Biometrics for some restaurants, not for others
YARMOUTH, Maine–For its first 32 years, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. didn't give much attention to asset protection within its buffet-style restaurant chain. As a result, employee theft was widespread.
But two years ago, not long after Jamie Knight became the company's first director of asset protection, the company began looking at installing fingerprint readers at each of its cash registers to better control access to the tills. About a year ago, the fingerprint readers were deployed at the company's 125 restaurants. "It's gone extremely well," Knight told Security Director News.
Deploying biometric technology at the restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) systems was just one of the initiatives aimed at asset protection (others were instituting blind counts of registers and a consistent policy for following up on voided receipts), but in the past 10 months the company has saved $900,000 in food costs, Knight said. "Immediately upon our focused efforts in this area we made a very significant impact on food costs," he said.
Because of their success with the POS systems, Knight is deploying the fingerprint readers at its time clocks, which will help combat "buddy punching," when a coworker punches in a tardy employee. "I know for a fact that we have time abuse through people punching in other peoples' time cards," Knight said.
The biometric time clocks are currently in five locations, and Knight said an optimistic roll out would see them across all locations in the next three months.
There's evidence that biometric readers are increasing in use at restaurants and other retail locations. DigitalPersona, the manufacturer of fingerprint readers used by Garden Fresh, has realized 24 percent revenue growth in the POS sector (the company does not separate restaurants from other retail businesses) from March 2010 to March 2011, according to a company spokesman.
However, biometric technology is not a vital element of every company's asset protection strategy. "Is it a growing trend? I would hazard a guess as saying it's not something that is the in-vogue thing currently," Chris Manning, director of loss prevention and security for The Wendy's Co. and president of the National Food Service Security Council, told Security Director News. Manning said Wendy's has considered the option, but declined to say more.
Gene James, director of asset protection for Jack in the Box, which has 2,200 restaurants in 19 states, told SDN that the company has discussed using biometrics at its registers for the last five years, but hasn't yet been convinced of its usefulness.
Jack in the Box's point-of-sale hardware was purchased several years ago with the technology embedded, James said. In fact, the company is testing the use of the fingerprint-reading technology at 80 locations, but "to be very honest, we're not seeing a big return on it right now," he said.
He admits that perhaps Jack in the Box has not given the technology a thorough enough trial, but he said he's had more success pursuing other asset protection strategies, such as deploying smart safes to all locations. "We've had priorities that have taken precedent over biometrics," James said.