July 13, 2015 |

Outside Looking In

By Daniel P. Smith

remote monitoring, camera, security camera
Remote monitoring can reduce losses, heighten efficiencies and increase the bottom line

Suspect an ongoing issue with internal theft, shrinkage or sweethearting?

Curious if staff members are following store procedures around closing, food handling or cash management?

Have a hunch that energy use is much higher than it should be?

Remote monitoring –– the ability to supervise one’s pizzeria 24/7 to bolster security, operational efficiencies and, ultimately, the bottom line –– might not be the singular answer, but it can certainly be a key piece of the solution.

“Issues around risk management, food safety and operational efficiencies, those are all red flags that remote monitoring can help address,” says ADT Business President Luis Orbegoso.

From video images, operators –– particularly those with multiple units who cannot physically be in numerous places at one time –– can access from a mobile app or Web site sensors that track, automate and update everything from water and energy use to lighting and doors. Remote monitoring provides pizzeria operators the opportunity to manage their restaurants anywhere, anytime.

“Operators used to have to be at the restaurant to understand what was happening, but technology now allows operators to keep tabs on what’s happening from the front door to the back door each and every day,” says Matt Moulton, marketing manager for Monnit, a remote monitoring solutions provider headquartered in Utah.

remote monitoring, smart phone, camerasWith video, operators can check to see if the kitchen is being cleaned after closing, if staff are performing the necessary prep work for a large catering order or if the rear door is being propped open to accommodate a flurry of delivery drivers or something more unseemly.

The mere presence of video cameras, Orbegoso reports, has been shown to deter theft by as much as 30 percent. He says having a camera aimed at the cash register can enhance security and reduce sweethearting, while also affording operators the opportunity to review video and gather important facts any time the register opens without a transaction occurring.

Furthermore, video can also drive employee compliance by allowing operators to assess procedures around cash handling or prep work and, subsequently, identify areas that might require staff education or warrant a strict conversation. Video can also deliver added oversight of training, a particularly important aspect in an industry with notoriously high turnover, as operators can peer in from a mobile device to see if a new employee is being properly trained or left to wander.

“There’s nothing like seeing what’s going on to corroborate what you think is happening,” Orbegoso says.

On the automation side, operators can improve the bottom line by driving efficiencies with major appliances, reducing spoilage and using the real-time or historical data remote monitoring technologies provide to proactively address equipment maintenance or repairs. Operators can even set up a remote monitoring system to turn on appliances at pre-determined times, which can help drive process efficiencies in the kitchen.

Monnit offers about 50 sensors measuring conditions ranging from dry-contact sensors on the front door to high-temperature sensors for pizza ovens and infrared motion sensors. The technology then provides text, email or voice alerts when anything, such as the temperature on the walk-in cooler rising, runs outside of a pre-set range.

“Operators can get alerts instantaneously to minimize any problems, which can prove incredibly valuable,” Moulton says.

Orbegoso recalls one pizzeria owner who consistently ran his air conditioning on full blast to compensate for the heat his massive wood-burning oven generated. By placing his air-conditioning unit on an automated schedule, the operator reaped immediate savings that paid for his monthly investment in the remote monitoring system.

“Even a one- to two-degree change in temperature settings can reduce energy usage five to 10 percent,” Orbegoso says.

Leveraging remote monitoring technology, operators can also allow or restrict employee access. If an employee needs to get earlier access to the restaurant to fulfill a large school order, for instance, the owner can open the door remotely from a mobile device rather than hustling to the store simply to unlock a door.

“It’s like always being at the store’s keypad panel,” says Don Hsieh, director of commercial and industrial marketing for Tyco Integrated Security, a Florida-based firm that provides mobile security management to restaurants across the country.

Yet more, operators can then manage authority, such as who is able to go where within the restaurant. They can bypass particular zones or partition off others, such as permitting employee access to the kitchen, but not the back office during specific times.

Given their risk management and operational benefits, remote monitoring systems continue to rise in popularity among restaurant operators. About three years ago, only about 10 percent of ADT’s commercial customers had any type of automation, Orbegoso says. Today, that number hovers near 50 percent.

“Our customers quickly find out that they get a heightened sense of security alongside operational efficiencies,” Orbegoso says.


Tip: Considerations when investigating a remote monitoring system

When investigating a remote monitoring system, operators should first identify the specific problems they are trying to mitigate or solve. While cash handling might be a mild concern, product theft from the kitchen, sweethearting at the cash register or energy use might be consistent issues impacting the operation’s performance and its bottom line.

“When operators understand the issues they have, they can then work with their vendor to craft the right solutions and produce the right ROI,” says Don Hsieh of Tyco Integrated Security.

When assessing vendors, operators should ask if the system was designed for and exists in commercial environments and, more specifically, restaurants.

“You want to make sure you’re getting reliable and durable equipment that can hold up in restaurants, which can often be harsh environments,” Hsieh says, adding that ease of use is also important.

“You shouldn’t need a 100-page manual to operate the system. It should be something rather intuitive to use,” he notes.

As for the investment, operators should expect initial charges for equipment –– costs that vary widely based upon one’s needs –– as well as monthly fees. According to ADT Business President Luis Orbegoso, the basic ADT packages begin at about $50 per month, while total monitoring systems top out at about $80 per month.

Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.