Thieves can break in and take your profits out in large sums, or you can hire thieves who work from the inside to nickel-and-dime you to death as employees. Either way, a good video surveillance system and the latest technology upgrades can help bar owners lessen their losses from the break-ins, employee theft, and unnecessary alarms that can cost money, time, and piece of mind.
“There’s nothing better than video surveillance,” says Jody Stahl, Director of Business Development at World Wide Security (www.worldwidesecurityusa.com) in Garden City, New York. “First of all, video surveillance is not just for security; it does so much more. A club owner can remotely watch what’s going on in their establishment. They can be at home, check the video, and realize there’s a line out the door. ‘Are they not letting people in fast enough? Are they not paying their admissions fast enough and getting in? Why is there a line out the door?’ In a restaurant, if people are waiting, ‘Why aren’t they seating people fast enough?’ Owners can now basically run their business or actually enhance their business even when they’re not there. They have eyes on at all times.”
One customer who can vouch for Stahl’s sentiment is Robert Marisi, owner of Vincent’s Clam Bar, in Carle Place, New York. Marisi recently hired World Wide to install a 15-camera security system, which was completed overnight and ready to use with some basic instruction.
“I use it as a security tool, I use it as a deterrent for theft, and I use it to make sure that my employees are clocking in and out when they say they are,” Marisi says. “So if somebody says they punched in at seven in the morning, you can go to the appropriate camera set up by the terminal where they punch in and see them (or not see them) at seven in the morning. It’s helped us save a lot of money on payroll and it helps keep people productive; because they’re on camera, they feel they have to be working all the time. And if they’re not, we can look at a feed and say, ‘There you are sitting in a chair for 30 minutes doing nothing.’”
In addition to this type of employee “time theft,” actual product and cash pilfering by those you’ve hired will always be something to keep an eye on.
“We have a restaurant that produces fresh food every day, and it’s very tempting for somebody to grab some of that food and just eat it in the course of the day,” says Marisi. “Technically, there’s nothing different between that and patron pilferage. It’s just another form of stealing.”
“We can put video cameras at a front door, or video cameras at any register and POS system,” adds Stahl. “You can actually see what’s being rung-up as a super-imposed image on the video screen. If it’s admission or food or drink, you can see what’s being rung-up and what’s being served. Staff could be selling two top-shelf drinks and charging for two well drinks and you’d never know the difference as long as it came up on the register. Now, because it can be superimposed on the register itself, you can see exactly what’s being given to the customer and what’s being charged.”
In addition to deterring outright employee theft, video surveillance can be a fantastic management tool, since staff members know that “Big Brother” is watching, as Marisi alluded to earlier. Even from home, a bar owner or manager can stay on top of all activity in their bar.
“You can call up and say, ‘Hey there’s been a bunch of glasses sitting on that table for the last half an hour, can someone just get that cleaned up?’ and the staff is thinking, ‘Wow, he’s watching and he’s not even here,’” says Stahl. “It keeps them on their toes. It’s another set of eyes. It’s management when you’re not there. It’s the eye in the sky.”
Even with the most trustworthy bar staff, there is always the outside bad guy waiting to break in and grab your cash register, ATM or televisions. Advancements in video security can now enable bar owners—in conjunction with local police—to practically micro-manage the handling of a break-in (or a false alarm). World Wide Security’s new iVision24 system allows authorities and bar owners to see their venue, in real time, the instant an alarm is tripped.
“Visually, our essential station team can look in after an alarm system is set off and see what’s going on—if it’s an actual alarm, if it’s a false alarm, if there’s an intruder, where the intruder is, and what they’re doing,” says Stahl. “And we’re able to communicate. If police are on-premise, we can actually tell them where a suspect is. ‘Behind that door on the left, someone is standing there.’ Or in a situation where somebody is trespassing, we can announce, ‘You, in the blue shirt, you are trespassing on private property. The authorities have been called. Please leave the premises immediately.’”
False alarms can also be easily verified (“a mouse knocking over a bottle, or the most common situation—helium balloons left over from a party that slowly deflate and hit the floor,” says Stahl) and can be cleared by iVision24 before police are unnecessarily contacted, thus saving a few tax dollars and making local authorities less likely to think of your bar as the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ all the time.
As for on-premise security trends in 2011, Stahl sees an increase in front door vigilance and renewed emphasis on ID inspection, another area in which video technology can play a key role. “Clubs used to be responsible for false ID’s found on-premise,” he says. “Now we can videotape an image of an ID and the person using it simultaneously, so if there ever is an incident and the authorities come in and say, ‘Where’s your ID?’ and they say, ‘I don’t have one,’ management and police can go back and find out exactly what was shown as proof of age. With this technology, we can actually capture the patron’s ID and their actual photograph, so we know if the ID matches up. If they’re falsifying themselves by giving a fake ID, it’s now documented that they did so.”
Further aiding your first line of defense at the front door is a wireless counter from Wickler USA (www.wicklerusa.com) of Hollywood, California, that helps door staff maintain a safe and accurate patron count. It also has a bright white and ultra-violet light to help validate IDs. “With the old metal clickers, a manager or owner had to get on the radio and ask each doorman what the count was at his post, and then keep a total by adding or subtracting from the last count,” says Eric Parameter of Wickler. “With our wireless system, those constantly updated numbers can be fed to an operator or manager in real-time via their smart phone.”
And at the point-of-sale, Wickler counters can plug into a POS system to track the number of drinks and dollars coming in per minute, which can then be compared to the number of customers in the venue at that time. “This allows owners to decide whether they need to hire more staff to increase transactions and cash flow relative to the number of people in the bar at a given time.”
So whether you’re watching staff from the eye in the sky, communicating in real-time with trespassers or police during a break-in, capturing video documentation of fake IDs, or just keeping track of your customer count, there are great security options available to make you, your patrons, and your profits, safe.