Jared Flowers is co-owner of Little J
's in Houston and a seasoned restaurant consultant
. Recently, his bar was burgled, along with eight other stores in the bar district, all within a two week timeframe.
"We all had the same story," Flowers explained. "Two guys broke a window after hours, one on a cell phone, clearly being walked through the process. They're in and out in ten minutes." Flowers went on to explain that, according to security tapes from each of the burglaries, the suspects had easily walked right to the restaurant offices, located and removed the safes, and exited before the police arrived.
If the burglaries all looked the same, obviously there was something else common between all the bars. "And then we started talking and realized, each of us had recently switched to a new liquor purveyor. Sure enough, it was the same company." They had found the criminals' "in".
But it's impossible to run a restaurant without having suppliers in and out of your space. So we asked Mr. Flowers his best tips for restaurant security, especially based on his recent experiences.
1. "First and foremost," he said. "Keep your purveyors out of the restaurant office. They want you to cut a check and so you walk back to the office and they follow you there to get it." Flowers admitted to this happening in his bar and suspected it was the case in all the others. It's easy to hand-off a just written check when your supplier is waiting at the office door for you, but this allows them the time and opportunity to study your space while you are distracted. "Instead, invite them to wait outside or at a table, and then bring a check out to them," Flowers said.
2. "Make sure you have a good safe, and one that's not easily mobile." One of the reasons the Houston thieves were able to hit so many bars in the same area without being caught was because of their short timeframe. Not only did they know where the safes were after being in the offices, because they were easily moved, they could remove the safes and worry about opening them once they were off the premises.
3. "Consider the accessibility of credit card numbers," Flowers recommends. Because they had a charity event in the works, they had records of donors' credit card information in their stolen safe. "We had to call donors and customers and apologize and tell them to cancel their cards." Store any private information in a separate, secure location to avoid additional complications.
4. "Install a good security system." It seems like a no-brainer, but a security system can make all the difference. When the thieves tripped the alarm at Little J's, it sent an alert to their phones. "My partner actually watched the robbery in-progress on his phone. They were in and out in six minutes. The police were there in 12 minutes. He was there in 14." But the video footage recorded via the phone was so clear that the police have been able to identify the burglars faces, names, and personal information.
There are no sure-fire preventative actions. The most you can do is to be prepared. Every day, we are learning new methods of protecting our businesses and our people. For assistance in developing your restaurant security or other questions, contact our restaurant consultants
Photo courtesy of Fox26 Houston. For the full news story on the burglaries, click here.