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March 22, 2008

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Returning to the workplace: How access control plays a vital role in a safe and secure return strategy

Secure CCTV protects McDonald’s Restaurants

The UK boasts more than 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants, with operations split into northern, central and southern regions. There are about 400 restaurants in the southern region, virtually all of them benefiting from CCTV.

About half of the restaurants are company-owned, with the remainder being franchises. “We use only Dallmeier recorders in the company-owned restaurants in the south,” commented southern region security manager Robbie Hawes. Indeed, by the end of 2007 all of the company-owned restaurants in the southern Region were benefiting from Dallmeier-supplied digital CCTV.

McDonalds was an early adopter of digital hard disk recorders, the southern region’s relationship with Dallmeier dating back to late 1999. “We were looking to move from analogue into digital products. They were just coming onto the market at that point,” said fellow McDonald’s southern region security manager Andy Lane. The main concern was whether digital images would be allowable as legal evidence. “Dallmeier’s products already had security features so that the image couldn’t be altered,” added Lane. “We’ve pretty much built the relationship from there.”

Tough demands placed on DVRs

Tough demands are placed on the digital video recorders (DVRs) in McDonald’s restaurants. Recently, one of the Dallmeier units even survived being attacked by a burglar and dumped in a sink full of water! There are also challenges in everyday situations, and the machines must be robust enough to operate in a catering environment and flexible enough to allow upgrading if requirements change. They need to be easy to operate and, above all, they must provide evidence-quality recordings – with no risk of anyone changing the settings or jeopardising network security.

The choice of Dallmeier recorders for the heart of the southern region’s systems has followed extensive – and continuing – testing of the DLS6 S1 units against other makes.

Safe and secure

Images are recorded locally whenever a camera detects movement. Some of the DVRs are also linked into the company network, which allows any incidents to be reviewed. “We are running alarm monitoring through a number of the systems as well,” explained Lane. “The monitoring station operators can view the cameras. It’s very good for reducing false activations.”

Remote monitoring requires the CCTV unit to be linked to the company network. It’s essential that the integrity of this network is maintained. Vulnerable DVRs could provide an easy entry point into the company network and introduce exposure to viruses or Trojans. Another aspect that’s checked is the possibility of users getting into the background operating system and downloading material such as films from the Internet.

Other key issues that are important to McDonald’s are reliability, ease of use and flexibility. With the DVRs chosen, Robbie Hawes points out, McDonald’s can put in a standard specification machine and then have it upgraded later with additional hard disk or channel capacity, or extra features such as remote monitoring. “Many of the products we are sent to test are just a box – if you later want it do something extra, you have to buy a new box,” he stated. “Technology does move on,” agreed Andy Lane, “but we know we can continue to use the products we’ve specified and had commissioned well into the future.”

The selection of high-quality recorders is matched by attention to the cameras. “If you invest in a decent product to record the images, you need to feed that product with decent images,” explained Robbie Hawes. The cameras include Dallmeier models, particularly Cam_in Pix domes, which are designed for backlit situations such as looking out to a brightly-lit exterior. These have been adopted as the standard solution for front doors in McDonald’s southern region restaurants and general facilities.

Primary focus of security

Staff safety was a prime reason for having a high-quality CCTV system. “We are open to anyone who walks through the front doors,” pointed out Andy Lane.

The investment in high-quality CCTV systems brings further benefits. The restaurants’ prime locations mean that local police often turn to McDonald’s for images of crime or disorder in town centres. “The incident is often nothing to do with our restaurant, but we may have images that can be of use,” suggested Lane. “Suspects may have met in one of our restaurants, or have claimed to have met there as some sort of alibi,” added Robbie Hawes.

It’s not only in major crimes where the DVRs play their part. Disorder is also very prevalent on many High Streets, stated Andy Lane, and McDonald’s is a popular meeting place – often the last place that is open at night. “We build up a relationship with the police in the community,” he explained. “The cameras have helped in the enforcement of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, proving that someone had breached an order to stay out of a particular area.”

Cameras – and sometimes monitors – are positioned overtly so that everyone knows they are being recorded. “There’s a deterrent message, and we want to encourage that,” suggested Robbie Hawes. “We want people to know we’ve CCTV in operation. We also want people to know we use it – and we want them to know it works so that they will behave in a better fashion as a result.”

High-quality CCTV images can be supplied to the police in the event of an assault or break-in at a given store. “We’ve had considerable success recently where the DVRs have been linked to the alarm and monitored remotely. This has enabled the police to make a number of arrests for very serious crimes,” said Hawes.

Keeping security simple

A guiding principle of the security products used in McDonald’s is that they should be standardised across as many stores as possible. That cuts down on training needs. Managers do move areas and between stores on a fairly regular basis.

Many people have access to each DVR, so it’s essential to ensure that no-one can erase recordings or change the mode of operation. “One of the many positive elements of the systems we chose is that the end user is able to set access levels,” said Andy Lane. “The stores are on the very minimum level needed to operate the recorders.”

Managers simply need to know how to review images and how to burn them to disk if necessary.

Forward planning: the Life-Cycle Programme

Dallmeier’s Life Cycle Service programme is welcomed by McDonald’s, as this provides a full three-year warranty and guarantees replacement of any faulty units within 48 hours.

Inevitably, DVRs do occasionally go wrong, and end users need to know they’ll receive the right answers and solutions when they do.

Andy Lane welcomes the supplier’s willingness to carry out bespoke developments, including co-operating with the company’s other technology suppliers. One idea under consideration is to link the CCTV to the till systems. Benefits could include confirming that an order is being given to the correct customer at a drive-through restaurant. Another idea is to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to trigger rewards for regular customers.

“As you move to digital CCTV, the recorder is effectively a computer,” Robbie Hawes concluded. “It prompts you to start thinking differently. Why have a machine in place that’s just recording images when it can do so much more for you?”

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Selina canales
Selina canales
August 5, 2017 6:49 pm

Hi I was recently encountered with one of your employees based out of San Antonio Texas I met him on a website where he told me what he did he install cameras for McDonald’s and he said that he can help me put up my flat screen TV came to my house with his dog and the took a look at the TV he said he could do it he just needed some parts I give him the money I contacted him he said that he had already gotten him he was on his way back and he never came… Read more »