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15 ways to secure quick-service retail environments

Quick-service retail — from fast food to convenience stores — generally have two things in common: easy access and lots of cash. That makes them a prime target for theft and robbery, from both external and internal threats.

As NFPA 730-2010 (Guidelines for Premises Security, Chapter 18) states: “a security program for retail establishments should be designed to control employee theft, robbery, burglary, shoplifting, fraud and workplace violence.” The challenge is keeping the cash and patrons feeling secure, while maintaining an open, inviting environment.


Elements of the Security Program

Burglars appear to be strongly influenced by the look or feel of their target; thus, if the business appears to reflect attention to security, the burglar will seek an easier opportunity. Case in point: Recent robberies of several fast food locations in South Florida have targeted the drive-through window for easy access to the cash drawer.

The elements of a quick-service retail security program should address control of cash, access control, security equipment, personnel and employee training.

Equipment includes video surveillance, intrusion detection, and safes and vaults; however, procedures, such as securing expensive items to limit opportunity for theft and having at least two employees on duty during high-risk hours also serve as deterrents.

An intrusion detection system can deter a burglar if it is turned on. If used, video surveillance can cover all entrances, exits, elevators, stairwells and parking areas. Video surveillance can be used to record historical data that can assist the police in solving crimes.

According to Francis D’Addario, principal of Crime Prevention Associates and member of the Security Executive Council, and former director of security for Starbucks Coffee Company, it is an industry standard to have video surveillance and DVR systems to provide reliable records and evidence to the police for investigations.

He adds: “Responsible participation by the merchants in the local community means that they cooperate with police, actively try to deter crime, create a safe work environment so that your child could work there, and they uphold the brand reputation of that franchise.”


15 Best Practices

The following recommendations apply to all quick-service restaurants. These best practices are essential to protecting the cash, patrons, employees and the facility itself while also creating a strong deterrent for robbery and theft.


1. Replace glazing with break-resistant glass that has forced-entry level protection. Replacing glazing with laminated glass is a good return on investment in protection against storms, but also against vandalism and burglary.

2. Place all cash that will be used in the register or coin change trays in a safe or vault at the end of the night. The vault should be alarmed, secured, anchored and monitored. The safe or vault offers greatly increased security over a small, portable cash box.

3. Cash boxes that are used during store hours should be anchored or secured to the counter or appropriate business area so that they cannot be simply lifted and removed, whether by a covert burglary attempt, or an overt robbery attempt. The key to the cash box should be in a lock box or secured key holder, and not in a cup under the counter marked “key.”

4. Don’t turn off the alarm system at night because of previous false alarms. The crooks are counting on the owner’s fear of citations to intimidate them into turning the system off rather than pay potential false alarm fines. The false alarms are very likely prior attempts to break into the store, or testing the response capabilities of the alarm company or local police. False alarm citations are just the cost of doing business. Have the alarm company follow-up and check out the system to make sure there are no defects or short circuits.

5. Have two employees work in the store at high-risk locations and /or during late hours. Two employees should be used to close up the stores to reduce their vulnerability to robbery.

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