Fast food restaurants or QSRs (quick service restaurants), are frequent victims of crime and fraud. Because they are open late, deal with cash, and are designed to be exited quickly, they make attractive robbery targets. In this article, we examine best practices for QSR surveillance, including:
- Camera placement
- Food preparation areas
- Offices and safes
- Stockroom and storage areas
- Drive through lane
- Minimizing camera counts
- Protecting the recorder
- Viewing the video
The main areas QSR operators need to monitor are
- Cash registers
- Food preparation areas
- Offices and safes
- Stockrooms and storage areas
QSRs make attractive targets for robberies because they tend to keep cash on hand, be open late at night, and have convenient entrances and exits. Drive through windows make particularly good targets, as the perpetrator can demand money through the window and then run away.
A surveillance camera should be mounted above the cash register, facing the customer. The field of view should be wide enough to include the cash register screen, cash drawer, as well as the customer. Pixels per foot/meter should be high enough to capture a clear image of a suspect’s face.
Sweethearting, the practice of not charging or undercharging for merchandise, is a common issue but difficult to manually track. Once a manager or owner notices an accounting discrepancy, it can be very difficult to prove. POS integration for the cash register camera can help prove sweethearting. This associates the data from the cash register onto the video, allowing someone reviewing the video to compare the amount being rung up with the item actually being sold. Users can then search for video clips by transaction like searching by date or motion event.
PoS integration is valuable for QoS restaurants but can add complexity and cost. The simplest way for PoS integration is a text overlay from a device that marks it over an analog feed; this can work with any recorder but cannot be searched digitally. Many recorders, especially more expensive ones, support direct integration from PoS systems. Specifiers should check (1) the capabilities of the recorders they are considering and (2) support for the specific PoS system that the QSR is using.
Food Preparation Areas
For managing production, cameras should give a general overview of food preparation areas. This can help alert QSR operators as to unsafe or unsanitary working practices, and ensures that all employees are present and working.
Offices And Safes
Because QSRs deal with so much cash, opportunities exist for a manager to skim cash from the safe. Therefore, a camera should be pointed at the safe, showing the face of the person opening and closing it. Some QSR operators prefer the code entry not be visible to the camera, so an employee with access to the camera feed should not be able to figure out the code.
Policies should be put into place ensuring that all register pulls are done and all cash is counted in view of the cameras.
Stockrooms And Storage Areas
In order to prevent employee theft, stockrooms and storage areas should be covered with a surveillance camera. If several storage areas are clustered together, it is sufficient to cover the entrance and exists to all of them at once. For example, a hallway leading to a dry storage area, a walk in refrigerator, and a deep freezer can all be covered with a single camera. This is because most things worth stealing are usually large, bulky, and difficult to conceal.
Covering stockrooms and storage areas can also tell QSR operators if employees are congregating there during work hours.
Some QSRs place cameras outside public restrooms in order to discourage vandalism and drug sales or consumption. Cameras should be aimed to record people entering and leaving the restroom, but should not be able to see inside the bathroom itself, even when the door opens and closes.
Drive Through Lane
Some QSRs with drive through windows use surveillance cameras to monitor the amount of vehicles on line. These cameras do not need to be very detailed, as they are for operational purposes rather than security. They should be capable of True WDR as they will be operating under variable lighting conditions.
Minimizing Camera Counts
QSRs often have very low security budgets, making surveillance a hard sell. Minimizing the number of cameras required by placing them creatively increases an integrator’s chance of having their bid accepted. When preparing a quote for a QSR, look for mounting spots that will allow a single camera to cover more than one critical spot.
Given low budgets and the lack of IT infrastructure on-site, QSRs typically purchase NVR / DVR appliances rather than COTS servers with 3rd party VMS software. To the extent that QSRs use VMS software, generally it will be on the company’s own appliances. This simplifies IT maintenance and often reduces space relative to deploying a server.
Protecting The Recorder
Access to the NVR or DVR should be restricted and protected. Often, employees are left to work alone with little or no supervision. Allowing them access to the video recorder raises the possibility that they might erase or destroy video, even if they do not have a password. Thieves may steal the recorder, leaving the user with no evidence. Video recorders are often placed inside a lock box in the office, preferably mounted out of sight.
Local Monitor / Viewing
Many QSR operators prefer having a local monitor showing a live display in the office. This is to allow a manager to keep an eye on operations without allowing access to the recorder itself and without having to deploy a separate PC or computer to watch. Many, but not all, recorders support local live monitoring viewing. This should be checked to verify that one’s preferred recording supports.
Public View Monitors
Some QSRs keep a large monitor in a prominent location near the entrance as a public- view monitor. A public-view monitor allows employees to keep an eye on parts of the restaurant they cannot physically observe. In addition, it sends a clear message that surveillance video is in place, reassuring legitimate customers and discouraging potential thieves.
Many fast food locations are owned by multi-unit franchisees or corporations. These customers require offsite viewing, and tend to want the ability to view video from multiple locations at the same time.
Upstream bandwidth availability can be a key factor as many locations have limited bandwidth with transaction / financial information having a priority over what can be very bandwidth-intensive remote video streaming. To that end, bandwidth throttles built into the local recorder are often desired to ensure that the DVR / NVR does not impact or slow the QSR’s other services.
The most common way QSRs access remotely is via the store(s) own network that is typically connected to management buildings / facilities. Increasingly, QSR management wants remote access (outside of the store’s network). Some video surveillance systems are now offering remote / cloud access facilitating viewing of video / the system outside of the store’s network.
Some QSRs employ remote monitoring services that monitor and/or provide responses in the case of an emergency or robbery. Additionally, they may integrate and audit exceptions and PoS data to identify employee theft or issues.
For more information please feel free to contact us.
Based on an article of Ari Frenthal (IPVM)