Restaurants of all sizes have no shortage of start-up and continued operating expenses that are absolutely necessary, so it's easy to make a video surveillance system a low-priority item. However, this safety feature is a worthy investment for most establishments. Here are some benefits and considerations to keep in mind in order to help you make the right decision.

Know Your Options and Your Goals

Video surveillance systems come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and capabilities. There are systems you can purchase at big-box stores and install yourself, and there are systems that have to be installed by professionals. Some record data to a dedicated on-site server and others make information accessible from any mobile device. There are also factors like whether the cameras are cordless, or low or high resolution, that can make the decision even more difficult to make.

Start by determining how the cameras will be used and then go from there. For instance, are you running a well-lit cafe that operates during the day, or a nightclub with very low lighting? Location is another consideration, and while no business is impervious to burglary, some neighborhoods are more at risk. If you want the cameras to primarily be used to monitor employees and transactions, then consider going with a high-resolution system.

Watch the Door and Monitor the Interior

Having infrared footage of a suspect after a break-in is invaluable, and can make the process of filing reports to the police and your insurance company easier and faster. Make sure all potential entry points are covered. This will also give you the ability to monitor intoxicated guests, late employees, and deliveries. By pointing interior and exterior cameras at these same entry points, you'll gather footage of a different view, and be able to protect against vandalism and other guest issues. Often, the mere presence of a camera will discourage crime or petty theft.

Protecting the inventory and finances of your restaurant is also imperative. For instance, if you have an office, the door should always be under surveillance, and if you have a safe, make sure it's also in the shot. In the same vein, inventory centers, such as the liquor storage room and the walk-in cooler, should be considered during the camera placement discussion.

Keep Team Members Honest

A video surveillance system is a useful tool in keeping employees at the top of their honesty game. Knowing that the camera over the bar is being looked at, even periodically, will be a gentle reminder that the bartender shouldn't be handing out free shots to friends or drinking on the job.

On the other hand, you should know that a video surveillance system can cause an uneasy feeling for some employees. The installation could result in some fallout if employees start to wonder why they're being watched. You can avoid this by calling a staff meeting and explaining exactly what the cameras will be used for. Explain the benefits of the new system, such as the ability to intimidate robbers and catch burglars. Bring guest safety into the discussion, and then explain that using cameras throughout the establishment can help reinforce overall staff accountability.

Video surveillance systems can provide security around the clock, prevent loss, and give managers and operators an efficient tool for monitoring progress and efficiency. They require some maintenance and updates, and can cost quite a bit up front, but the benefits—in terms of efficiency and safety—will quickly account for the cost.