Canadian Pizza Magazine

the pizza chef: Video surveillance never lies, people do

By Diana Coutu   

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients

Some time ago we hired a guy in his forties as a driver, and on his fourth shift he stood around until his cell phone rang.

Some time ago we hired a guy in his forties as a driver, and on his fourth shift he stood around until his cell phone rang. He then disappeared into the washroom for a while before walking out to his car to continue his conversation for another 10 minutes. When he finally came back in the store, he watched another driver do dishes for 15 minutes, to which this employee said to him, “Dude, don’t be stupid, you’re being watched.” Add to that a couple of inappropriate comments to two of my 18-year-old female staff (for which he was warned after the first), and we had no trouble letting him go.

This incredibly bad employee was a financial planner and a mortgage broker. He was looking for a part-time job to earn extra money to pay for mandated house improvements. With their hourly wage, tips and mileage, our drivers typically make between $11 and $16 an hour, which is pretty good cash for a part-time gig. He interviewed well and we thought that his professional background and his need for extra cash would be a win-win situation – we’d get a motivated, hard working employee and he would meet his financial goals.

We were so wrong. One of my young female managers in charge of his fourth shift and on the receiving end of one of the inappropriate comments informed us about his lack of productivity. But it was the video surveillance system that confirmed it. When my husband Pierre confronted him, he tried denying all of it, insisting he was only on the phone for a couple of minutes. Luckily the video surveillance never lies, but people sure do.


In the past he may have received another warning or two and been given additional chances, but after 20 years in the industry we’ve learned to recognize when we’ve made a hiring mistake. Once you can see that for what it is, the only thing to do is to let them go. Some of you might ask, “What reasons can you give him after four shifts?” You can tell everything. He showed up late for his second shift, and without his uniform on his third and fourth. While everyone has room for improvement, this guy was too far down the scale to be a good fit for Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria. Not only do we have high expectations for our new hires, but so do our customers. If we accept that behaviour from a new staff member, what message are we sending to the rest of our staff?

We’re planning on upgrading our surveillance system and recently had the surveillance company in. The gentleman from the surveillance company said he recently installed a system in a restaurant before the owner went on vacation for two weeks. The owner told all the employees that there was HVAC work being done, rather than let on that suvellience was being installed (all the cameras were very small and hidden). When he got back, he saw that 50 per cent of his employees were robbing him blind! They were walking out with full cases of shrimp, steaks, lobsters, and chicken – all the expensive stuff – not to mention standing around while customers were waiting to be served. Given the thousands of dollars of inventory you bring in weekly, and factoring the cost of an unproductive employee, how can you afford not to have a surveillance system? At least with a surveillance system, honest employees stay honest, and you’ll know exactly whom to fire without prejudice.

Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man. and a member of the CRFA board of directors. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information contact her at

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