Food for thought

‘We know from insurance claims that twice as much money is stolen from clubs by staff and committee members than is taken in armed holdups and burglaries… but you are not likely to read about it in the newspapers.’ – Joanne Newman

A club manager thought he was doing the right thing when he agreed the chef could take home food that had passed its use-by-date. It would only go to waste anyway, he thought.

It was not unusual to have wasted food because the club’s restaurant operated Wednesday through to Saturday only, but what the manager did not count on was the chef helping himself to the food store, including a side of a pig, on the basis that it would ‘go off’ by the time the restaurant was open again for business. It cost the club $8,000 before the food thief was outed.

This is how the food scams normally work:

– Staff not using the oldest ingredients first, then taking home food that is past the use- by-date.

– Ordering food ingredients not appearing on menu. Guess where the ingredients end up? In a staff members pantry at home!

– Preparing more food than is required, knowing that they get to take home the surplus. In one case I dealt with a staff member got off a charge of theft because the club manager had given him permission to take unsold food home. The Court found preparing twice as much food as was needed is not a crime! Stop this practice dead in its tracks by simply saying NO to staff taking food home.

Good food management involves doing stock-takes on a regular basis and finding out the reason for any discrepancies. It’s also about monitoring food waste and minimising it by planning menus in advance by, for example, putting leftovers on special to clear it.


Joanne Newman is New Zealand’s leading authority on club accounting and forensic auditing. She is the managing director of Club Accounting & Investigations Ltd and Smart Business Centre (Tauranga) Ltd.

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