King’s Subs & Pizza’s move to edge storage threatens the last piece of the analog pie

A Slice of Small System Surveillance

King’s Subs & Pizza’s move to edge storage threatens the last piece of the analog pie

King’s Subs & Pizza’s move to edge storage threatens the last piece of the analog pieJust before noon on a muggy, New England, summer day, the line inside King’s Subs & Pizza in Andover, Mass. snakes tightly from counter to door so patrons can stay in air conditioned comfort. While King’s owner, Dave Young, and his cooks sweat in the back to keep up with the lunchtime push, a lone employee handles a dozen transactions at the register in the blink of an eye—and with a smile on her face.

Young is too busy concentrating on cooking a large steak bomb to notice the cashier voided two sales because the teenaged customers forgot to show their discount VIP cards before ordering. Despite King’s self-proclaimed “ancient” method of manually voiding sales by circling the amount on the register tape while logging voided amounts on pieces of paper to be balanced at the end of the night, Young isn’t worried that he missed the transaction.

His new IP surveillance system is watching in crystal-clear, HDTV clarity.

“I trust [the employee at the register] with my heart and soul,” said Young. “But, sometimes we have eight, nine, 10 or 11 voids in a day. It’s a red flag when balancing the register at the end of the night. Instead of trying to speculate, the new digital video surveillance system provides peace of mind and really saves me time.”

In less than a month after installing the all IP-based system, Young was convinced he made the right choice for surveillance.

Exceptional Service Caught on Camera

As many small business owners must do, Young had to run some errands a few hours before closing. Upon his return to close up and balance the register, he noticed a major discrepancy.

“There was a $49 void on the register tape for 7 p.m. At around 7:30 p.m., the same $49 was rung in again,” Young said. “That didn’t look right to me.”

Every penny counts in the world of the restaurateur, so the void made him curious. Young went into the AXIS Camera Companion software viewing client on his laptop and pinpointed the footage in question.

“I saw [her] mark the void clearly on the video, take money from the register and then I could determine the customer who she was working with,” Young said. “She then came back, re-rang the order and put the money back in the register. The video was so clear [that] I could see the numbers on the register’s tape.”

Video footage proved what Young suspected. The customer had been waiting 30 minutes for his food, which is “far too long” for King’s standards, so the manager on duty offered a refund. As it turns out, the customer rejected the refund and instead waited patiently for his order.

That manager had just been promoted that week, and this type of customer service proved to Young that he had made the right choice.

“It made me very pleased to see. And, without the clear video, I might have never known.”

An Order of Surveillance, But Hold the DVR

King’s old analog system couldn’t possibly have captured the details that allowed Young to use the system this way.

“We bought a simple, VHS-type, analog system years ago that ran on a 24-hour loop. It was for business- and after-hours security purposes only,” Young said. “Of course, it broke after just a few years. We left the camera up as a dummy to give a sense of security.”

After an attempted break-in that was thwarted by the restaurant’s deadbolt, however, Young began eyeing the cheap 4- to 8-analog camera, DVR-based kits sold at his local wholesale club.

“It seemed like a decent system for around $500; but, after seeing what this IP technology can deliver for about [the same price], it was a no brainer.”

The no-brainer decision came after Young was introduced to the concept of edge storage and AXIS Camera Companion software for small system surveillance. Edge storage meant that all surveillance video would be recorded to the cameras’ internal SDcards, while the AXIS Camera Companion software would turn the system into a self-contained, recording solution. The cameras connect to a standard networking switch in which a computer isn’t even needed for the system to record.

Because King’s opted for edge storage, thereby eliminating the need for the most costly part of a small, traditional, CCTV system (the recorder, typically a DVR), the pizza shop was able to utilize much higher-quality IP cameras at a comparable price.

Five 720p, HDTV-quality, AXIS M10 Series Network Cameras were installed throughout the restaurant to cover the front and back doors, cash register, customer counter, kitchen and office where the money is counted at closing time. While the fear of being robbed was the initial impetus for looking for a new surveillance system, the IP solution has proven to be more of an operational asset than Young could have ever imagined.

“It is helping improve the bottom line,” Young said.

Easy as Pie: Searching for Cost-saving Evidence

Young purchased King’s Subs & Pizza in 1996—the same year the first network camera was invented—after working as a cook there since 1991. Today, King’s has 15 employees, including delivery men, with three to seven working at one time. When the shop is busy, it’s all hands on deck, yet sometimes those hands make mistakes.

“Waste is a huge deal in this business,” Young said. “My hamburger is cash to me.”

As Young uses the system more and more, he is becoming somewhat of a food detective. Network cameras covering the kitchen and backroom provide new, costsaving evidence.

“If I start to see irregularities in our food costs, I can review the video to answer, ‘why am I losing here?’”

Young will log into the viewing client and focus on the kitchen to see if too much steak is being cooked for a particular meal. Sometimes food is dropped and must be thrown out, and other times it’s simply a matter of a hot-selling order that week.

“If I’m losing other food costs, I can review where we do our prep and see what’s happening. It’s not just the over-the-counter sales that affect the day’s final count. Time and food cost money, too.”

The system is set up to record on motion at 15 frames per second. Recordings are indicated in the software by a red block in the footage timeline that can be searched by month, day and time. A “next-scene” button immediately skips to the subsequent recording. After playing with the AXIS Camera Companion software a few times, Young quickly became a pro.

“I am not what you’d consider a tech guy. The fact that I can get in there and figure it out without anyone really showing me how, that says something.”

He regularly uses the Investigation Mode to move the video frame-by-frame to pinpoint what he’s looking for. He also discovered that the snapshots enable him to zoom in on the 720p image.

“It’s phenomenal,” Young said. “I rarely ever need to zoom in because of the clarity of the cameras, but I have that option. There’s nothing to it...just a few clicks and you’re good to go.”

Pizza Party Back On

With the trustworthy staff he has, internal loss isn’t too much of a concern for Young; however, in a cash-heavy business, sometimes it’s unavoidable.

“Money can make the nicest person do the wrong thing,” stated Young.

King’s customers pick their orders up at the counter once it’s ready. Therefore, Young never believed in a tip jar. Still, happy customers would inevitably leave a little something extra on the counter. The staff came up with an idea for how to use this generosity for the whole group.

“Every month my wife puts the tip jar money into a separate bank account that we save for our annual Fourth of July party. One month she noticed that the jar was a little light. Then the next month, it got even lower.”

Unfortunately, this happened when King’s was still using the broken analog camera for dummy security. Without having video evidence, Young had no proof that someone from his staff was skimming from the top.

Young never did confront the person he suspected of stealing the group’s funds, but the first month after this person left the restaurant, the tip jar was back up to where it should have been.

King’s current employees were told before the system was installed that surveillance was being added. Occasionally, Young might catch a rude gesture playfully targeted at him when he’s reviewing the surveillance footage, but the staff knows the IP video system is there for their benefit.

“They are good employees,” Young said. “And now we have proof of what I always knew.”

Security to Go

Despite the exceptional staff at King’s, Young doesn’t take many days off. But, the ease of use, clarity and remote monitoring capabilities of the IP system just might allow him to fully relax while spending a day doing what he loves most: fishing.

“I downloaded the TinyCam app on my Droid, and if I’m away running errands or actually take some time off to do some fishing, it’s great that I can check in on the restaurant wherever I have a connection.”

Also, since the camera companion system is a fully self-contained, SD-card, recording solution where the cameras communicate with one another through the standard switch, Young can disconnect his laptop and take it home when he’s not at the shop. The cameras continue to act as the de facto DVR, since the computer is only needed for initial setup and video retrieval.

“No one does anything right when the boss is away,” Young said with a smile. “I’ve got a tremendous staff that I trust implicitly. But, the ability to check in— even just to see how busy we are—gives me that extra little bit of comfort.”

Small System, Big Opportunity

Analog, DVR-based systems still dominate the small systems market because the prevailing belief is that IP-based, digital surveillance systems are too costly, cumbersome and confusing. The one thing that IP has on its side is technological innovation. Edge storage, intuitive software and affordable, high-quality IP cameras create a recipe for success in small system installations like the one at King’s.

If King’s Subs & Pizza serves up only one lesson to the market it’s that IP technology is coming to take the last slice of analog pie.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.

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