Although every business faces its own security threats, restaurants may be among the most vulnerable. Subject to heavy foot traffic day after day, restaurants are tasked with a unique set of risks that compromise the safety of their staff, guests, and assets.

The increased level of criminal activity faced by dining establishments is due to many factors applicable to the industry, including:

  • Extended nighttime hours
  • Large amounts of accumulated cash kept on-site
  • High turnover rates of employees
  • Less extensive background checks on employees
  • The consumption of alcohol on the premises

Hospitality venues also face legal liability for employee and/or guest violence and misconduct. It’s critical for restaurant owners and managers to understand the risks involved with their industry as well as the most effective strategies for mitigating those risks.

Restaurant Risks and Vulnerabilities

The largest segment of the retail industry, one out of every three adults patronizes a restaurant on any given day.
Employee theft, armed robbery, and criminal behavior in and around the premises are among the most significant security threats for any dining establishment.

Employee Theft

During any given shift, a restaurant typically experiences high volumes of foot traffic, processes dozens of credit card transactions, and generates large amounts of cash. With roughly 9.9 million Americans currently employed in the food service industry and millions more patronizing restaurants every day, theft is astoundingly rampant in restaurants. Studies indicate that in the restaurant industry alone, theft results in staggering losses upwards of $6 billion per year.

The majority of this theft is committed by the restaurant’s own staff, since there are countless opportunities and circumstances in which employees can easily steal and remain undetected. With direct access to assets and familiarity with the operations of the restaurant, employee theft is the most frequent criminal occurrence in a restaurant. This is an unfortunate reality that many restaurant operators sometimes choose to deny, placing far too much trust in the individuals responsible for cash and inventory.

One of the most frequent methods of employee theft involves manipulating sales transactions, which includes skimming the register, voiding or shorting receipts, and then keeping the difference, comping friends, or over-pouring drinks. Other means of employee theft include the misuse of coupons, gift certificates, and credit cards.
With high volumes of traffic – particularly in the evenings – it can be nearly impossible for restaurant operators alone to prevent such behavior.

The security personnel-patron ratio must be considered from several different angles to ensure that the event is properly secured. Some of the key factors to consider when determining this ratio include, but are not limited to:

  • Type of event
  • Crowd demographics
  • Venue size
  • Staff ratios and responsibilities

The presence of alcohol is another critical consideration in determining the likelihood of incidents. A competent and experienced security team will evaluate the unique factors of every specific event to determine presence needed.

Event security personnel must be properly trained to effectively manage large crowds and handle developing situations quickly and discreetly, which requires experience in specific tactics such as risk management, first aid, and crowd control.

Armed Robbery

In addition to theft, restaurants are particularly vulnerable to robbery. The ease of public access puts restaurants at an increased risk.

Dining establishments are attractive targets for criminal activity primarily because of:

  • The large amount of cash accumulated on-site
  • The presence of cash registers
  • Early morning and late-night hours
  • Few employees on duty during established times

Armed robbery can happen at any time, but anticipated setting and expected times – like during opening and closing hours – are the most vulnerable. It’s not unusual for current and former employees (or their family and friends) to be involved.

Restaurant staff – particularly managers – are often alone on the premises late at night to process the daily financial reports, complete their inventory counts, etc. This makes them particularly vulnerable targets of violence and armed robbery both inside the restaurant and in the parking lot.

It’s important to understand that armed robberies can escalate quickly: not only can they result in financial loss, they can lead to serious injury or death..

Criminal Behavior 

Any establishment where alcohol is consumed can quickly become a conducive environment for disorderly, belligerent behavior among patrons. Excessive drinking will lower inhibitions, impair a person’s judgement, and increase the risk of aggressive behavior. Studies have shown that roughly 40% of prison inmates who are incarcerated for violent offenses were under the influence of alcohol when their crime was committed.

Violent incidents can involve both customers and employees and may range from verbal threats to use of knives, guns, or fists. Violence may also be the result of street gang and/or drug activity, which can occur inside the restaurant or in the parking lot and patio areas.

How Security Risks Impact Chicago Restaurants

The consequences of failing to address security threats can be catastrophic to a restaurant’s business and bottom line. These risks not only jeopardize the safety of a restaurant’s employees and customers, they also seriously impact its bottom line and reputation. Negative reviews about crisis situations occurring at a restaurant have a powerful and destructive impact on its bottom line that will quickly empty the restaurant and destroy the business. Simply put, maintaining a safe establishment within a restaurant and its parking lot is critical for its continued business and profitability.

It’s important to note that restaurant owners are required to provide reasonable security measures that keep their staff and guests safe. Failing to provide adequate security could result in negligence lawsuits that could cost thousands. Employers can be held legally responsible for the violent crimes by employees negligently hired.

Effective Security Strategies for Chicago Restaurants

Restaurant owners and operators can minimize security risks by developing sound policies, protecting operations with staff training and vetting, and setting clear rules of employee behavior.

Our experienced team of law enforcement officers thoroughly understands the unique threats specific to restaurant and provides industry-leading comprehensive restaurant security services. With extensive backgrounds in securing and patrolling premises, loss prevention and crisis management, our off-duty police officers are the most qualified individuals to prevent damaging incidents before they start. We recognize that every dining establishment faces its own unique challenges and threats, and our services are tailored to the needs of each client. We work closely with restaurant operators to develop customized security solutions that protect the safety and integrity of their dining establishment.

Our restaurant security services include:

  • Door Supervision
  • Conflict De-Escalation
  • Parking Lot Security
  • Emergency Evacuation Planning
  • Activity and Incident Reports
  • Premises Patrol
  • Risk Assessment

If you’d like to learn more about the steps that your restaurant can take to ensure better safety and security for your guests and employees, call us at 708-669-7470 or contact us online at

Learn more about our restaurant security services at