Cooking Good Security

Darden Restaurants reduces robberies and false alarms

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."