Deadly Twin Peaks shooting heightens restaurant security concerns
Event spurs other brands to evaluate policies
May 22, 2015
Security concerns were heightened among restaurants in the wake of the shootings last Sunday at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, which ended with nine people dead, 18 injured and 170 suspects arrested.
On Tuesday, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar temporarily shuttered a restaurant in West Lebanon, N.H., after receiving a tip from police that a motorcycle group was planning to disrupt a charity event sponsored by a competing organization. The unit reopened the next day.
“Following a recommendation from police and out of an abundance of caution, the Applebee’s franchisee that owns and operates the Lebanon restaurant decided to close for the day,” Tom Linafelt, senior manager of corporate communications for Applebee’s and parent DineEquity Inc., said in a statement.
Quaker Steak & Lube also hosts “Bike Nights” at a number of its 55 units, but company management was not available to comment on the brand’s security protocols.
After the shooting at Twin Peaks, Addison, Texas-based owner Front Burner Restaurants LP pulled the franchisee from the Waco unit, which was operated by Dallas-based Chalak Mitra Group. Chalak Mitra owns one other franchised Twin Peaks unit, as well as Genghis Grill and other restaurant brands.
“We’re negotiating a complete exit of this franchise partner,” Rick Van Warner, spokesman for Twin Peaks, told Nation’s Restaurant News Friday. The company also planned to suspend all so-called “Biker Night” events at company-owned restaurants in its 69-unit system, and suggested franchisees do the same, he said, “out of sensitivity to the incident in Waco.”
Van Warner said Twin Peaks has “stringent security procedures in place,” but said the company would not divulge a blueprint of those policies. Applebee’s spokesman also declined to reveal security details.
“The founder and the company has always had close relationships with local law enforcement,” he added. “They are our regular customers. . And we don’t care how people get to our restaurants, be it motorcycle, Vespa, golf cart or car or truck.”
Van Warner said Twin Peaks was reviewing all its security procedures to see if any could be improved.
“Unfortunately, in the case in Waco, our standards weren’t followed,” he said.
Those security standards are in a basic framework that was outlined by William H. Bender, founder and principal of the San Jose, Calif.-based restaurant consultancy W.H. Bender & Associates.
Bender said the restaurant’s equipment and systems must be maintained and remain in “perfect working order.”
“By this we mean lighting, security, technology [and] communication systems,” Bender said in response to emailed questions.
The “exterior and property line must be a big part of the brand’s marketing strategy,” he added, with the parking lot brightly lit to make women and families feel safe.
In addition, Bender explained, unit leadership “must be aware of interior and exterior current conditions by frequently monitoring all areas.”
Training team members is essential, he said, “to spot the early warning signs of trouble.”
Restaurant management should also get to know and develop relationships with community government leaders and emergency personnel, such as police, fire and paramedics, Bender said.
Since Twin Peaks first opened in 2005, it has offered police officers and other first responders a 50-percent discount in its restaurants, Van Warner said.
Bender added that restaurant management should not delay in calling law enforcement when suspecting something unlawful is happening.
“Do not hesitate,” he emphasized.
In addition, he said having restaurant managers present, aware and active on the establishment’s floor “will deter trouble much of the time.”
“Look people in the eye and be professional. If you are shy you may get run over,” Bender added.
Bender also said signs posted in and around the restaurant that say “These Premises are Video Recorded” can deter criminal activity.
In the Twin Peaks case, the Associated Press reported that it had reviewed videotapes from the restaurant security cameras, but that none of the video angles showed the parking lot, where the incident was alleged to have started.