Retail food operations from fast food and table service locations to convenience stores and supermarkets are squeezing more out of their security systems through monitoring of employee performance and food hygiene.
Burglary and robbery are concerns at restaurants, of course. Retail food service establishments, ranging from formal, table service sites to very casual pickups and drive-thrus, are a target of that kind of crime.

Still more of these businesses are harmed more often and more deeply by employee, operations and service problems.

Debbie and Tom Chapman, Subway Restaurant franchisee owners/operators in northwest Dallas, are among those who have discovered the multiple uses of security technologies to identify service and employee challenges. Five of their seven locations now have video. "We started installing the equipment about eight to nine months ago with security in mind in case of break-in and to protect employees at work."

Chapman has since broadened the installation’s scope. "We use the gear to help determine how our people are treating our customers, observing the lines, products being made and consistency, customer service, how well the line is moving," he said.

The security and management video system is from Ionit Technologies of Northbrook, Ill. Ionit is providing Subway stores across the country with a solution to insure customer and employee safety as well as support management in increasing their bottom line.

Another benefit for Chapman is the ability to monitor locations over the Internet. "I can look in from home or in the office as well as retrieval images from storage," he added.

And, in the case of a serious incident, Chapman can cut a CD of the event and give it to the police. "

Another source, ADT Security Services of Boca Raton, Fla., has a service aimed at retail food stores such as fast food restaurants. Called ADT Select Vision Auditing, it brings together risk management, operations and security.

Tony Delligatti, who owns and operates four McDonald’s restaurants, is sold on the service. He has diverse locations: One is a co-brand with an Exxon gas station/convenience store; one is a traditional free-standing restaurant with an outdoor playground; and two are inside Wal-Mart Supercenters.

"Currently, we are auditing speed of service such as time in line at both the inside front counter area and the drive thru, food safety such as are the employees properly conducting the daily food safety procedures and profitability – is the food waste being properly handled and discarded, are the drive thru windows open at the proper time," said Delligatti.

Some Subway Restaurants use security video from Ionit Technologies to bring more customers through the doors. Another approach is local events such as the "Jared School Tour" with weight-loss hero Jared Fogle stressing the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Pictured is the kickoff of the tour with Fogle and WNBA star Lisa Leslie with students from New York City PS #20.

Faster service

Delligatti see many benefits. "I have seen increased profitability (more dollars to the bottom line), faster customer service, more consistent operations (day and night/weekends) when our most qualified managers and myself might not be in the restaurant as often."

There is more accountability by using "very convincing reports that link to actual video snapshots of what was happening." The McDonald’s owner/operator also believes the service helps "our restaurant managers see what is going on when they are not at the restaurant. I also consciously make sure to use the tool to compliment and reward the managers for good behavior. For example, I’ve called the restaurant after watching some video where they are providing exceptional service and commended them. I make sure to balance the criticism and praise to help make this an effective tool."

Diebold of Canton, Oh., in another example, aims at retail food operations thanks to its experience with financial institutions and their branches.

Beyond physical security, restaurant owners and operators also seek ways to protect their computers, information and communications infrastructure.

One example: Darden Restaurants, owner of the popular Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones restaurants, selected AccountCourier and PasswordCourier for automating user provisioning and password management. The identity management products are from Courion Corp., of Framingham, Mass.

The software will enable Darden Restaurants’ corporate employees manage their own account information and passwords. The company’s research revealed that nearly all password reset calls to the help desk each month could be eliminated through self-service password management. "We use very complex passwords to maintain a high level of security. The problem is that this breeds frequent password reset requests because they are harder to remember," said John O’Dell, manager, data security, Darden Restaurants. "Fortunately, we have a user base that is accustomed to self-service applications."

Conscientious and responsible owners determined to reduce crime and civil liability resulting from allegations of negligent and inadequate security should undertake a serious review of their premises. And, when adding identification and imaging technology, restaurant owners and operators may discover ways to improve service while better monitoring their employee, too.

Some badging shifts to guard booths. Shown: visitor management from Avery Dennison.

Sidebar: Badging Combines with Guard Booths

Manufacturers of prefabricated guard booths report that clients want more connections – electricity, computer, communications – built into the booths and shelters. The trend matches growing sensitivity by all types of organizations to badging visitors and vehicles while better controlling access into parking lots, garages and driveways before a person hits the lobby.

For example, STOPware of San Jose, Calif., just added Avery Photo ID badge templates (Avery Dennison, Brea, Calif.) into PassagePoint visitor management software. "This solution helps us fill a growing need to provide our clients with high quality, color visitor badges on quality stock in a variety of sizes and formats," said Jim Stankevich of STOPware.

Such versatile and network-ready systems are now being installed in guard houses.

Par-Kut International of Harrison Township, Mich., for example, meeting the changing times of homeland security, has inspection booths on the outskirts of some government buildings. The installation allows security personnel to regulate access to highly restricted areas. Par-Kut offers single unit galvanized construction units with designed-in options such as: bullet resistant wall panels, doors and glazing from level 1 - level 8, gun port openings, self-contained HVAC systems, transaction drawers, shelving for security video and visitor badging gear.