Being a safe store requires focusing on a variety of things—among them robbery, hazard prevention and food safety—and all are important when making sure everyone in your store stays unharmed every day.

At Wednesday’s NACS Show small operator session “Creating a Safe Store Environment,” speaker Mark Wells, the owner of LJT Management, reminded attendees that while they may have policies and a plan in place, the key to success is daily enforcement. And, of course, if you don’t have a plan, you should start there—and ASAP.

Top of mind these days is likely robbery deterrence and prevention, given recent headlines, and Wells said there are easy steps small operators can take to mitigate this problem.

He stressed how important cash handling is—especially having a written policy that is followed consistently. Access to cash should be limited, and employees should make frequent safe drops with a precise, even number (such as $100 or $200) so end-of-day transactions are easy to track. A good safe is “well worth it,” Wells said, adding that it should be balanced daily.

Because employees should never be put in an unfamiliar situation, especially a high-pressure one, Wells said it’s important to make sure they’re trained well ahead of time about what to do during and after a robbery—and about how to prevent one.

“There's no better way to train than through experience,” Wells said. He recommended quizzes or simulations of what happens during robberies.

Employees can help deter potential robberies by focusing on their surroundings so that they seem aware by smiling and greeting every customer to make sure they know they’ve been seen and by being wary of suspicious clothing, vehicles or customers.

There should be a constant flow of communication from employees. Training them how to behave properly in certain situations shows you care, and employees will respect that.

“One thing we fail to do is get other people involved,” he said. “Your employees aren’t idiots. … they’re observant, but they sometimes don’t know what to do with all that information.” In other words, get them involved in creating a safe store environment by making sure they share their observations and suggestions with you.

Of course, robbery prevention isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to keeping employees safe.

Safety, health training and education must be taken seriously. Everyone in the workplace needs to be properly trained (managers, outside contractors and part-time employees) on correct procedures, such as how to lift items.

Wells sees food safety as a weak spot for a lot of people. A couple of quick, easy solutions are to make sure you have and are following temperature guidelines, have temperature logs and follow proper hygiene.

(Check out highlights from the Food Safety Forum.)

“My priority for employees is: What is our culture of business?” Wells said. “[It’s] that we care about our employees and our customers and that we have a safe store environment.”

The last day of education sessions for the NACS Show 2023 is Thursday. Click here to see what’s on the agenda!