Local news stations across the country have been reporting about food truck robberies over the past year. I certainly hope this doesn’t become an escalating trend.

Whether or not you decide to purchase property insurance, it still makes sense to implement some risk management tactics to protect your income and employees.

Reduce A Food Trucks Exposure Of Being Robbed

Some areas of risk management/loss control to potentially consider implementing are:

Reduce Cash. Purchase a wireless credit card processing system to reduce the amount of cash on hand. Invest in a reliable wireless credit card processing system, allowing customers to pay electronically. This minimizes the amount of cash you need to handle, making your food truck less attractive to thieves. Promoting your truck as a “cashless” operation can further reduce the risk of cash theft.

Get To The Bank. Implement a routine for cash handling that includes regular deposits. If you’re at a busy event, have a manager deposit cash at the bank during the day. Use secure cash transport services, if possible, to handle deposits, especially if your sales volume justifies the cost. This not only minimizes the cash on hand but also ensures that money is secured in the bank promptly.

Improve Lighting. Mount exterior lights on truck to brighten up the area around the truck at night. Install high-quality, motion-sensor exterior lights to illuminate the area around your truck, particularly after dark. Good lighting can deter potential thieves by increasing the likelihood of them being seen and caught. Consider solar-powered lights if electrical access is an issue.

Cut Down Access Points. Secure all entry points, including service windows, side, and back doors, especially when the truck is not in operation at night. Use high-quality locks and reinforce the door frames to make unauthorized entry as difficult as possible. During evening service hours, limit access points to those necessary for business operations to control flow and monitor for suspicious activity.

Install Cameras. Mount dummy or real cameras with a notice that security cameras are in use. Equip your food truck with security cameras that record high-quality video. Real cameras are preferable for actual security, but even dummy cameras can act as a deterrent if they look convincing enough. Clearly display signs that video surveillance is in use to ward off potential thieves. Ensure cameras are visible but out of reach to prevent tampering.

tulsa food truck robbery

Operating at night increases risks.

Require Multiple Employees. Use the old buddy system and try to park with other food trucks. There is safety in numbers. Never operate the food truck alone, especially during early morning or late-night hours. Having multiple employees on duty not only helps with customer service but also ensures there’s more than one person to handle any potential security issues. Additionally, try to park near other food trucks or in well-populated, well-lit areas.

There’s safety in numbers, and a group of trucks can look out for each other, share security tips, and even collectively invest in security measures like private security patrols for the area.

Use GPS Tracking: Equip your food truck with GPS tracking. In the event of a theft, GPS tracking can help law enforcement quickly locate and recover the vehicle.

There have been numerous instances where stolen vehicles, including food trucks, were recovered quickly thanks to GPS tracking. For example, a stolen food truck in Philadelphia was found in less than 24 hours, leading to the arrest of the thief and minimal loss to the business.

Educate and Train Staff: Regularly train your staff on security protocols, including how to respond during a robbery, how to recognize suspicious behavior, and the importance of situational awareness.

Well-trained employees are your first line of defense. For instance, employees of a food truck in San Francisco were able to prevent a robbery by following protocol and calmly handling the situation, which involved not resisting and immediately calling law enforcement after the perpetrator fled.

Why are Food Trucks a Target? 

Unfortunately, food trucks are robbed for a number of reasons…

  • Almost all cash transactions. The presence of cash has historically made businesses more appealing to robbers. For instance, retail and convenience stores, known for similar cash-based transactions, have long been targets for this very reason.
  • Depending on the city, some food trucks are forced to park on dark and secluded side streets due to regulations on their proximity to brick and mortar restaurants. Incidents where businesses located in secluded areas were targeted often highlight the robbers’ preference for spots where their actions are less likely to attract immediate attention or intervention.
  • Each food truck only has 2 to 3 employees and easy access to unlocked side/back doors. Small teams mean that during a robbery, there are fewer people to respond, making it easier for criminals to control the situation. Similar scenarios are seen in small retail outlets or gas stations during off-peak hours.
  • Most food trucks are not outfitted with any security cameras. The absence of security cameras or alarms has been a factor in the targeting of various small businesses. Visible security measures are a known deterrent to criminal activity.
  • Tend to operate evenings or late nights. Law enforcement data frequently indicates spikes in crime rates during late evening and early morning hours, times when food trucks are often still operational. This can be an issue if you serve the late-night bar crowd.

Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race series revealed some insight to the industry and how food trucks operate. It also showed how food trucks were collecting thousands of dollars in cash… this potentially got would-be robbers thinking about their next target.

There are some elements of a property insurance policy that can protect truck owners from a loss resulting from being robbed. So be aware you can purchase an insurance policy that includes this coverage. However, the cost to add the coverage “may” outweigh the chances of it actually happening to your truck.  By deciding not to purchase the insurance, you have decided to self-insure the exposure/risk.

Take Action

In August 2015, a well-known food truck in Albuquerque, New Mexico, named “Supper Truck,” experienced a robbery that underscores the importance of vigilance for food truck owners. The incident occurred when the food truck was parked in a relatively secluded area downtown, preparing for the evening’s service.

Two armed individuals approached the truck, threatened the staff, and demanded money. Despite the frightening situation, the staff complied, and fortunately, no one was physically harmed. The thieves made off with a day’s earnings, leaving a significant financial and emotional impact on the business and its employees.

This incident highlights several critical points for food truck owners:

  1. Location Vulnerability: The Supper Truck was parked in an area that, while perhaps necessary for business operations, made it more susceptible to crime. This underlines the need to carefully consider and, when possible, negotiate for safer locations with better visibility and foot traffic.
  2. Need for Security Measures: At the time of the robbery, the Supper Truck, like many small food truck operations, lacked significant security measures such as surveillance cameras that could have deterred the robbers or helped in their subsequent capture. Investing in security, including cameras and better lighting, is not just about asset protection; it’s about the safety of employees and customers.
  3. Emergency Preparedness: The staff’s response, prioritizing safety and compliance over resistance, was crucial in ensuring that the situation did not escalate. Training staff on how to handle such situations, including having a clear protocol for emergencies, can make a critical difference in outcomes.

I hope you’ll take action on these suggestions top help you reduce the risk of a robbery. By taking a proactive approach to security, food truck operators can significantly reduce the risk of theft and ensure a safer working environment for themselves and their employees.

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