CPP, and director of global security for Tyco International.
“Whether it’s reducing robbery attempts or minimizing false alarms – while still focusing on the safety of our employees and patrons — we depend on a team effort that heavily involves our security partner,” Grover says. ?

Hank Monaco is vice president of commercial marketing for Boca Raton, Fla.-based ADT Security Services.