Sponsored by the Restaurant Loss Prevention and Security Association
Facing rapidly evolving threats and coming off a year ending with weak sales, loss prevention, safety, and risk practitioners in the restaurant industry face a mounting number of critical questions. Fortunately, they are getting a timely assist from the Restaurant Loss Prevention and Security Association (RLPSA).
To better meet the unique needs of its members, the association is embarking on new member initiatives, expanding conference offerings, and strengthening its ability to be a resource where members can find the answers they need. “We want the RLPSA to be much more than an annual conference,” said David Johnston, RLPSA president. “Over the years, it has continued to develop in ways so that the membership can connect with each other, formally and informally, to help it understand a lot of the issues that are happening today, those that are on the horizon, and how our profession changes into the future.”
In addition to a beefed-up annual conference, the association is adding RLPSA Connect events, a series of regional workshops. “We bring in speakers and hold discussions, most often in a certain geographical area that is having issues with some sort of loss prevention or safety concern,” explained Johnston. “We all sit down and we talk for the day—folks who come in regionally or nationally, law enforcement, and business leaders—and we address the challenges we have out there.”
And there is no shortage of topics. All loss prevention verticals are facing emerging issues and tough questions but perhaps none more so than the restaurant industry. Topics such as:
- How can restaurants combat the mutating forms of payment fraud?
- What are restaurants doing to prepare for the possibility of an active shooter?
- How are brands successfully managing the complex franchise landscape with respect to loss prevention, safety, and risk?
- How are behavioral-based safety programs being leveraged to truly have an impact on the front lines?
- What tricks are departments using to communicate their team’s ROI to stay off the chopping block?
Inherent in all these questions is the value of peer learning and experience sharing, which lies at the heart of the RLPSA. It provides a platform and specialized content to help restaurants increase the productivity and efficiency of their risk, safety, and loss prevention programs. “The RLPSA remains focused on maintaining a positive level of engagement between our membership,” said Johnston.
Solution sharing is also reflected in the agenda for the upcoming annual conference, July 30 to August 2, in Las Vegas. In addition to expert keynotes representing law enforcement and intelligence communities, attendees will learn from their peers’ experiences, including how Chipotle maintained brand integrity through crisis, and receive first-hand solutions from representatives of BJ’s Restaurants, McDonald’s Domino’s, The Cheesecake Factory, and others.
In addition to solutions for emerging challenges, the conference will feature an interactive general session dedicated to solving challenges that have long plagued the restaurant industry. Employee theft is one of those, as it continues to claim 4 to 6 percent of overall food cost. Given that restaurants operate on incredibly narrow margins, learning what solutions LP departments say they are finding effective is vital intelligence.
While the annual conference remains the must-attend event, the association has made strides to provide expanded value throughout the year by adding depth to its content, holding regular membership discussions to facilitate engagement, and offering platforms for any member who wants to address his peers. “We have calls that are open to the entire membership, where anyone can lead a discussion on a topic,” explained Johnston.
Two have already been held this year, one addressing the challenges related to mobile and digital fraud and another on smart safes and protecting stores against robberies. It’s a timely program, as data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a trend away from robberies of banks toward robberies targeting “commercial houses,” a category that includes restaurants.
The RLPSA has also opened the floor up to its providers of security solutions and gives its members the opportunity to learn about vendor’s latest technology. “We allow our solution-provider members to deliver webinars,” explained Johnston. “They can work with our team to produce the program, and our members can learn about some of the products that will help us solve problems.”
Indeed, technology is another fast-moving aspect of the restaurant world—both in terms of new tools designed to help solve LP challenges and new restaurant technologies. Self-ordering kiosks, portable payment, integration of disparate technologies, data automation—emerging restaurant technology can have an impact on fraud and risk that may not always be considered in planning stages. “We just introduced a new tabletop payment system, which is essentially a little computer that allows customers to pay at the table,” explained an investigator for a company with several national restaurant brands. “And that has created a whole new set of potential issues.”
RLPSA forums help members learn from their peers’ experiences implementing new technology and its annual conference puts the latest technology within arm’s reach—but in a way that educates rather than overwhelms. “One of the things we do is limit the number of solution providers to make sure that the exhibit hall is small enough so that we can engage as practitioners with the solution providers. And to also make sure that the solution providers have good one-on-one contact with attendees,” said Johnston.
While positive engagement between members is still as its core, Johnston said the RLPSA is striving to evolve alongside the industry. It’s good news for restaurant loss prevention professionals who face a unique set of both traditional and emerging threats.