On top of everything, restaurants are becoming burglary targets

After closing or limiting operations due to the coronavirus, restaurants are reporting robberies. Here are some ways to avoid becoming a target.
Photograph: Shutterstock

“We had a smash and grab early this morning. If you saw or heard anything, please let us, or the police, know.”

British pub The Red Lion, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, posted that message on Facebook earlier this week, accompanied by a photo of its completely shattered front door.

Crime is always an issue, of course. But, for restaurants that are temporarily closed or operating with a skeleton crew due to COVID-19, burglary can be especially devastating.

Restaurants around the country are reporting burglaries, according to social media reports, even as a growing number of states urge residents to shelter in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is on the radar,” said Dennis Gemberling, a San Francisco-based restaurant consultant. “Restaurants, even with the takeout- and delivery-only operation, are still vulnerable. It’s creating an opportunity for the bad people in the world.”

Gemberling, president of the Perry Group consulting agency, said he would urge restaurant operators to “go back to the basics” during a time like this.

Gemberling’s restaurant security advice includes:

  • Keep the lights on, even if the business isn’t operating.
  • Lock the doors and provide a buzzer or other mechanism for third-party delivery providers or occasional walk-in customers to enter.
  • Empty or paper over display cases. Now’s not the time to make them attractive.
  • Consider boarding up windows or at least putting up curtains or paper to hide what might be inside. If you do this, put up signs so customers know your closure is only temporary.
  • Check on your business at least once a day.
  • Keep active any security systems already in place.

“These opportunists are out there,” Gemberling said. “Don’t give these folks the opportunity.”

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