Survey Shows Employee Theft is a Stable Trend in Foodservice Industry

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Author John Towler, Ph.D.

Employee counter-productivity remains prevalent in the restaurant industry, and entry-level restaurant and fast food employees admitted stealing an average of $114 annually in cash and merchandise from their employers, according to a recent survey conducted by NCS and the National Food Service Security Council. Managers, while less likely to steal than hourly workers, still confessed to taking an average amount of $80 each year.

Results of Study

The Third Annual Survey of Restaurant and Fast Food Employees questioned 1,375 employees from 14 restaurant companies regarding their work attitudes, job performance, and how often they engaged in counterproductive behavior such as employee theft and substance abuse. The study also explored how employee behavior differs between full-service restaurants, in which customers dine at a table or booth and are served by wait-staff, and quick-serve restaurants, where customers pay for and receive their meals over the counter.

Although the results were similar between both types of restaurants, full-serve employees were two times more likely to admit consuming alcohol on the job and 76 percent more likely to come to work hung-over from alcohol. Full-serve employees were also more likely than quick-serve employees to engage in accident-related activity.

The study showed that counterproductive behaviors seem to "bundle" together. Results suggest that those who abuse drugs and alcohol also tend to commit other nonproductive acts such as stealing, helping others to steal, acting irresponsibly, and acting unsafely.

"Organizations may find it less costly to screen out potentially counterproductive applicants than deal with a whole range of deviant behavior after the hire. These results suggest that organizations may be able to use one or two measures of deviant behavior, such as predictors of substance abuse or honesty, and avoid hiring individuals who may engage in many different forms of counterproductive behavior," said Rob Altmann, an NCS personnel research coordinator.

He adds that employee training and development are also key in reducing poor work behavior. According to the study, companies can minimize or deter counterproductive behaviour and encourage work performance and dependability by effectively communicating most, if not all of the values important to organizational culture. Companies that provide training in areas such as business ethics and workplace security can send a strong message to employees that dishonest behavior is unacceptable.

For a free copy of the Third Annual Survey of Restaurant and Fast Food Employees, contact us.

John Towler is a Psychologist and the founder of Creative Organizational Design. Please send comments about this article to jtowler@creativeorgdesign.com. For more information, please contact us.

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