A Slice of Small System Surveillance
King’s Subs & Pizza’s move to edge storage threatens the last piece of the analog pie
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- Nov 01, 2013
Just 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
“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
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
“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
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
“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.